Students learn better when their teachers use hand gestures — a simple teaching tool that could yield benefits in higher-level math such as algebra — according to a new study.
The study, published in journal Child Development, provides some of the strongest evidence yet that gesturing may have a unique effect on learning.
“Gesturing can be a very beneficial tool that is completely free and easily employed in classrooms,” said Kimberly Fenn, study co-author and assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University.
Fenn and Ryan Duffy of MSU and Susan Cook of the University of Iowa conducted an experiment with 184 second-, third- and fourth-graders.
Half of the students were shown videos of an instructor teaching math problems using only speech. Students who learned from the gesture videos performed better on a test given immediately afterward than those who learned from the speech-only video.