“Say what you see” helps students to focus on the important details of an array or solution.


Maths teachers will immediately recognise that this problem can be solved with an equation with one unknown, and will work out the weight of one orange. Many of us trained in algebraic methods will  struggle to make sense of the problem in any other way. But students who are new to algebra can quickly solve this problem without recourse to algebraic notation. Try this for yourself by first answering the question, which you probably ignored – what do you see in the picture?

By helping students to make sense of their intuitive strategies—like recognising that the scales are in balance so both sides must be the same, and then perhaps removing like-for-like on both sides—RME materials support the development of the more formal strategies that we are familiar with.  The difference is that students know where these strategies come from, and they are practiced in explaining their ideas and discussing other students’ strategies.  This is from a later slide in the sequence:

Describe what each student has done.  Where can you see the weight of an orange in their work?