This week my daughter and I have been working on learning multiplication. I say “we” because even though I memorized my facts as a child, I am learning new ways to help visual learners quickly know their multiplication facts without boring drill and repetition.
I have been reading the book Upside Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner by Dr. Linda Silverman. Imagine being a genius but being blind and not being taught Braille. Learners with different learning styles need to be taught in ways that they can receive and process the information to be learned. In Silverman’s book, she says:
“Visualization is the key to their (the VSLs) learning. Auditory-sequential children have no difficulty following multi-step oral directions. While their visualization skills may be weak, they have excellent listening skills. Encourage VSLs in the class to visualize and assist them in doing so by using more visual presentations and examples.” (p. 85)
I have already experimented with visual-spatial techniques for helping my daughter learn to spell. I wrote about it last year after reading the book Right- Brained Children in a Left-Brained World. You can read that article here. Silverman’s book also has much to offer in terms of helping kids who are VSLs read, write, and spell.
In terms of Math, VSLs have strengths and weaknesses, just as auditory-sequential learners do. Silverman writes: “Auditory-sequential learners excel in arithmetic and algebra, and they may do brilliantly on timed calculation tests . . . VSLs . . . have a terrible time memorizing their addition and multiplication facts . . . do poorly on timed math tests, because it takes longer to translate their pictures into numbers.” VSLs, on the other hand, do well in geometry and can do well in algebra with an excellent teacher. (p. 85). According to Dr. Silverman, Russian and Japanese math curricula have more geometry infused into their programs throughout the elementary grades (p. 86). This would definitely motivate the VSL student in the area of learning math.
To help my daughter with her multiplication facts, I jumped to chapter 13 where Silverman offers many practical tips for parents and teachers. One tip included having your VSL make a picture of each math problem using something they love then post the pictures in his or her room. The example given in the book was about horses. I plan on having my daughter do the drawings herself in the future, as the book recommended this method for helping it stick. But, for the first example, I drew the picture in front of her, and it stuck very well. One of the most difficult facts to remember (because it lacks the tips and tricks of other facts) is 7 x 7 = 49. Therefore, that is the fact I chose. My daughter’s latest passion (and I am sure she shares this passion with hundreds of other elementary-age girls) is Justin Bieber. I took out a sheet of paper and drew seven stick-figure girls (I am not an artist) at the top of the page. At the bottom, I drew a stick-figure boy and called him Justin Bieber. Each of the girls had a thought bubble above their heads with seven “x”s in the bubble. I told my daughter that they were each thinking about 7 kisses from Justin. She gets embarrassed at that point but gives me her full and complete attention. We then counted the kisses to see how many times Justin would have to give a kiss to kiss all 7 girls 7 times each, and we of course go the number 49. I told my daughter that 4 sounds like forever and 9 rhymes with mine – forever mine—what each stick-figure girl hoped.
That was yesterday. Today she still remembers that 7 x 7 = 49! I do not think she will forget it. Now we need to work on some more drawings! Dr. Silverman, in chapter 13, teaches a fantastic and easy way for a VSL to instantly know the correct answer to multiplying times nine (from 1-10). Interested? Her book is available from The Gifted Development Center. You can find additional visual-spatial resources at http://www.visualspatial.org/
See also: Snapshots of a VSL #1