Point and learn

Go ahead. Talk with your hands. It’s educational. Teachers get through to students better when they gesture as they talk, researchers say. And students tend to remember more if they accompany words with gestures as they learn.

Susan Wagner Cook stands at the front of a third-grade classroom, an unfinished equation printed neatly on the whiteboard.

4 + 3 + 6 = __ + 6

“I want to make one side,” she says, as her left hand sweeps under the left side of the equation, “equal to the other side,” she continues, now sweeping her right hand under the right side of the equation.

In an experiment, students who were told to repeat Cook’s words and gestures outscored students who were told to repeat her words only.

Update: When a math teacher’s gestures match her words, students don’t understand as well as if she tells them one way to solve the problem while gesturing to an alternative approach. But students get confused if the teacher tells them two different ways to solve a problem.

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  1. Barry Garelick says:

    That must mean that Italians are good at math. And deaf people.

  2. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Hey, it works on the highway.

  3. I’m amused by this because of personal experience – I had a deaf student several years ago and her interpreter called me “Italian” because of my gesticulation while lecturing.


  1. […] A WaPo article is pushing up the timetable on my “What’s Good For Rap Is Good For Teaching” post. Entitled “Gestures Convey Meaning,” it spends three pages describing how hand gestures can serve to boost comprehension … which, not intending condescension here at all, I sorta thought was a pretty basic postulate of public speaking. Certainly one of the most fun, anyway. [via Jacobs] […]