Helping Students Use Visual Representations and Modeling in Math

Visual representations and modeling help students understand abstract math ideas.


Models help promote mathematical thinking and facilitate an understanding of key concepts and mathematical structures. By seeing and moving objects, students engage their senses to better understand and reason with abstract concepts, or to make sense of and solve problems.Visual representations are a powerful way for students to access abstract math ideas. Drawing a situation, graphing lists of data, or placing numbers on a number line all help to make abstract concepts more concrete, whether done online or offline. Developing this strategy early will give students tools and ways of thinking that they can use as they advance in their learning of more abstract concepts.

Instructional Strategies and Tools

Help your students succeed by focusing on instructional strategies and tools for Visual Representations and Modeling.

Visual Representations

TIP: Choosing the “right” visual representation often depends on content and context. In some contexts, there are multiple ways to represent the same idea. Your students need to view a variety of visual representations (see UDL Checkpoint 2.5: Illustrate through multiple media) in order to learn when and why they should choose each one. As you plan how to provide differentiated support and practice, consider ways technology tools can support the development of this critical practice.

Classroom Example


More Tech Ideas to Explore

TIP: Struggling students may miss the important step of connecting the physical model to the more general, abstract concept. Some students may also have difficulty translating from the problem to the model and back again to provide an answer. Implementing the strategies below can help you differentiate instruction.