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Learning with All Your Senses: Mathematical Manipulatives Enhance Student Comprehension of Biological Models

Author(s): Holly D Gaff1, John R Jungck2, Jeremy M Wojdak3

1. Old Dominion University 2. Interdisciplinary Science Learning Center at the University of Delaware 3. Radford University

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Handout for a session presentation on kinesthetic learning at the 2019 BioQUEST & QUBES Summer Workshop

Licensed under CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International according to these terms

Version 1.0 - published on 21 Aug 2019 doi:10.25334/M4GB-N704 - cite this


We have found that by engaging students in building and manipulating three-dimensional models of biological phenomena (and mathematical concepts underlying these phenomena) that many students who struggle with abstract or symbolic math can gain greater understanding, facility, confidence, and ownership. We will begin with a gallery of various models that span the range from molecular to ecological levels, including manipulatives that capture epidemiological models, statistical principles, and fascinating biology like self-assembling viral capsids and the exquisite topology of radiolarians.  We will have 3D printers as well as hands-on materials for participants to construct their own models throughout the week. All examples are intended to be accessible to students with high school algebra and geometry (i.e. no calculus is required), and for instructors with any level of quantitative acumen.

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