Not all kids are fond of math, and for them, solving math problems can be a tedious task. A new study suggests that students who trace certain math problems using their fingers are able to solve them more quickly and easily.
Researchers from the University of Sydney found that students who used a technique called finger tracing were able to solve math problems with more ease than others.
The researchers said that students who used their fingers to trace over examples while at the same time reading arithmetic and geometry material were able to perform better by completing tasks more easily and quickly than those who did not apply the technique.
Tracing involves using the index finger to physically trace and touch the angles of a triangle in geometry, for example. The research team believes this may help reduce the load on working memory and enhance the ability to retain complex information.
“Our findings have a range of implications for teachers and students alike. They show math learning by young students may be enhanced substantially with the simple addition of instructions to finger-trace elements of math problems,”says corresponding author Dr. Paul Ginns.
In the study published in the journal Learning and Instruction and Applied Cognitive Psychology, the researchers recruited 275 children from ages 9 to 13 years old. They discovered that tracing over math elements while reading them enhanced the children’s understanding of problems in algebra and geometry. Previous studies have also confirmed that finger tracing helps kids recognize shapes and letters.
Dr. Ginns says this simple and zero-cost teaching technique can help teachers assist students by giving them specific instructions to “trace over” important elements in mathematical textbooks.
The researchers are now looking for more ways to use the technique on more complex and harder math problems that require higher levels of cognitive ability.
They add that they are confident that the new technique can be used in the classroom setting and even in subjects other than math. Further research is needed to explore the technique.