Gesture during math instruction specifically benefits learners with high visuospatial working memory capacity

Published on 2020-06-10T03:41:09Z (GMT) by
Abstract Background Characteristics of both teachers and learners influence mathematical learning. For example, when teachers use hand gestures to support instruction, students learn more than others who learn the same concept with only speech, and students with higher working memory capacity (WMC) learn more rapidly than those with lower WMC. One hypothesis for the effect of gesture on math learning is that gestures provide a signal to learners that can reduce demand on working memory resources during learning. However, it is not known what sort of working memory resources support learning with gesture. Gestures are motoric; they co-occur with verbal language and they are perceived visually. Methods In two studies, we investigated the relationship between mathematical learning with or without gesture and individual variation in verbal, visuospatial, and kinesthetic WMC. Students observed a videotaped lesson in a novel mathematical system that either included instruction with both speech and gesture (Study 1) or instruction with only speech (Study 2). After instruction, students solved novel problems in the instructed system and transfer problems in a related system. Finally, students completed verbal, visuospatial, and kinesthetic working memory assessments. Results There was a positive relationship between visuospatial WMC and math learning when gesture was present, but no relationship between visuospatial WMC and math learning when gesture was absent. Rather, when gesture was absent, there was a relationship between verbal WMC and math learning. Conclusion Providing gesture during instruction appears to change the cognitive resources recruited when learning a novel math task.

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Aldugom, Mary; Fenn, Kimberly; Cook, Susan Wagner (2020): Gesture during math instruction specifically benefits learners with high visuospatial working memory capacity. figshare. Collection. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.5015009.v1