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Topic: Arithmetic Facts

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Subject:   color in learning
Author: gayla
Date: Sep 13 2003
I would love to see these flash cards, the pink ones.  One of the things that I
introduced to our math tutor center at ASU (many years ago, we did it for a
year) was to whiteboard the tables, using bathboard purchased at Home Depot (it
can't be the heavily-tempered stuff, the soft stuff quickly conforms to the
surface of the tables).  I did it myself, 11 long tables for about $66 total,
and I bought cheap washrags as erasers and took them home once a week to launder
them.  Standing at a board can be intimidating, but having a whiteboarded
surface in front of you while sitting down has a completely different,
nonintimidating effect.  (In this situation, it was crucial to use low odor
markers.)  We had all colors available, and it was so interesting (to me) to see
what colors students chose.  Some didn't care what color marker they used, but
many did.  Most students felt that using the boards helped them learn.  This
isn't to suggest that students are always the best judge of what is good for
them.  At the same time, I place a signficant amount of weight on people being
able to know their own brain and works for them.  A particular student, he was a
returning adult student taking intermediate algebra, had a reaction to orange
that was hard for even me to believe.  For some reason, I mostly tended to use
blue and usually assisted him using a blue marker.  One evening, I put down the
blue marker and exchanged it for an orange marker, maybe the blue was running
out of ink...?, and as soon as he saw orange markings on the table, he became
very excited, seemed to notice the boards for the first time, even though he had
been sitting at them for months and I often used them when working with him.  He
even grabbed the marker from my hand and wanted to write the problem out for
himself.  I also introduced whiteboarded tables to a fifth-grade special ed
classroom in a school for learning disabled children that specializes in using
multi-sensory approaches to education.  These kids were all about 10 years
old.  The teacher found the boards useful for math, but even more useful for
teaching English, which was a surprize outcome to me.  These are the only two
places that I introduced the boards.  I didn't have funding to pursue it.  The
results were all positive.  It was experiential, yes, but it didn't put anyone
at risk.

The message about color flash cards brought this to mind.  Color can make such a
difference to some people, and it doesn't seem to hurt anyone.  It probably
isn't Pareto superior, because that is 'ideal' and impossible to achieve, but it
may satify Caldor Hicks conditions.  If it helps some certain number of people
while not harming others, then why not include color when it doesn't chew up too
much extra time and expense to do so?  

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