Learning Styles in Mathematics

In Educational Leadership, June 2011, you'll find a fascinating article, "Let Me Learn My Own Way," describing how students approach mathematics differently, depending on their Jungian learning style. Specifically mentioned are student preferences for gaining energy (extraversion or introversion) and preferences for processing information (sensing or intution.) Consider your own learning style and that of various students as you look at "Four Ways of Learning" as quoted from the article:

  • "Let me master it!" (Preferences: introversion and sensing). If these students aren't comfortable with mathematics, they want certainty before proceeding. They like direct instruction and practice work, and they dislike experimenting unless they can receive immediate feedback.
  • "Let me do something!" (Preferences: extraversion and sensing). These students learn through movement, interaction, and hands-on manipulatives. For example, instead of using little paper fraction strips, they thrive on working in groups with large magnetized fraction strips at the whiteboard. They  often use a purposeful trial-and-error method working with pictures or manipulatives to solve problems until they "see" that their answer matches the mathematics of a problem.
  • "Let me think!" (Preferences: introversion and intuition). These students process ideas internally and pride themselves on unique or creative solutions. They are drawn to concepts, not procedures. They prefer working with numbers and may not always benefit from hands-on tools.
  • "Let me brainstorm!" (Preferences: extraversion and intuition). These students process their ideas best out loud with partners or in groups, transfer new knowledge to new situations easily, and prefer a variety of challenging tasks as opposed to practice work.

The article describes how student learning preferences looked in a classroom fraction lesson, making it clear that a variety of approaches are essential in order to meet the needs of all students. At the conclusion, you'll find a checklist to help identify student learning styles. This checklist is a valuable tool for differentiating in the mathematics setting.