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Children's Gestures as a Means to Examine the Role of Manipulatives in Numerical Development

Thu, April 16, 12:00 to 1:30pm, Sheraton, Floor: Fourth Level, Chicago VI&VII


Gesture research, by offering a window into mental imagery, presents a new methodological approach for examining the relationship between action experiences and conceptual development. This paper examines young children’s (4-8 years) gestures in an unexplored domain: early numerical relationships, particularly focusing on evidence of children drawing upon a metaphor of numbers as objects. 114 children were asked to explain a verbally-presented relationship in the form 1+6=2+5. 61% children who provided a verbal explanation used representational gestures. Of these children, 42% appeared to grasp (pinch/grip) an imaginary object at least once whilst gesturing. The study therefore offers support for the embodiment hypothesis, and demonstrates potential for gesture research to help evaluate the impact of different action experiences on numerical development.