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Tape Diagrams in Math: A Problem Solving Strategy

What is your go-to strategy for teaching word problems? I have always encouraged my students to model, model, model when solving word problems. Modeling is a way for students to make sense of a problem and catch mistakes before they happen. Sometimes, what seems like a good answer just doesn't work out once it's drawn as a model.

Until recently, I really didn't care what kind of model my kids used. Drawings, tally marks, symbols: anything was fair game. But as we've worked our way through multiplication and into division, I've found myself returning over and over again to the tape diagram. It's a nearly fail-proof way to work through a story problem and my students have become problem solving masters!


So, what exactly is a tape diagram?

A tape diagram is a drawing that looks like a segment of tape, used to illustrate number relationships. Also known as a strip diagram, bar model, fraction strip, or length model."

In practice, a tape diagram in math looks like this...

Tape diagrams have become my go-to model when teaching math. They