Bar modelling, problem-solving and algebra

Singapore's invention of the bar model appears to have been very effective in helping children develop problem-solving skills for three important reasons:

  1. There is a consistent, taught progression developing the use of the bar model through the year groups.
  2. The model is used to reinforce children's structural/conceptual understanding of arithmetic operations and concepts such as ratio.
  3. The model is  a visual/diagrammatic way of showing the relationships between unknown quantities and is a very helpful way of visualising different pieces of connected information when solving a problem.

In this respect the bar model provides a stage of representation between concrete objects and purely abstract/symbolic representations such as formal algebraic notation.

Using a range of manipulatives and visual images, such as multilink and cuisenaire rods , teachers can provide children with tools for problem-solving and introduce early concepts of algebra in practical contexts.

This workshop is run over two half-days:

  • Problem-solving and algebra using the bar model - progression for KS1
  • Problem-solving and algebra using the bar model - progression for KS2