Mathematical Manipulatives and Gesture as Simulated Action: Observing Learning Through Gesture
Cullen, Nora K.
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Gesturing has been shown to be beneficial to the gesturer themselves, especially when it comes to learning. Specifically, one framework outlines the importance of gesture in learning, the Gesture as Simulated Action framework. It states that there will be a visible embodiment of learning that is observable through representational gestures, brought about by the activation of simulated action while learning. This can be directly applied to the field of mathematics, specifically how children can learn math through the activation of simulated action, and how this learning of abstract concepts, such as equality, can be studied through observing the representational gestures produced. In order to simulate action in this study, concrete mathematic manipulatives were used to help teach students how to properly solve equality problems. By using blocks, a pan balance, or a child-as-balance manipulative, the expectation was to observe different representational gestures produced by the child while later describing his or her problem-solving, and that these gestures would differ based on which manipulative was used during learning. The study is still being run and will not be finished until the spring of 2013, but based on the preliminary results we were able to obtain, the hypothesis was not directly supported. Although the manipulative that encouraged the most movement, the child-as-balance manipulative, resulted in an increased amount of gesturing with both hands, the children ultimately showed higher accuracy and retention of learning in equality problem-solving when not using manipulatives. There is much more analysis to be done, and perhaps this outcome will differ when the study is over; this paper outlines the very preliminary results, as well as options for further analysis.
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