Monday, June 4, 2012

Visual Math for Visual Learners

As the end of the school year approaches, I often take the time to speak with my students about their performance in class. It is during this time that I often ask for feedback on what worked and didn't work for them in class. Having these honest conversations with students show that you care, you are committed to improving the education of students in your classroom, and you are a confident teacher. It was during one of these conversations that my student pointed out that he enjoyed one of my classes because it was very visual. However, he didn't enjoy another one of my classes because he was a visual learner in a course that focused on mathematics.

You read in the news about how students in the United States lag behind students in other countries in Math. Is it that our students are not as intelligent as students in other countries? I don't think so. We live in one of the most visual and interactive societies in the world, where information is at our fingertips at all times.  Perhaps many of our visual learners feel lost without visual stimulation through the recognition part of our brain. Brain research has shown us that students need to be stimulated in different ways. Our visual learners may need to see it represented differently in order to understand it. For example, I often use the example of lifting weights and connect it with the Accounting equation. What you do on one side of the bar (or equation), you have to do on the other side of the bar. For example, if you put 25 pounds on one bar to bench press, you need to put 25 pounds on the other side of the bar.

A great site to help our visual learners connect with Mathematical concepts was suggested by one of my graduate students (thanks Joelle!). It is called the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives. Whether you are an elementary teacher who wants your students to understand measurement, a middle school teacher who wants your students to understand basic algebra, or a high school teacher who wants your students to understand geometry, this site is a great tool to connect your visual learners with mathematical concepts. I really enjoyed trying out the Algebra Basic Scales game, where you solve "X" by using a weighing scale. It's a great way for students to learn in a visual way! It is overwhelming to see how many games are available for students to learn!

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