Children’s gestures and the embodied knowledge of geometry

Mijung Kim, Wolff-Michael Roth and Jennifer Thom have written an article that was recently published online in International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education. The article is entitled Children’s gestures and the embodied knowledge of geometry. Here is the abstract of their article:

There is mounting research evidence that contests the metaphysical perspective of knowing as mental process detached from the physical world. Yet education, especially in its teaching and learning practices, continues to treat knowledge as something that is necessarily and solely expressed in ideal verbal form. This study is part of a funded project that investigates the role of the body in knowing and learning mathematics. Based on a 3-week (15 1-h lessons) video study of 1-s grade mathematics classroom (N = 24), we identify 4 claims: (a) gestures support children’s thinking and knowing, (b) gestures co-emerge with peers’ gestures in interactive situations, (c) gestures cope with the abstractness of concepts, and (d) children’s bodies exhibit geometrical knowledge. We conclude that children think and learn through their bodies. Our study suggests to educators that conventional images of knowledge as being static and abstract in nature need to be rethought so that it not only takes into account verbal and written languages and text but also recognizes the necessary ways in which children’s knowledge is embodied in and expressed through their bodies.

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