Teachers' gestures boost math learning
March 29, 2013
co-authored by Kimberly Fenn, Michigan State University, assistant professor of psychology
Teachers in the United States tend to use gestures less than teachers in other countries.
Half of the students were shown videos of an instructor teaching math problems using only speech. The others were shown videos of the instructor teaching the same problems using both speech and gestures.
Students who learned from the gesture videos performed better on a test given immediately afterward than those who learned from the speech-only video. Another test was given 24 hours later, and the gesture students actually showed improvement in their performance while the speech-only students did not.
Fenn noted that U.S. students lag behind those in many other Western countries in math and have a particularly hard time mastering equivalence problems in early grades. "So if we can help them grasp this foundational knowledge earlier," she said, "it will help them as they learn algebra and higher levels of mathematics."