Tuesday, November 20, 2007

An article in the Washington Post explains the value of gesture in teaching math. According to the article:
Teachers who use gestures as they explain a concept are more successful at getting their ideas across, research has shown. And students who spontaneously gesture as they work through new ideas tend to remember them longer than those who do not move their hands.
According to Arthur Glenberg, a gesture researcher at the University of Wisconsin in Madison the old model of the brain doing everything just doesn't work:
"We're not just dealing with zeros and ones. We're biological beings, and we ought to consider how we deal with the real world and take seriously the fact that we have bodies."

Neuroscientists have found, for example, that the part of the brain that controls hand movements is often active when people are doing math problems. "As though you're counting fingers." Glenberg states.

Similarly, parts of the brain responsible for speech are often active when people gesture -- more evidence of the link between language and movement, aside from formal sign language.
According to the article, Susan Wagner Cook's latest work shows
...that even abstract gestures can enhance learning. In a classroom, she had some students mimic her sweeping hand motions to emphasize that both sides of an equation must be equal. Other students were simply told to repeat her words: "I want to make one side . . . equal to the other side."

A third group was told to mimic both her movements and words.

Weeks later, the students were quizzed. Those in the two groups that were taught the gestures were three times as likely to solve the equations correctly than were those who had learned only the verbal instructions, she and two colleagues reported in the July 25 issue of the journal Cognition.

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