What is Multisensory Math? And Why Should I Care?

by | Jan 17, 2018

Throughout our entire website, you keep seeing this phrase:

Multisensory Math

This is the one thing that sets us apart from regular ‘ol tutors and the free videos you’ll find on YouTube.

Multisensory Math Definition:  The use of senses applied in learning mathematics using the Concrete, Representational, Abstract (CRA) framework.

Watch this short video to see a quick overview of what multisensory math is and then I’ll talk in detail about how it works, what it will do for your child, and why you should care.

 

 

 

How Multisensory Math Works

Concrete = Touch

Representational = Drawing

Abstract = Symbols

During the 90’s, lots of research was being done about how the brain learns math.  We discovered that when we work from concrete to representational to abstract the brain can absorb and recall math at a much higher rate.

This is why we now have Common Core Math in the United States.

No matter how you feel about Common Core Math, the standards were written based on this research.

Even though you may live in a state that has gotten rid of these standards, you should know that they really didn’t go away.

Because educators are smart, they are not going to stop doing what they know works.  Common Core Math was a PR nightmare.  They did a terrible job communicating why we need this change, how it affects our children, and most importantly how can parents help.

Multisensory Math is seen mostly in the elementary classrooms, but the truth is– these methods are appropriate for ALL levels of math.

I’m going to walk you through how it works with a middle school topic:  FRACTIONS

 

Concrete:

When I’m teaching students about fractions, we start by using items we can actually touch.  In this image, we are using foam shapes to demonstrate a fraction is a quantity of one broken into equal parts.

We start with one shape and I’ll prompt them to show me how I could break (fraction means to-break) this quantity of one into two equal parts.

The student will grab 2 trapezoids and show me how they did this.

We will tie it to drawings of other fractions of the same quantity and write them too.

Representational:

We can jump fairly rapidly from the concrete to using drawings.  You saw a lot of this in the elementary years.  Drawing your thinking helps make better connections about what you understood from your experience from concrete.

When we skip using concrete methods, students can struggle with drawing their thinking.

Abstract:

Once we’ve got the deeper understanding going on, we can start working with only numbers which are the abstract piece of the framework.

When we were in school, our teachers spent ALL of their time working with abstract concepts using only numbers and symbols.

Math clicks for learners when we can tie it to real-world experiences and drawings.

Using the abstract way is preferred, but we have to build up to it.  Using just numbers is efficient and that’s the goal.

But the beauty of using multisensory math techniques is that any time a student struggles, we can go back to concrete and work up to abstract again.

What Does Multisensory Math Do for Your Child?

We learn by DOING if we REFLECT on what we have done.

Most students are taught procedures.

They compute numbers and push them around the page with no clue as to what they are doing something.

When we’re working on multisensory math, you’ll hear about us doing chanting, rhythmic speech, graphic organizers, and getting up to move as much as we can.  You’ll also see large amounts of space to write and time to think.

Doing this stimulates the senses and leads to enhanced memory for learning and retrieval of information.

The Benefits:

  • Quicker recall of information
  • Understanding the WHY behind the numbers
  • Think logically by relating to concrete info they know
  • Time to process
  • Space to write
  • Increased confidence

Why You Should Care About Multisensory Math

Sadly, many teachers do not use manipulatives like the foam shapes in the classroom because they are messy and can cause behavior issues.  They are time-consuming, but not using items like this in the classroom ultimately leads to the poor formation of number sense which leads to problems in math through a child’s entire life.

Investing in working with a math coach or tutor trained in multisensory math pays off in the long run.  Because math is real life!

It’s understanding adult issues:

  • Calculating a tip
  • Shopping for a deal
  • Choosing between one cell phone plan and another
  • Identifying fake news
  • Being aware of bad deals
  • Buying a house, car, investing

Parents LOVE to tell their kids, “I haven’t used the algebra I learned in school.  It’s no big deal.”

This thinking is DEAD wrong.  It is a big deal.

Phrases like this send a message that math doesn’t matter.  But it does (reference the adult issues above).  You do use algebra but not in the way you remember doing it in school.

Multisensory math will help your child make decisions at work, in their home, and at the grocery store.

A respected entrepreneur I know told me recently that he dropped out of college and hated math, but as an adult…it’s all he does.

He makes all his business decision based on math.  That’s powerful.

Math allows him to not waste precious time on ideas and efforts that do not help him live the life he wants.

Here’s Why You Should Start Seeking Multisensory Math Coaching NOW

Instead of wasting hours on YouTube trying to patch together some instructions, consider contacting us for more information about how we can help your child finally grasp math.

  • It will save you time (no more wasting hours browsing YouTube for help)
  • Save you from tears over ONE page of homework
  • You’ll see your child beaming with confidence as they know how to tackle math
  • Ultimately, your child will learn they CAN DO HARD THINGS

 

Curious if Multisensory is the Right Fit for Your Child?

Go ahead and contact us to chat about the struggles your child has been having with math.  We’ll discuss their learning style and how we can directly help.  Click the button or fill out our contact form here.

Adrianne Meldrum

Adrianne Meldrum

Owner of Math for Middles

I’m the owner and creator of the math videos here at Math for Middles.  I’ve tutored students for over ten years.  When I am not creating here, you’ll find me down by the river with my family.  You can read more about me here and how I once was a middle schooler too.

Math Tips and Help for Parents of Teens

Math Tips and Help for Parents of Teens

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