Using grid paper to help your child learn
By Zoie Hoffman
Most of us remember using grid paper (also known as graph paper) in algebra and geometry to create graphs, plot points, and manipulate shapes. For a long time I only associated this paper with graphs and the coordinate plane (two number lines that intersect). It simply didn’t cross my mind until much later in my math career that grid paper could be used for so much more. This paper has become one of the tools that I keep on hand for my math students at all levels. It fixes a surprising number of math mistakes, and can be used in multiple ways to show concepts visually. Here are a few of the many powerful ways grid paper can help your child level up their math skills:
Line up addition, subtraction, multiplication and division – When students learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide multi-digit numbers, they often have a hard time keeping their digits lined up by place value. Many students often experience what I like to call the “leaning tower” effect where their numbers slowly migrate left or right. When this happens, kiddos can accidentally miscalculate. An easy fix is to have your child use a piece of grid paper with medium- to large-size squares when working their problem. Each number of the problem will go in its own square. The rows and columns of the grid paper will serve as a visual guide for your child and help them keep each number lined up properly, which will in turn help them calculate more accurately.
Model multiplication and division – If your child is a visual learner, you can help them understand the concepts of multiplication and division using grid paper. When studying multiplication, have your child create rectangles that have the side lengths used in the multiplication problem and then encourage them to observe how the squares on the inside relate to the answer. For example, when studying 3 x 4, you could draw a 3 x 4 rectangle and see that there are 12 squares inside. This will also help your child gain useful experiences with perimeter and area.
When studying division, have your child draw tape diagrams (long rectangles) to visually represent the numbers they are dividing. When using these diagrams, the whole number is represented by the whole rectangle, and the parts are represented by partitioning the rectangle into equal pieces. Tape diagrams can be constructed on plain paper, but I find that grid paper helps keep the “parts” the same size. If you need more guidance on this concept, a quick Google search will bring up many examples of tape diagrams and how they are used to model division.
Create with the grid – A fun way to use grid paper is to keep some on hand for your child to use when doing art. Grid paper invites your child to explore shapes and patterns, which will help build their experience with geometry concepts. Also, students who enjoy the popular game Minecraft will enjoy creating pictures out of the squares to mimic the graphics and items they build in the game.
Grab a few different sizes of grid paper today to keep on hand for your child. If you don’t know what size will work best for your child’s handwriting or drawing preferences, there are many sites online where you can print different sizes and weights of grid paper to try.
Zoie Hoffman is a passionate educator and owner of Zoie Hoffman Tutoring, a small tutoring company that provides personalized tutoring services for K-6th grade students in the Boise area, along with online tutoring services for students across the country. You can follow Zoie at www.zoiehoffman.com.