Tracing With The Index Finger Aids in Learning Information

hands-bannerHow each student learns varies from individual to individual. Some learn better by seeing information, some by hearing it presented, while others learn best when combining the two modes. For students to acquire new skills and be able to use them as foundations for more new learned information, practice is used to achieve this objective. For many students, this “learn by doing” provides a motor feedback connection to the task.

The thought is that hand movements, which include tracing may also aid with the forming and organizing spatial images in our conscious mind.

New research in Applied Cognitive Psychology shows that using the index finger to trace over multi-step and advanced math problems helps students with problem solving. While this seems like a simple and obvious idea, often students do not apply this method. Tracing can play an important role in helping learners “chunk” or combine different sources of information (diagrams and text) into an integrated and comprehensible understanding of a math, or other problem, and subject. 

The thought is that hand movements, which include tracing may also aid with the forming and organizing spatial images in our conscious mind. Objects near our hands are recognized more quickly and receive prolonged scrutiny, since we pay close attention to things that our eyes can easily see. Therefore, when using an index finger to physically touch while tracing visual information, that information receives processing priority.

When we work with students, we incorporate multi-sensory methods. Tracing with the index finger is one such mode of assisting students to learn information, and to solidify it. Some students can benefit from using the index finger for reading either texts or pleasure reading books. Using the index finger to follow under each word as read can help the reader read more accurately, increasing comprehension. Using this method can increase the speed of reading, allowing the student to keep his/her place, and to focus on the words. This makes the reader a more “active” reader.

A simple application, with the tool readily available, requires no expensive equipment, can be applied any time, and shows that it is useful in learning new information and solidifying it. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

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