Math: Finger Tracing Can Lift Performance, Study Reveals

First Posted: Jan 29, 2016 12:58 PM EST

Math is often a tedious subject for many students. Researchers from the University of Sydney found that students who trace certain math problems with a finger were able to solve them quick and easy. The researchers conducted several studies with 275 Sydney school children between the ages of nine and 13. They found that tracing over the elements of math problems improved how students' understanding and how they solved geometry and algebra problems.

"Our findings have a range of implications for teachers and students alike," Dr. Paul Ginns, coauthor of the study, said in a news release. "They show maths learning by young students may be enhanced substantially with the simple addition of instructions to finger-trace elements of maths problems.

The researchers found that students who used their fingers to trace over geometry or arithmetic problems while reading at them same time, were able to solve the problems quickly and correctly compared to students who did not use the technique. The researchers are curious about using the technique in more complex mathematical problems, which require higher levels of thinking and problem solving.

"At the classroom level, teachers can assist students to learn new mathematical content by giving instructions to 'trace over' the important elements of worked examples that already appear in mathematics textbooks or worksheets," Ginns said. "This simple, zero-cost teaching approach can enhance the effectiveness of mathematics instruction across multiple areas of the subject."

The researchers believe that the finger tracing technique can be applied in classrooms and it can even be applied to subjects that are not math. The team indicated that further research on the technique needs to be conducted.

The findings of this study were published in Learning and Instruction and Applied Cognitive Psychology.

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