Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Teaching and Learning Mathematics Visually or Verbally: A Comparison of Two Teaching Approaches and Investigation of Interactions With Pupil Cognitive Style

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Pamela Woolner


Full text for this publication is not currently held within this repository. Alternative links are provided below where available.


Despite mathematicians’ valuing the ability to visualize a problem and psychologists’ finding positive correlations of visual-spatial ability with success in mathematics, many educationists remain unconvinced about the benefits of visualization for mathematical understanding. One reason for this is evidence that students considered to be visualizers tend to have specific problems with the subject. In this research, “visual” and “verbal” teaching approaches were compared through teaching a range of early secondary school mathematics topics to two classes using one or the other approach. The pupils were assessed using measures of specific cognitive abilities and of visualizer-verbalizer cognitive style. The two classes were compared through a post-intervention test of mathematical competency, on which the verbally taught class scored significantly higher. No interactions were found between teaching style and the learner’s preferred style although the pupils identified as “visualizers” did tend to perform less well.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Woolner P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology

Year: 2006

Volume: 5

Issue: 3

Pages: 288-309

ISSN (print): 1945-8959

ISSN (electronic): 1810-7621

Publisher: Springer Publishing Company


DOI: 10.1891/194589506787382459

Notes: This article in a peer-reviewed journal reports PhD work that aimed to investigate, mainly through a quasi-experimental method, the teaching and learning of mathematics through more visual and more verbal means. The small, but intensive, study with secondary school students produced both quantitative and qualitative results. These are interpreted from a broadly cognitive perspective, and suggestions are made about the place of ideas about visualisation and verbalisation in understanding learning. Specifically, it is argued that on-going confusion in mathematics education about the implications, and indeed the validity, of visual and verbal learning styles should be resolved by considering styles of teaching and assessment materials, rather than concentrating on assessments of individual style, instead helping learners to develop a full range of thinking approaches. The author was responsible for all aspects of the experimental study, reported by this article, which included developing an original tool for assessing individual visual/verbal learning style. Both the interpretation of the results and the method of measuring individual style have produced interest and comments from mathematics educators, both nationally and internationally.


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric