Why is Mr. Healy giving a math lesson to his fourth graders in the art room?
The short answer is, because mathematical problem-solving is 40% visualization.
Brain science shows that mathematical thinking involves five areas of the brain, and two of them are visual pathways. When all five areas are engaged and communicating with each other, math learning and performance improve.
This research is informing an evolution in math teaching. From the traditional method of repetition that stopped short of real-life applications, students are beginning to engage with math through visual connections and task-based learning.
Mr. Healy’s math lesson in the art room is a case in point. His fourth-graders are learning about polygons and their geometric properties. What’s that? Why should they care?
What if they could find and trace polygons on a cubist painting of their choice? A cat, a guitar, a cityscape? Through a series of similar tasks—involving some personal choice for added engagement—students visualized the concept of polygons, saw a real-life application, and their brains made the meaningful connections that are crucial to learning.