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Since there are problems where using equipment is a better strategy than drawing, you should encourage children’s use of equipment by modelling its use yourself from time to time.3 Draw It is fairly clear that a picture has to be used in the strategy Draw a Picture. It should only contain enough detail to solve the problem.Hence a rough circle with two marks is quite sufficient for chickens and a blob plus four marks will do for pigs.You might think of a diagram as anything that you can draw which isn’t a picture.
There is no need for elaborate drawings showing beak, feathers, curly tails, etc., in full colour.
Some children will need to be encouraged not to over-elaborate their drawings (and so have time to attempt the problem).
This is because the participants are so engrossed in the mechanics of what they are doing that they don’t see through to the underlying mathematics.
However, because these children are concentrating on what they are doing, they may in fact get more out of it and remember it longer than the others, so there are pros and cons here. Generally speaking, any object that can be used in some way to represent the situation the children are trying to solve, is equipment.
In some problems though, where there are more variables, it may not be clear at first which way to change the guessing.2 Act It Out We put two strategies together here because they are closely related. In the Farmyard problem, the children might take the role of the animals though it is unlikely that you would have 87 children in your class!
But if there are not enough children you might be able to press gang the odd teddy or two. It is an effective strategy for demonstration purposes in front of the whole class.
In our experience, children need to be encouraged and helped to use equipment. This may be because it gives them a better representation of the problem in hand.
Also, if they’re a little older, they may feel that using equipment is only 'for babies'.
This includes children themselves, hence the link between Act it Out and Use Equipment.
One of the difficulties with using equipment is keeping track of the solution. The children need to be encouraged to keep track of their working as they manipulate the equipment.