Improving Memory by Teaching Kids Math Through Sight and Sound

Teaching kids math through sight and sound is particularly useful in teaching math vocabulary. When used along with a math word wall, involving the senses can improve memory and recall.

As teachers, we learned to first rely on the way we were taught – the teachers talked, and we listened – or else! Brain researchers now know that this kind of stress actually hinders learning. They also know that there are many other ways the brain receives information. In truth, the more we can involve the senses, the better students will be able to remember key vocabulary and concepts.

Special Days

One fun way to add sight and sound is to designate special dress-up days. Here are a few of our middle grades favorites:

Congruent Day - Since the word "congruent," stated simply, means "the same," on this day pairs of students try to dress exactly alike. Don't miss out on the fun yourself! Find another teacher or an assistant with whom you can be "congruent."

Reciprocal Day - Kids pair up and use the colors of their clothing to indicate that they are reciprocals. (Reminder: 3/4 and 4/3 are reciprocals.) So, for example, one student wears a tan shirt and blue pants while his/her "reciprocal" wears tan pants and a blue shirt.

3D Camo Day - Middle school boys love the day we all dress in camoflauge. I wear my husband's 3-D suit in order to demonstrate the third dimension of depth. On this day we explore three dimensional figures in a lab activity, dressed in camouflage.

Sound Effects

This is one of my favorite strategies for teaching kids math. It links the memory of a concept with a particular sound. Anything that makes a unique noise will do, but I am careful to use each sound effect only for the concept to which I am linking it.

I have used a variety of horns, bells, and buzzers throughout my years teaching math, and students always love them. There are also some really great apps for smartphones with a wide range of fun sound effects that you can use in class.

Sound effects on smartphones may help children remember key math concepts when paired together.

Solving Inequalities - When solving inequalities in Algebra, it is necessary to reverse the direction of the inequality (change "<" to ">" or ">" to "<") when multiplying or dividing by a negative number. To help students remember this rule, I ring a bell each time it occurs during the explanation of a problem.

Before long, the kids begin "hearing" the signal themselves when working problems individually, often muttering "ding, ding, ding" in the middle of math quizzes and exams!

Multiplying by -1 - At times, one must multiply through an algebraic expression with -1. I call it "waving our magic wand" which magically changes the sign of everything in that expression. I found a child's toy - a magic wand - at one of the dollar stores and wave it at the appropriate time while explaining the concept. It makes a wonderful sound and lights up, too, so we get sight and sound at the same time!

Students can't wait to explain problems at the board because they get to use the Magic Wand!!

So grab a cowbell, and let's make some noise!!

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Use of Music
Music education in schools is all about sound and should not be confined to the music room. Music in the classroom can support reading comprehension, and research links music and learning as well as music and memory.

Art and Learning
Art in education may be used to improve reading skills as the benefit of art education exists beyond the art room. Reading comprehension activities using art especially help left handed children.

How Do You Use Sight and Sound?

Images and sounds make impressions on the brain, sometimes better than the spoken word. In many ways, a picture really is worth a thousand words!

Teachers are the most creative people I know, and I'd love to hear how you use sight and sound in your classroom to improve memory and learning so drop me a line at pat (at) teacher-support-force (dot) com.

(Writing it that way discourages spam!)