Seeing as Understanding: The Importance of Visual Mathematics for our Brain and Learning

There is a common belief in education – that visual mathematics is for lower level work, and for struggling or younger students, and that students should only work visually as a prelude to more advanced or abstract mathematics. As Thomas West, author, states, there is a centuries-old belief that words and mathematical symbols are “for serious professionals – whereas pictures and diagrams” are “for the lay public and children”. This idea is an example of a damaging myth in education, and this paper will present compelling brain evidence to help dispel the myth. We will also provide examples of ways that visual mathematics may be integrated into curriculum materials and teaching ideas across grades K-16. The provision of ways to see, understand and extend mathematical ideas has been under developed or missed in most curriculum and standards, that continue to present mathematics as an almost entirely numerical and abstract subject. Yet when students learn through visual approaches, mathematics changes for them, and they are given access to deep and new understandings. The brain evidence we will share, helps us understand the impact of visualizing and seeing, to all levels of mathematics, and suggests an urgent need for change in the ways mathematics is offered to learners.


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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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