#### Event Title

Mathematics Learning From Instructional Gestures: Do Strategy Variability and Working Memory Matter?

#### Location

FA-202

#### Department

Psychology

#### Abstract

The U.S. ranks poorly among industrialized countries in math competency. Math achievement depends on children's understanding of the equal sign, which children fail to understand. One technique that has improved children’s math understanding is the use of instructional gestures. However, not all children benefit from instructional gestures. We investigated two cognitive skills that may predict which children benefit most from math instruction with gesture. Research shows that children who produce multiple incorrect strategies when solving math problems (Strategy Variability) are more likely to advance their math understanding than children who rely on a single but incorrect strategy. Considering multiple solutions to a problem suggests flexibility to alternative views. Working memory capacity (WMC) also positively correlates with math learning. Higher WMC enables consideration of multi-factorial problem solving. Thus, we examined WMC and strategy variability as predictors of which children benefit from video instruction of a teacher using gestures to demonstrate the meaning of the equal sign. We asked: (1) Do children who use multiple strategies benefit more from instruction with gesture than children who use single strategies? (2) Do children with greater WMC benefit more from instruction with gesture than children with lower WMC? Children aged 7-11 years (N = 186) completed a pretest-instruction-posttest protocol on Zoom. Children completed 12 mathematical equivalence problems (e.g., 3 + 4 + 5 = _ + 5) before and after random assignment to watch either a video lesson with or without gestures. We measured children’s WMC and coded for strategy variability (i.e., number of incorrect strategies) used in pretest. We analyzed only children with 0 correct solutions at pretest. We found that learning (regardless of condition) was positively correlated with WMC. Contrary to our hypothesis, we found strategy variability was a significant negative predictor of learning. Also, children who used a single incorrect strategy benefited more from gesture provided in instruction than children using multiple incorrect strategies in pretest. These findings suggest that individual differences in cognitive factors may limit benefits of instruction. Particularly, children with multiple strategies may not have the bandwidth to process multiple modalities in instruction.

#### Faculty Sponsor

Andrew Young, Northeastern Illinois University

#### Faculty Sponsor

Ruth (Breckie) B. Church, Northeastern Illinois University

Mathematics Learning From Instructional Gestures: Do Strategy Variability and Working Memory Matter?

FA-202

The U.S. ranks poorly among industrialized countries in math competency. Math achievement depends on children's understanding of the equal sign, which children fail to understand. One technique that has improved children’s math understanding is the use of instructional gestures. However, not all children benefit from instructional gestures. We investigated two cognitive skills that may predict which children benefit most from math instruction with gesture. Research shows that children who produce multiple incorrect strategies when solving math problems (Strategy Variability) are more likely to advance their math understanding than children who rely on a single but incorrect strategy. Considering multiple solutions to a problem suggests flexibility to alternative views. Working memory capacity (WMC) also positively correlates with math learning. Higher WMC enables consideration of multi-factorial problem solving. Thus, we examined WMC and strategy variability as predictors of which children benefit from video instruction of a teacher using gestures to demonstrate the meaning of the equal sign. We asked: (1) Do children who use multiple strategies benefit more from instruction with gesture than children who use single strategies? (2) Do children with greater WMC benefit more from instruction with gesture than children with lower WMC? Children aged 7-11 years (N = 186) completed a pretest-instruction-posttest protocol on Zoom. Children completed 12 mathematical equivalence problems (e.g., 3 + 4 + 5 = _ + 5) before and after random assignment to watch either a video lesson with or without gestures. We measured children’s WMC and coded for strategy variability (i.e., number of incorrect strategies) used in pretest. We analyzed only children with 0 correct solutions at pretest. We found that learning (regardless of condition) was positively correlated with WMC. Contrary to our hypothesis, we found strategy variability was a significant negative predictor of learning. Also, children who used a single incorrect strategy benefited more from gesture provided in instruction than children using multiple incorrect strategies in pretest. These findings suggest that individual differences in cognitive factors may limit benefits of instruction. Particularly, children with multiple strategies may not have the bandwidth to process multiple modalities in instruction.