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Maths can be made easier with gestures

Last Updated: Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 21:09

New York: Children who use their hands to gesture during a math lesson gain a deep understanding of the problems they are taught, research shows.

Previous research has found that gestures can help children learn.

The study was designed to answer whether abstract gesture is a more effective teaching tool than concrete action.

“We found that acting gave children a relatively shallow understanding of a novel math concept, whereas gesturing led to deeper and more flexible learning,” explained lead author Miriam A. Novack.
The researchers taught third-grade children a strategy for solving one type of mathematical equivalence problem.

They then tested the students on similar mathematical equivalence problems to determine how well they understood the underlying principle.

The researchers randomly assigned 90 children to conditions in which they learned using different kinds of physical interaction with the material.

In one group, children picked up magnetic number tiles and put them in the proper place in the formula.
Another group mimed that action without actually touching the tiles, and a third group was taught to use abstract gestures with their hands to solve the equations.

Children in all three groups learned the problems they had been taught during the lesson. But only children who gestured during the lesson were successful on the generalisation problems.

“Abstract gesture was most effective in encouraging learners to generalise the knowledge they had gained during instruction, action least effective, and concrete gesture somewhere in between,” said senior author and psychology professor Susan Goldin-Meadow.

The study was published in the journal Psychological Science.

First Published: Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 21:09

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