Gestures and Knowledge
Aug 12, 2008 Teaching 2974 Views
New Research: How Kids Triple Their Math Skills
Remember the expression, It is All Greek to Me? Algebra is comparable to Chinese to 3rd and 4th grade American students. But wait, there is more.
A new study published July ’07 in the Journal Cognition, led by University of Rochester scientist, Susan Wagner Cook, offers evidence hand gestures can 3x math learning.
First, stop telling students it is impolite to point, because pointing at an Algebraic equation is exactly what triples their learning skills. Hand gestures appear to help students take in abstruse concepts by adding a physical component to their cognitive one.
Teachers know Math is a left-brain (hemispheric) skill using logical analysis and reasoning. Now imagine adding the synaptic brainpower of their right-hemisphere to solving the math challenge.
Pointing at the algebraic problem triggers your right-brain attributes of pattern-recognition and spatial organizing. For brilliant stars who need to know, you bring on the neuronal stage your brainstem, thalamus, and basal ganglia, to complement the left-brain activation of your PFC PreFrontal Cortex.
Integrating left and right hemispheric skills triples (3x) math learning and student long-term memory, according to scientist Cook. Ninety percent of the students in the study who learned by gesture remembered the algebraic concepts taught three weeks later.
Compare this to students who did not gesture (point). Only thirty-three percent of the non-pointers could recall what they had been taught (the algebraic principles) three-weeks later.
Cook said, my intuition is that gestures enhance learning because they capitalize on the human experience of acting in the world. She is referring to our capacity for learning from the environment by changing our behaviors as required.
Gestures as a direct form of communication led to a team effort by our ancestors on the hunt. Hand gestures made Homo sapiens the leading predator, one who brought home the bacon. It had survival value in pre-history and still does in learning.
Pointing at the sentences while reading has been used by the ancient Hebrews for a couple of thousand years. The pointer is called a Yad, translated as hand because of the shape of its tip or cursor.
When reading the Torah (the written law) left-to-right today, the Yad is still used to focus the eyes on comprehending and reading aloud each sentence of the manuscript.
When a student uses a pen, laser instrument or the cursor of the computer mouse, to underline the sentences on the page, it acts like a pacer. The act of Pointing forces the eye to play catch-up with the moving object moving horizontally across the page.
It is a human instinct for our eyes to automatically follow a moving (pacer) object. It is the basis of speed learning as discovered by Evelyn Wood (1909-1995), a Utah schoolteacher. The result of this moving hand gesture is to help triple reading speed of students and adults while maintaining equivalent or better comprehension.
Question: in both math and reading, is using hand gestures responsible for extra information and responsible for tripling their learning?
Human language began with gesturing. An article by a linguistics professor at Emery University published in May ’07 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences declared, bonobos and chimpanzees use manual gestures of their hands more than facial and vocalization expressions to communicate.
If I held my hand palm up, would you recognize the gesture as Stop?
If Hilary Clinton was trying to get your vote by telling you she was in favor more nuclear plants to replace Arab oil, and held her right hand across her heart, would you associated that gesture with - Believe-Me and My-Hand-to-God?
By the way, the U.S. government research over the past thirty-years proves beyond a reasonable doubt nuclear plants are 100% safe.
You are knowledgeable about dozens of gestures – how about thumb and index finger circled in an OK sign?
What about your thumb-up for right-on, and thumb-down for squash the sucker?
Each country has its own set of hand gestures, first and foremost are Italians.
Did you know that nodding (up-and-down) is not universally associated with yes, I agree? In Bulgaria, Sri Lanka and some Greek Islands, it signifies, no with a capital nyet. It is speculated nodding originated from the ancient form of bowing to the nobility and evolved to an affirmation of agreement.
Some teachers have become symbols of the status-quo, our comfort-zone and stubborn resistance to academic change. We commend their status as guardians of the Knowledge Economy by advancing learning in math, language and science.
We suggest the Three-Rs is not all-wrong, nor new academic approaches all-right. Each teacher is a scientific experimenter with each of her classes. The basis of this article is to investigate new scholarship to improve how teachers successfully deliver information. We owe to the profession of education and to our own sense of identify.
Many of us are familiar with the Butterfly Effect: small changes lead to massive reactions. Edward Lorenz, MIT. He also asked the question, Predictability: Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?
We end with three seminal comments from A. Einstein and one by Napoleon Hill.
a) Experiencing is knowledge. Everything else is information.
b) Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted – counts.
c) Imagination is more important than information. One fades into insignificance in five-years or so, the other connects us to the Cosmos.
d) Every adversity carries with it the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit. (N.Hill)