How to use the bar model to help all children to problem solve

Thanks to the author Nick Hart for the post on the bar model. Nick is a Headteacher and author of the free Rising Stars Mathematics Bar Model Starter Kit.

When learning how to write and interpret stories, knowledge of story structure is key. If a reader or writer has a deep knowledge of these basic plots, they’ll be much better equipped to understand and construct their own. One cannot write a great mystery story without a sound knowledge of the structure of a mystery story!

Parallels can be drawn to the subject of maths where there are several basic underlying structures that are based on the idea of the relationship between a whole and its parts. Two or more parts, when combined, make a whole. Basic structures begin with additive reasoning and then progress through to multiplicative reasoning. Once you know the structure, you can solve the problem!

For most one step problems in during the primary age range, there are five common problem types:

Armed with the knowledge that most problems are one of these five basic structures, children need only know what to do to find the unknown in each situation to have a stored knowledge that will enable them to approach new problems.

Implementing the bar model in the classroom

The Rising Stars Mathematics Bar Model Starter Kit is a free resource that suggests the type of problems that should be introduced in each year group for additive and multiplicative reasoning.  It also provides example questions, each with variations for changing the unknown.  It is designed to support teachers to expose children to the full range of possible underlying patterns in mathematical reasoning and problem solving. 

Download for free


bar, mathematics, maths, model

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