Getting to the heart of reading comprehension issues in math

Meet the Structures of Equality (SoEs)

More than just a bar model

SoEs are systematic, but they are not a procedure. They're comprehension tools to help students visualize and understand a story problem and make sense of what is being asked. It’s not a process that can be reduced to a series of sequential steps. SoEs:

  • are graphic organizers
  • have values and labels
  • are a representation of equality
  • represent the structure or relationships occurring in a math story

“What Julie does is connect reading to mathematics in a way that is clear, effective and achievable in any classroom."

- Valerie Faulkner, Ph.D., Math Consultant, Subject Matter Expert, & Author

“Julie Russo researched how to teach children mathematics and adapted some of the best ideas into the Structures of Equality. You have heard of Singapore Bar Models, tape diagrams, and graphic organizers. These are all great tools. But what Julie does is connect reading to mathematics in a way that is clear, effective and achievable in any classroom. In particular, the line of equality engages students in conversations that develop both reading comprehension and number sense.”

It's about comprehension, not about cute

You’ll need to put work in up front to introduce the structures and help students internalize them. There’s no cute worksheets or clever acronyms. And no tricks. But with explicit instruction and consistent use, you’ll have students with the tools and confidence to attack word problems on their own.

Parts Equal Total

Ms. Felder has 8 balloons. Three are red. The rest are yellow. How many balloons are yellow?

Parts Equal Total Structures are helpful if a math story describes 2 or more parts being put together (composed) to form a total or when a story describes a total being taken apart (decomposed) into 2 or more parts.



There are 5 blue cars and 3 white cars in the parking lot. How many more blue cars are there than white cars in the parking lot?

Compare Structures are helpful if a math story describes a situation where quantities are being compared.


Repeated Equal Groups

There are 4 bags with 2 oranges in each bag. How many oranges are there in all?

Repeated Equal Group Structures are helpful if a math story describes combining equal groups or separating a total into equal groups (compose/decompose).


An approach all learners can access

Structures of Equality are Great for students who:

  • can’t yet read
  • lack confidence
  • are learning the English language (MLL, ESL)
  • struggle because of ADHD or disabilities

  • have strong vocabularies
  • are great readers
  • excel in math

The structures provide multiple access points and opportunities for scaffolds. Which means you can provide equitable, rigorous instruction for all your students.

SoEs are also great for students who:

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