Jo Boaler of You Cubed over at Standford University is offering the materials for the new visual math network without a login for the week.
The material consists of a 17 page paper in which she discusses how important visual representations are to people learning math. This means all levels from very young to high school and beyond.
The paper discusses what the brain science research has to say about this particular topic. One interesting thing I found in this part of the brain has to do with how the brain uses fingers, even past the normal expected use in school. They talk about embodied cognition or how we use our body such as gesturing, pointing, etc to help convey mathematical ideas. If we don't have the words, we often will draw something in the air to convey it. Apparently, it is much better for individual students to create their own gestures, rather than using ones supplied by the teacher because it helps them remember better.
In fact the paper gives two or three examples of visual math that were used in the classroom. The paper concluded three important things.
1. Replace the idea with strong mathematical learners memorize and calculate well with the idea that visual representations actually help students learn better.
2. Successful mathematicians use finger representations in their minds.
3. Mathematical instruction needs to include more visual representations.
Please down load the paper itself and read it so you can get the full picture. It was so interesting to see I'm doing some things right. Today, I had my Algebra II class draw representations for completing the square. A couple of my students after the example I put on the board had light bulbs go off and were off and running. A few more could see it better and when we start doing the problems on Thursday, they feel they won't have that much trouble doing it.
The second item to download is a 26 page paper that has details on the visual math activities used in research for the paper. This pdf has everything needed to complete the various activities. Some activities are designed for young children to develop their finger sense and discrimination while others work for Algebra and other classes.
The final item is a check list for the teacher to use to see if they use enough visual math now. Its like a self reflection on your current teaching.
I plan to print off the paper, highlight and read it to see how I can improve my teaching. I love trying to find visual representations for the topics I teach. I admit, some topics such as dividing fractions can be very difficult to figure out but I've done it. So go check it out, read it and enjoy it.