I am a student that will always have trouble with math. I remember having trouble understanding the basic concepts since I was little, when I had difficulty telling time after most of the kids in school had already grasped the idea and moved on to the next. In middle school, I even had to retake a pre-algebra class. Of course, everyone has different ways of learning, and my brain just never was able to wrap itself around the logistical, precise formulas and robotic, numerical answers.
The few things that did stick included the hands-on approach to my learning, however. For instance, my mother taught me to add, subtract and multiply by using blocks to help me understand what it meant when 5 blocks were stacked upon another 3 to make a total of 8, or when the dreaded word problems came along and she helped me to try to understand numbers through concrete toys that helped to ground images into my real world instead of the imaginary realm of the math textbook.
Hands-on learning helped me construct meaning out of abstract symbols that meant nothing to me.
Hands-on learning helped me construct meaning out of abstract symbols that meant nothing to me. For me, hands-on learning meant having the teacher engage the world in my hands, whether it was artistic (molding a terrarium out of clay to learn more about Antarctica) or simply to learn that creativity was necessary for me to express myself. Viewing things from a different perspective has always helped me remember certain ideas better.
Writing as a hands-on learning experience
Studying is one of the most difficult aspects of school that I still struggle with. Having the professor load slideshows onto the computer actually hurts more than it helps because the overwhelming information does not absorb into my brain. The words are still in another dimension and not in my hands the way that I hoped to have done by writing it all down. Even having myself writing down the letters onto the page doesn’t suffice. I need crazy, random acronyms that I’ll never forget or pictures to symbolize different geographic regions or areas of the mind that I need to study for my psychology exams.
Writing has become one of the most hands-on approaches to help me materialize words into feeling and vice versa. Expressions that I don’t completely grasp have become easier to analyze through poetry, through music, through sound— a sense that I could finally connect with— a familiar yet somewhat uncanny sensation of being in a place that I’ve never been but I’ve seen before.
A familiar smell in an office building that in seconds, brings me back to somewhere I can’t quite process, it but it leaves me with an unsettling curiosity to figure out the precise detail: the time, the place, the moment. A space to place myself inside of time helps me find the answers to questions I can’t answer. Sometimes, it’s about the process of creating new images to develop a new idea for myself.
Poetry workshops are the only classes that have helped further my interest in the real world thus far. Writing not only engages empathic pathways in the brain while you’re writing, but the revision process requires that you work with someone else to find out what it is hiding, in not only your work, but in yourself that needs to be developed.
On other hand, the field that I’m studying, psychology, does not allow me easy access to the hands-on approach of clinical experience. When studying the medical fields, it’s nearly impossible to gain the appropriate training necessary to further as a college student. Most of them only learn basic definitions and concepts that don’t always generalize to the greater population. Gaining clinical practice is nearly nonexistent because even trying to find internships becomes unattainable. Issues of confidentiality and needing prior qualifications prevent students from having a basic understanding of the academic and real-world field.
Overall, hands-on learning is the most engaging way for many students to learn, especially for those who have trouble understanding rigid concepts. For me, writing is one of the most hands-on learning experiences that I’ve had the opportunity of involving myself in. Where the space on the page stops time and allows me to reflect and help construct meaning out of the abstract feelings and other unsettling sensations that are hard for me to understand.