Listening Math – sensory learning

All information which we receive into the brain for processing comes from one of our five senses. Developing an ability to effectively and efficiently apply as many of these senses as possible to a problem or investigation can only assist us in finding solutions to our queries. Many lessons can be developed and taught with this idea in mind.

Learning the process of active listening, for example, as opposed to passive listening or merely hearing, can assist students tremendously as they take in information for processing. Really listening to what is being said, with an active engagement, can facilitate an intake of all the information presented. Here is an example of a lesson promoting active listening in mathematics.

Procedure: Students are given small erasable writing tablets, erasable markers, and board erasers. They are told that this is a listening exercise. Not only is this lesson about listening carefully to the information presented; students also have to separate relevant information from the irrelevant material as well. Lastly, they have to decide how they will record the information as the reader proceeds with the statement and questions.

The teacher states that the problem will be read only once. A clear and precise statement is made as to what type of problem is being address whether it is, for example, time or distance. Students have to decide how they will record the information, look for relevant material, and solve the problem. A word problem is then slowly, carefully and methodically read to the students. At no point is any part of the problem communicated in written form. Students need to listen for relevant information, and undertake to solve the questions posed.

It is fascinating to see how students approach this form of questioning at first. Usually, most students begin by writing down everything the teacher says verbatim. In later exercises, students tend to make a simple diagrammatic chart to solve the problem.


Teacher states: this is a distance question.

A man decides to take a hike along the Appalachian Trail. This is a three-day adventure. On the first day, he walks 30 miles. The food he consumes that day costs $5.45. On the second day, he makes good progress. He saw two bears, and three Blue Jays. This day, he walks 25 miles. He stepped off the trail to buy water for $2.50. The final leg of his journey took him another 23 miles. He ate three cereal bars costing $3.00 each.


How many miles did he walk in total on this specific journey?

At this juncture, the teacher might also ask students to write down, on a separate piece of paper, how much he spent in total to see which students were actively listening to the entire story, and who listened only for distance information. The story can then be re-read, and the spending question asked again. Students and teacher can compare notes on the their answers.

The lesson then can be focused on a discussion of active learning, sorting of information for relevancy, and storage of additional information that may later become relevant. Students will also learn how most efficiently to record what they have heard.

Additional, more complicated, problem:

No information is written down by the teacher for the students to see.

Teacher states that this is a distance, time and expenditure question:

Judy was training for a marathon on Sunday. On Wednesday, she started running at 6:00 am. She ran 15 miles, finishing at 8:37 am. The next day, she ran 17 miles, starting at 6:00 am, and ending 2 hours and 47 minutes later. Conveniently, this practice run ended at the convenience store. There, Judy bought two vitamin waters, each costing $2.50, an energy shake costing $3.99, and a bag of potato chips at $2.99.

(1) How many miles did Judy run in all?

(2) In all, how long did it take Judy to run the total distance?

(3) How much did Judy spend at the convenience store?

(4) What day was it when Judy ran 17 miles?