Abstract - Hendrix

Embedded Instructional Gesture and Early Shape Learning: A Comparison of Seeing and Doing

Abstract: As early as kindergarten, U.S. students struggle with mathematical learning. Instructional
strategies have been shown to increase geometric knowledge in early childhood, particularly
as it relates to shape learning. Yet existing educational research has tended to neglect the role
of hand gesture embedded in instruction, an instructional component shown to enhance
mathematical learning. Few studies intentionally incorporating gesture have been designed to
impact preschool students’ math knowledge. Thus, this study will examine the potential
influences of gesture on strategy use and task performance. This study seeks to contribute to
research on early math instruction and gestural influences in learning, bringing together
separate yet related fields of inquiry.

Eighty preschool students, divided between conditions of seeing researcher gesture and doing
gesture themselves during instruction, will be recruited. Pre- and posttest measuring
performance on a shape sorting task will assess skill before and after instruction, and
measures of language comprehension and nonverbal spatial ability will be included. Students
will receive brief instruction regarding shape knowledge from the researcher in their schools.
Mean differences between conditions found from pretest to posttest will be examined.
Further, during pre- and posttests, participants will communicate problem-solving strategies
and shape knowledge, which will also be analyzed.