A recent study has proven that success in math is strongest when both halves of the brain work together.
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
You are probably already aware of some of these distinctions between the left brain and right brain:
But are you aware that your own teaching style probably favors one side of the brain more? Lecture, research, notes, and quiet independent work are classroom features of left-brain teaching and learning.
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:
The right and left hemispheres of the brain communicate through the corpus callosum, a fiber bridge that crosses between the two sides.
Any time you can encourage interaction between the hemispheres of the brain, you strengthen this connection.
Click the images to explore these brain-friendly products.
Physical exercises that cross the midline can strengthen the nerve-cell pathways between the two sides of the brain. The midline is an imaginary line drawn down the center of the body. An exercise in which the left hand crosses to the right side of the body is an example of a cross-lateral exercise.
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.
"When you cross your midline in exercise, you get a boost in brain alertness, creativity and memory!"
-Alison Beaver (article here)
Incorporate Right-Brain Friendly Options
Have you ever noticed that a lot of kids who like Algebra and do really well in it tend to struggle when they start Geometry the next year? Also, quite a few kids reach Geometry and suddenly like math class for the first time. They had difficulty in Algebra, but in Geometry, math suddenly makes sense to them.
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.
(Previous Post: Learn more about the learning styles of your own class of students here.)
Try to mix up characteristics of the two categories, or use choice boards that offer options from both categories.
I like to include options on choice boards such as:
Compared to taking notes or giving an oral presentation, these types of tasks offer more communication between the two sides of the brain.
Surprising Benefits of Coloring & Doodling
You may have heard about the recent trend of adult coloring books.. It has been discovered that the simple act of coloring helps to activate the brain.
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!
It turns out that doodling (like coloring) requires just enough brain power to keep you from daydreaming, but not enough to distract you. It actually increases focus!
(article from TIME)
Here are a few ways I add just a touch of coloring into math activities to keep both sides of the brain active during the learning:
Click the images to take a closer look at these items.
My next thought is something like doodle notes - I will have to add that to my long list of projects. I bet the kids would do really well with something like that.
Now Here!: "Doodle Notes" for Math
Edited to add: I've put together the first batch of doodle notes, as promised. Check them out by clicking the images below.
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