Read + Draw + Write = RDW

RDW = Read, Draw, Write
Posted on 11/13/2019
Read. Draw. Write

If you are a parent with an elementary-aged student, you may have seen or heard reference to the RDW method of problem-solving. RDW stands for Read, Draw, Write. Have you ever watched your child pull numbers out of a story problem, randomly add, subtract, multiply, or divide them, and then have no idea why they didn’t get the right answer? Maybe you remember doing this in your own childhood? When students are merely trying to solve a problem quickly, without paying attention to the context or meaning of the problem, this is often what they do! So how do we help them? RDW! 

The first step - Read! Reading means more than just identifying the words. It means really thinking about or visualizing what the situation or story is describing. In class, this might mean that students read independently, read and discuss with partners, or read and discuss with a larger group. The focus in this step is really understanding the problem.

The next step - Draw! Here students are asked to draw a model that represents the situation. This is an especially important step because it gives our students the opportunity to turn their abstract thinking into an image that they can share with others. Remember last week’s post about number bonds? That’s just one type of drawing you might see in this step!

You might see number lines...

You might also see "Tape Diagrams..."

You might see all kinds of other drawings, too. Don’t worry if you don’t understand them all at a glance. Ask your student what they did, and be ready for them to share some amazing thinking!

Last - Write! Here, students will label their drawing, create mathematical equations, and even write an explanation of their problem-solving process and their answer.

So go check out your students’ work. Do you see them using the RDW process? Ask them about it! And for a great example of why we need to teach students to RDW for making sense of math, check out this video: