SOS: Equations of Understanding

Welcome to Spotlight on Strategies Challenge!  Our S.O.S series provides help, tips, and tricks for integrating DE media into your curriculum.

Equations of Understanding
PDF Version
*For a link to all the PDFs in this series click here.

“Synthesizing is the process of combining parts of wholes to make a brand new whole (Functional Teaching). It’s the ultimate goal of teaching and learning, the art and craft of taking information in order to create an equation that helps students better understand the world in which they leave. This SOS will allow students to take information in the form of pictures and create an equation that creates an outcome.


  1. Provide students images that represent your unit of study
    • example: an open forest, an overcrowded forest, a dead forest, lightening, fire, rain, heavy snow on trees, and a drought.
  2. Have students discuss what each image represents and the potential impact it can have on element.
  3. Allow students time to align images to create an equation and explain to a partner.
    • example: Lightning + Overcrowded Forest = Fire or Rain + Dead Forest = Open Forest
  4. Find a video about your unit of study and explain to students they will now watch a segment about your topic. As they watch, they should reflect on their equation and how the information they learn can impact their results.
    • example: the impact of fires to the life of a forest
  5. After viewing segment, have students work individually or in pairs to create a new equation of understanding. Under each image they should provide additional supporting facts of the impact that image makes.

Potential Applications

  • Use as a hook at the beginning of a lesson to pique student’s curiosity of topic.
  • Use as pre-assessment to determine prior knowledge
  • Use as formative or summative assessment to check for understanding.


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