So, we have started adding art into STEM curriculum, incorporating more project-based learning, and allowing creative thinking through inquiry.
Here's the reasoning behind the theory, plus how to maximize the benefits of right and left brain crossover for your own students.
Right Brain Vs. Left Brain
Math is also a logical and analytical subject with a left-brain tendency. So if you are teaching math through lecture, notes, and practice, you are neglecting your students right-brains!
Here are a few ways to add a little more "right-brain-ness" into your class:
Any time you can encourage interaction between the hemispheres of the brain, you strengthen this connection.
This type of physical movement helps the brain hemispheres to communicate across the corpus callosum. This benefits your students because it helps to coordinate learning.
We already know that students need to get up and move every 20 minutes or so. During that time, try a couple of cross-lateral exercises to force the two sides of the brain to communicate.
- Touch the right elbow to the left knee, then vice versa. Keep alternating.
- Place the left thumb and right forefinger together while the left forefinger touches the right thumb. Pivot them back and forth like the "itsy bitsy spider."
- Pass a large ball (that requires two hands to hold) down the row.
- Do "grapevines" from side to side.
-Alison Beaver (article here)
Incorporate Right-Brain Friendly Options
Some people do well in both, and have a good balance between right and left brain learning, but I think that a lot of the students who enjoy Geometry are often the more artistic & spatial learners. They thrive in a right-brain-centered environment.
Left-Brain Tasks Are:
Right-Brain Tasks Are:
I like to include options on choice boards such as:
- Create a comic strip that represents this mathematical concept.
- Draw up a visual concept map of this lesson using an infographic or graphic organizer.
- Write a story, song, or poem to teach this idea to a younger student.
Surprising Benefits of Coloring & Doodling
Coloring can improve memory, learning, and retention. It even offers the additional benefit of stress relief. The relaxation that comes from coloring decreases activity in the amygdala, which is the part of the brain affected by stress.
It is possible that this is partly due to an unconscious reminder of childhood, a time of lower stress. Whatever the reason, this got me thinking about using coloring to reduce math anxiety. It is great to add just a touch of coloring (in a purposeful way) to a math activity. This can help students to relax and focus while still learning.
I read through a really interesting study in which people listened to a recorded conversation. Afterward, they were asked to recall the names of people in the conversation, and those who were doodling as each person was introduced were able to learn the names more easily!
(article from TIME)
- When working through "Always True, Sometimes True, Never True" critical thinking challenges, I have kids color statements red for "never", blue for "always," and green for "sometimes." (Added bonus - I can check for accuracy in two seconds by arranging the statements in a pattern.)
- Students shade or color answers in "GridWords" puzzles to reveal the mystery words. Then, I include either an action word as the GridWord or a mathematical connection throughout a series (for example, all the words in my polynomial factoring GridWords series turn out to be places that the Golden Ratio is found in nature. It's fun to see them try to figure out this connection with each new word they color - "Hmm, how are "pinecones" and "fingers" related??") The GridWords for prime factorization and simplifying expressions are action words, so the kids clap, hum, tap, etc. when they reveal the word.
- I have students color code congruent angles in Geometry puzzles.