It is widely accepted and known that students often perform better in mathematics when representing their math with visuals. It is often assumed that people will only use visual math as a crutch for more abstract thinking, but it can be used for so much more than that. Visual math is important because it is one more strategy that gets added to a mathematician’s toolbox, and you can never have too many strategies for problem solving. Visual math is an important part of mathematics for its own sake and it is even said that visual math helps students learn numerical mathematics. The most powerful learning occurs when we use different parts of our brains.
“When students work with symbols, such as numbers, they are using a different area of the brain than when they work with visual and spatial information, such as an array of dots.”
Many people get excited and more engaged when dealing with visuals in math because the majority of people would say they do not like math, but the visuals give math a creative and inspiring edge. Pictures help students see mathematical concepts, which aids in understanding. This type of math also connects with higher-level thinking, enables communication and helps people see how creative math can be.
“Mathematics is a subject that allows for precise thinking, but when that precise thinking is combined with creativity, openness, visualization, and flexibility, the mathematics comes alive.”
Teachers can create so much excitement in math classrooms by asking students to solve the problem in different ways. The students can see and solve the problems through encouraged discussion and using different problem solving strategies. When we don’t ask students to think visually, we miss the opportunity to increase students’ understanding.