Not everybody’s a visual learner

Posted on August 27, 2013

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My first clue was that in trying to explain why subtracting a negative ended up giving  a bigger answer, I drew the number line to show the difference between 2 and -7.   Now, it wasn’t a very good drawing; but good enough so that my construction majors generally do the grand aha!   No, she was much more interested in, on the next problem, my explanation that 9 – 6 was 3, 9 – 7 was 2, 9-8 was 1, 9 – 9 was 0, so… and doing the “turn around! turn around again!” analogy didn’t work anything like as well as sticking to the abstract “opposite.”   

   The real clue, though, was when she said she was having trouble figuring out missing chunks in perimeters of shapes with right angles — the rectangles with chunks taken out.   She’s a football fan, so explaining that the lateral movemetn doesn’t matter made sense… but it completely clicked when she had “vertical” and “horizontal” tags to work with (and you bet I tossed in the “parts add up to the whole; you subtract if you know the whole and need to find a part.” ) 

     Yesterday I wondered whether I should be using my time better somewhere besides class when it was announced “turn off the monitors, we won’t be using the machines,” because it would be all lecture, from the book.  (I was relieved; I had managed to leave both flash drives at home…)   Well, *maybe* it would have been, but… it was a resounding pleasure to have somebody explain that whole binary thing by starting with what base 10 is all about and putting examples of each up on the board with the important stuff really clear, and I am pretty sure it was clear to other folks, too. He tossed in a reminder of how we could use logs to figure out that two to the what is 50 (so I had to go reconstruct the logic there, since I have only glanced at logs once or twice since 11th grade — usually long enough to “the base ten log of x means ten to what power is x, right?”  and sort of show how the number moved, at which point the student says “Oh! I remember what to do now, THANK YOU!” and leaves… which was more than matched today by the guy trying to figure out what he was doing in Visual Basic, and   because things were distracting enough he jiggled the mouse at the right time to notice he’d buried two copies of something on the screen, hence the “already used that label!” error. I know NOTHIGN about VB but he thinks I’m a great help :))   

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