Visual Mathematics

We have been collaborating with our 2 neuroscience advisors, Christian Battista and Lang Chen, on new papers releasing the fascinating new evidence on the ways our brains learn mathematics, that are shared on this page.

In the labs at Stanford they have developed some really interesting new knowledge on the ways brains work mathematically. Prof Vinod Menon and his team have shown that our brains are made up of 5 different networks that are involved when we think about maths. Two of the networks are visual pathways – one is the ventral and one the dorsal visual pathway. Neuroimaging has shown that even when people work on a number calculation, such as 12 x 25, with symbolic digits (12 and 25) our mathematical thinking is partly visual.

The different evidence that is coming from the neuroscientists tells us that our brain wants to think visually about maths. Building students’ mathematical understanding doesn’t just mean strengthening one area of the brain that is involved with abstract numbers, it means strengthening connections between areas of the brain and strengthening the visual pathways.

We at youcubed believe that every mathematical concept can be represented visually to students, and that this would help them greatly. In our teacher paper, called “Seeing as Understanding,” we not only discuss the visual research but also include visual activities for all grade levels. Some of the other papers and news articles share some fascinating new research on the importance of fingers. The visual activities shares different K-12 visual math activities, as examples of ways to make maths more visual.

A few weeks ago the silence of my Stanford office was interrupted by a phone call. A mother called to […]

Mathematics educators have long known that engaging students in visual representations of mathematics is extremely helpful for their learning. When […]

A range of visual activities and representations

Five activities for finger training pre-K and up

How Visual is your teaching? A guide for teachers to consider visuals opportunities in their teaching

Walk the Graph activity in a downloadable PDF.