Visual spatial learners won’t show workings on their Maths papers and derive answers in the strangest ways and methods not taught in schools. They choose to be too creative in their ‘creative writing’ classes and irk their teachers. Do you have one at home?

Adult Visual Learners Learn to Compromise

Though a spatial learner myself, I find it hard to cope with my kids sometimes. Perhaps it is because we, as adults have been drilled and grilled by our education system to perfection we’ve forgotten how to solve problems from first principles or from whatever we need to know. We’ve forgotten that many people possess enough intelligence to build upon what they already know to obtain next level of understanding with little guidance.

For example, in our Math paper, we get no marks when we do not show the steps that make sense to the teacher/marker, even if our answers are correct, even in the university.

Since fighting the system is of no use, I asked my oldest son to learn the right steps and forgo HIS own problem solving method. He lost his love for Maths completely in secondary school even though he topped his Primary school in Math. What a fool I was!

Looking back, he (oldest boy) was the genius, I was just a system follower and I probably helped destroy his love for Math. Fortunately, he found his passion in other areas that I cannot help in.

These days, I no longer let those few marks determine how my children should think, I let them explore and solve their own ways, then teach them how to present their weird solutions so that others can understand.

Visual-Spatial Learners See Big Pictures

I was watching my other son do his Maths two years ago. I saw that he was heading for the wrong answer, it was crystal clear to me. So I interrupted him to show him the ‘right steps’ to the answer. Since he is not your regular child, he put up such a big fight I almost lost my lungs shouting at him.

“Why wouldn’t he allow me to show him just one step?” I thought to myself. And, I seldom teach him!!! I wanted some obedience!

The more I wanted him to just pause, the louder he yelled, and eventually, he cried and kicked up a big fuss and went to the room. Then, I talked myself into letting go of the situation, so I told him to do just what he wanted.

TO MY BIG SURPRISE, he gave me the right answer using a completely different and shorter method?! He grinned and walked off.

Since then, I have never meddled with his Math again as I observe him progress from Grade 5 Math to second year university Math in two years. I can no longer guide him, since he chose Math electives that I have never studied.

I recall this was how he did his work in his younger days: he saw the whole picture in his mind first, then solved everything all at once.

Different but not wrong

He had no steps! He’d look at me and ask, “Right? Mummy?” I’d shrug my shoulders, because I wouldn’t know. I needed to pick up my pencil and go through the question one step at a time like I was trained to do.

I could calculate very fast, and go through steps very quickly, but I HAD to go through the steps. If I had not picked up that pencil, I wouldn’t know the answers.

On the other hand, if you ask him to solve the steps one at a time, to communicate what he is doing, he is completely disorientated and he is lost! My job then, was not to force him to comply to the model answer his professors put on the board, but to encourage him to put down his own thoughts so that others can understand.

Understanding Visual Learners

It occurs to me, why he had a hard time functioning in classrooms when he was young: teachers had no time to teach each child to present their thoughts, so instead, they taught the kids a method they know all invigilators know and will mark correct.

Visual students do not see things the way sequential folks do, but they are not wrong either. Often more correct and our task is to help them ‘see’ like others and present what they see in their minds’ eyes so that others can understand.

I also begin to understand why teachers lost patience with him in his younger days, and why he constantly lost patience with his teachers. He could not understand why his teachers could not ‘see’.

With well-meaning teachers, he could end up like me, adopting the world’s wisdom and solving problems step by step, not using my first gift of being able to solve them without those steps.

Now that I have not used them, I have lost those abilities as well.

I’m sure there are many of us who learn differently from the prescribed methods dished out by schools. If you have a child, student, friend or sibling who is like that, what are you to do?

Visual learners are gifted in their own ways, and need to slow down, understand what others see and communicate their thoughts.  Knowing this, would you work with visual learners so that they can learn to communicate their differentiated thoughts, or would you force them to conform and follow the model answers in the hope of helping them achieve A’s?

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