A parents' guide to visual learning in maths

A parents' guide to visual learning in maths

When we learn maths we develop understanding through visual models - these are "mental pictures" that explain a particular idea or concept. A "visual model" can be as simple as a using the slices of a cake to represent fractions, but they can explain some pretty complex ideas in advanced maths too

In this article, I'm going to explore a few of the visual models we use in primary maths.

The Number Line

The number line

Most young learners are introduced to the number line at age 5 or 6. It's a valuable visual model for progressing learners from counting one by one with their fingers towards memory recall of their number facts. Number lines really come into their own when learners see how they can split a calculation into two stages - making it easier to do:


I've written a previous blog article on number lines which goes into more detail. You can check it out here.


When learners first encounter multiplication they are usually introduced to Arrays.  An "Array" is  just 2D stack of counters as you can see:

Multiplication with arrays

Arrays are great because they also explain why it doesn't matter which way round the numbers go in multiplication. In the case above you can see that four rows of six is the same as six rows of four - which explains why 4 x 6 is the same as 6 x 4  - otherwise known as the commutative law.

The Hundred Square

9-times-tables hundred square

The hundred square allows learners to create patterns out of ideas in maths. Take for example the nine times tables in the image above - the pattern shows us an easy method for learning the 9 times tables - you could get to 4 x 9 = 36  in two steps by thinking  4 x 10 = 40  and then 40 - 4 = 36.

In Komodo we use a variety of visual models for learning concepts in maths. This helps develop understanding and it also teaches children to think visually about maths - so when they're faced with a tricky maths problem they're equipped with a range of visual tools to apply.

Using visual models also helps learners develop an intuitive feel for numbers - a "number sense"  that will stay with them for life.

I'm Ged, Co-founder of Komodo, ex-maths teacher and dad. If you have any questions please get in touch.

If you are a parent of a primary-aged child, you may be interested in my eBook "A Parent's Guide to Primary Maths," - it's free to download.

About KomodoKomodo is a fun and effective way to boost primary maths skills. Designed for 5 to 11 year olds to use in the home, Komodo uses a little and often approach to learning maths (15 minutes, three to five times per week) that fits into the busy routine. Komodo users develop fluency and confidence in maths - without keeping them at the screen for long.

Find out more about Komodo and how it helps thousands of children each year do better at maths - you can even try Komodo for free.

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