Wild About Math! Making Math fun and accessible

19Oct/070

Math for humans

Since writing my last post I got a copy of Mark Wahl's Math for Humans: Teaching Math Through 7 Intelligences.Math for Humans by Mark Wahl Wahl is brilliant. He provides inspiration, explanation, and techniques (with plenty of examples) for using Gardner's Multiple Intelligences to teach Math to students who may excel in one kind of intelligence over another. The 1997 edition of the book I have was written when Gardner's theory included 7 intelligences. The theory now includes 8 intelligences and Wahl's book has been updated to reflect that.

Wahl leads in his introduction with a great story of a second grader he met who was a budding artist, possessing very high spatial intelligence. She couldn't, however, learn (i.e. memorize) her addition tables. Judgment aside about the value of her teacher and parents forcing that she learn the tables in the timetable and not hers, Wahl undertook the challenge to teach her the arithmetic table. He had her make pictures of the symbols in "8 + 7 = 15" on a large index card and then had her make cards for other Math facts. This student was able to learn Math facts by making her own artistic flash cards. She got to learn by using her high spatial intelligence.

The book provides examples of how to "season", as Wahl likes to say, Math lessons with the multiple intelligences (MI). He gives examples for:

  • Linguistic Intelligence (writing about what you learned or experienced)
  • Spatial Intelligence (diagrams with symbols, flow charts for procedures, visual mnemonics, charts, mind maps, graphs, Venn diagrams, branching trees)
  • Musical-Rhythmic Intelligence (clapping, singing, humming, rhythmic movement, rhythmic words, jingles)
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (cubes, blocks, Cuisenaire Rods, calculators, and other manipulatives)
  • Intrapersonal Intelligence (sharing of thoughts, feelings, and ideas with others)
  • Interpersonal Intelligence (discussing of cross-cultural and historical aspects of Math topics)
  • Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (deepening the analysis of concepts, posing questions, making connections, furthering exploration)

Wahl discusses brain hemisphericity, how to use left and right brain skills together to do Math. He discusses learning styles, how to use an understanding of a student's temperament to create an environment for succeeding in Math. He explains the value of students working cooperatively toward solving problems. And, Wahl presents a chapter on dealing with Math anxiety.

While the first half of the book presents and illustrates quite a bit of theory, the second half grounds us with concrete examples, quite a number of activities, that apply what we've learned earlier to real-world classroom and tutoring experiences.

All in all, Math for Humans is a fabulous book, chock full of very inspiring information and ideas with tremendous power to help teachers, tutors, coaches, and parents to teach Math in ways that students can really get and enjoy.