I sat at the kitchen table beside my five year old daughter. Her math book was open and we were going over some basic subtraction problems.
I read aloud the problem before us: “What is 9-3?” She stared at the page for a moment before she burst out in frustration, “Mom, I’m not good at math!”
An intelligent girl and an eager learner, I didn’t understand why math seemed so difficult for her. On a hunch, I pulled out a bag of coffee beans on the counter.
I placed nine coffee beans in front of her and I rephrased the problem: “You have nine coffee beans and you take three away – what do you have left?”
I could see the facts clicked for her and she said happily, “six!” Simply having something she could see and touch changed everything for her when it came to learning mathematical facts.
I made a mental note to research a new math curriculum for her that would focus on using the abacus and other similar tools.
All children have the capacity to learn but many are easily frustrated if they are forced to learn a subject in a way that goes against their nature. That is why it is so helpful for us as parents to discern our children’s learning styles and equip them with the tools they need to fully enjoy their education.
There are three basic learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Here are some basic characteristics of each style that I have gathered from Indiana University’s Bepko Learning Center:
1) Visual Learners:
• Uses visual objects such as graphs, charts, pictures, and seeing information
• Can read body language well and has a good perception of aesthetics
• Able to memorize and recall various information
• Tends to remember things that are written down
• Learns better in lectures by watching them
2) Auditory Learners:
• Retains information through hearing and speaking
• Often prefers to be told how to do things and then summarizes the main points out loud to help with memorization
• Notices different aspects of speaking
• Often has talents in music and may concentrate better with soft music playing in the background
3) Kinesthetic Learners:
• Likes to use the hands-on approach to learn new material
• Is generally good in math and science
• Would rather demonstrate how to do something rather than verbally explain it
• Usually prefers group work more than others
Here are some basic tips that I have gleaned from several different sites on the web regarding how we can help our little learners:
Visual Learners benefit from a variety of ocular stimulation. This can include images, colors, and written information. They may like to read text on their own and use highlighters or different colored pens while writing or taking notes. Flash cards for vocabulary can be helpful. It may help them to avoid windows or other visual distractions.
Auditory Learners benefit from engaging in conversation and discussion with teachers and fellow students. They tend to learn well in groups or with a study partner. Taping lectures and allowing them to listen to them as well as having material read out loud to them may be helpful. Putting material to a tune or rhythm and rehearsing it out loud will greatly benefit them.
Kinesthetic (or Tactile) Learners are the “let me try” kids – they want to experiment and see how things work for themselves, not just take someone’s word for it. Allowing them to make a list of materials for any assignment and gathering those materials is useful. Tracing words and diagrams on paper is helpful as well as experimenting with textured paper and different sized writing utensils. Allow these students to use body movement in while reciting material to be learned.
Still not sure what kind of learner your child is? Check out this quiz!
During the next few weeks, I’ll be posting more in-depth posts about each of the learning styles. In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you! What learning style are you and your kids? What helps each of you learn?