This simple enough tool is great techniques to master math word problems. Knowing where to start is half the challenge.

Math Tool – DRAW

When it comes to learning, and especially if there is a lot of information, one of the most helpful tools is using a mnemonic device, whether as as English, history or math tool. This simple enough tool covers a wide array of techniques that helps you retain or retrieve information. When we think of mnemonics (if we use that word, we might just say “memory technique”) we think of things like PEMDAS (for order of operations – Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction), or ROY B GIV (for color array – Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Green, Indigo, Violet).

Memory techniques are always going to help us.

The link has some great examples of mnemonics.

Mnemonics can be so much more than an acrostic, acronym or word. Rhyme is powerful and the rhythm and structure of rhyme are easier to remember. Repetition and melody also take advantage of the way the brain encodes what it hears and it’s fascinating ability to store audio triggers. 

How I’ve used mnemonics

I often use music and rewrite lyrics for the information I need. For my last year of school (1994! wow!) we studied King Lear and needed to learn the different insults and curses due to the imagery and importance in the text. The group I was in strung them together to the tune of New York, New York. Twenty-five years later I can still sing most of it. Any Bible verses I had to learn at camp way back in the late eighties/early nineties that we put to music I can still sing. A high school math teacher wrote a song with the quadratic equation in it (such a great math tool) and I can still rattle it off.

It is not just because I am musical, but because our brains are wired for it. 

I have videos on other mnemonics that I love and use regularly – RCRC and CRAM. The following one is specifically for math (or maths, depending on where you come from). This math tool is especially helpful for word problems, which can be tricky for anybody, not just those who might have some learning issues with math.  So, what is it? DRAW – which might sound funny when you are referring to math, but hear me out.


What is DRAW

D – discover the sign

R – read the problem/question

A – answer, draw, check

W – write the answer

Here’s the breakdown:

Discover the sign – What are you being asked to do? Division? Multiplication? Addition? Subtraction? I suggest circling it so you know what you are being asked to do. If it is a multiple part question, circle each sign and number it in the correct order.

Read the problem/question – Read it slowly, read it carefully, read it again, read it out loud! Especially if it is a word problem. We want to read it carefully so that we fully understand what we are being asked to do.

Answer or draw or check – Go ahead and answer it if you can! If you need help it is totally ok to draw tallies, or groupings, or whatever is needed to help you answer the question. It does NOT have to be done all in your head. In fact, it is usually better if you don’t just try to do it all in your head. Draw what you need to help you answer the question, and then check your answer. 

Write the answer – Write it clearly at the end of the problem where it is easily found. If you have to show all your working (which I am always happy to see) then it can be a good idea to also circle the final answer/solution. 

Help your child with DRAW

Word problems don’t have to get our children down. Take the time to teach them DRAW and hopefully they will remember it the next time they start feeling stumped by a word problem. Knowing where to start is a good thing. 

I love to create mnemonics to help the students I work with.

They are so helpful, so useful. Do you like using them? How helpful have they been to you? Even as you maybe help your children learn or do their homework, consider creating mnemonics together to prepare for a test, or just to learn key information. 

Michayla Best

For over 30 years I have worked with children in a variety of capacities, whether as a teacher or tutor, a babysitter, a camp leader, or family advocate. I have always found a way to connect with children, to help them understand themselves and the world around.

I am Mummy to trinational twincesses who keep me on my toes with their questions, their commentaries, their shenanigans and acts of spontenudity.

Wife, world traveler, musician, crafting queen and self-proclaimed nerd; I love to take what I see, glean, know and help families to find their groove and be successful.

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