The Impact of Gesture and Prior Knowledge on Visual Attention During Math Instruction

AbstractInclusion of gesture – meaningful movements of the hands – during mathematics instruction is beneficial for teaching naïve learners novel concepts, and it can affect a learner’s allocation of visual attention. Yet, it is unknown how children with pre-existing knowledge of a math concept approach instruction that includes gesture. Here, we examine how children’s prior knowledge and either the presence or absence of gesture during instruction drive patterns in visual attention during a lesson. We find that prior knowledge does determine visual attention patterns, independent of type of instruction (i.e. with or without gesture). These findings further our understanding of the attentional mechanisms of gesture and have implications for real-world classrooms, where levels of prior knowledge are often mixed.

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