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ZSM Mathematics Education



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This article addresses a much understudied topic and concern regarding how students of varying ability levels employ visualization as a strategy in mathematics learning. The importance of this topic can be found in its connection to students’ ability to solve mathematical word problems. Many students, particularly students with learning disabilities, often struggle to use visualization as a strategy and this impacts their mathematics performance. The purpose of this article is to present findings from a study that examined the challenges that students—those identified as learning disabled and high-achieving—displayed when using one visualization form, a diagram, to solve mathematics problems. Overall, nine challenges related to the use of diagram proficiency to solve problems were identified. Further, students with learning disabilities were found to be more likely than their high achieving peers to experience these challenges. Implications for practice are provided.


This version of the article has been accepted for publication, after peer review (when applicable) and is subject to Springer Nature’s AM terms of use, but is not the Version of Record and does not reflect post-acceptance improvements, or any corrections. The Version of Record is available online at:

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