Researchers from China, Iran and Australia are suggesting a gesture-based technique that could boost the learning and understanding of basic math concepts.
The paper, published in Integrative Psychology and Behavioral Science in April, reviewed previous behavioral studies and applied psychological concepts about the use of hand motions and gestures in enhancing higher-order cognitive engagement.
The researchers noted that transferring and translating these findings into the classroom could boost the learning of basic math concepts, such as shapes, volume and quantity, among primary school children.
Study co-author Dr. Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos, who is a Center for Change and Complexity in Learning (C3L) research fellow at the University of South Australia, equates learning mathematics to learning a new language.
According to Marmolejo-Ramos, the three elements of language are verbal communication (use of words), paralanguage (use of tone and pitch) and kinesics (use of facial expressions, body movements and gestures).
“You use it [the three language elements] all the time. Otherwise, the communication with any peer isn’t going to be complete,” Marmolejo-Ramos told Asian Scientist. “The person needs to hear what you say, needs to see your gestures, your facial expressions to have a comprehensive idea of your concepts. So imagine transferring this idea of language with all these three elements for the understanding of mathematics.”
The researchers suggest including more tactile learning methods that would give students more memory cues. The paper posits that students better understand the concept of a new shape if aided with pencils to draw or straws to build the shape while it’s being explained to them.
While Marmolejo-Ramos acknowledges the challenge of using gestures and tactile learning to understand advanced topics such as statistics, he believes that it is doable.
“It will require some real careful thought to design tasks,” he was quoted as saying. “Because the person has to really understand the concept that he or she is teaching [to create engaging tasks].”
The researchers are set to test this proposed method of teaching by conducting studies involving multiple groups of children from different countries.