Promoting the use of diagrams as tools for thinking

Diezmann, Carmel M. & English, Lyn D. (2001) Promoting the use of diagrams as tools for thinking. In Cuoco, A.A. (Ed.) 2001 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Yearbook: The Role of Representation in School Mathematics. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, pp. 77-89.


A diagram is a visual representation that displays information in a spatial layout. In problem solving, a diagram can serve to unpack the structure of a problem and provide the foundation for problem solution. Hence, students are often recommended to use diagrams in solving mathematical problems. For some students, this recommendation is helpful and they are able to use the diagram as a powerful tool in mathematical thinking and learning. However for other students, this suggestion is singularly unhelpful. Some students are unable or perhaps unwilling to use diagrams on a problem-solving task. Students’ lack of knowledge about the utility of a diagram suggests that they need to be empowered to use the diagram as an effective mathematical tool. This chapter explores the knowledge that students require to become diagram literate and identifies some of the difficulties that students experience in their use of diagrams. As we discuss here, it is essential that students know why a diagram can be useful in problem solving, which diagram is appropriate for a given situation, and how to use a diagram to solve a problem. The chapter concludes with suggestions for developing diagram literacy within the mathematics curriculum.

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ID Code: 1637
Item Type: Book Chapter
Additional Information: For more information about this book please refer to the publisher's website (see link) or contact the author . Author contact details : l.english
Additional URLs:
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200) > Mathematics and Numeracy Curriculum and Pedagogy (130208)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2001 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
Deposited On: 10 Apr 2007 00:00
Last Modified: 15 Jan 2009 06:41

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