Don't Use Your Hands? You May Not Be Good at Math

So that explains it.  I never used my hands to gesture during a math lesson.

A new study says that kids who do gain a deep understanding of the problems they are taught. Now I understand why I got 400 on my math SAT.

Previous studies have found that gestures can help children learn, according to newswise.com. "This study in particular was designed to answer whether abstract gesture can support generalization beyond a particular problem and whether abstract gesture is a more effective teaching tool than concrete action," the Web site notes.
“We found that acting gave children a relatively shallow understanding of a novel math concept, whereas gesturing led to deeper and more flexible learning,” explained the study’s lead author, Miriam A. Novack, a PhD student in psychology at the site.
Researchers randomly assigned 90 children to conditions in which they learned using different kinds of physical interaction with the material. In one group, children picked up magnetic number tiles and put them in the proper place in the formula, newswise.com reports. Another group mimicked that action without actually touching the tiles, and a third group was taught to use abstract gestures with their hands to solve the equations. 
Children in all three groups learned the problems they had been taught during the lesson. But only children who gestured during the lesson were successful on the generalization problems.
“Abstract gesture was most effective in encouraging learners to generalize the knowledge they had gained during instruction, action least effective, and concrete gesture somewhere in between,” said senior author Susan Goldin-Meadow, the Beardsley Ruml Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology. “Our findings provide the first evidence that gesture not only supports learning a task at hand but, more importantly, leads to generalization beyond the task. Children appear to learn underlying principles from their actions only insofar as those actions can be interpreted symbolically.”
I guess what she's saying is that I just didn't get the hang of the hands thing.


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