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BYU Student teaches math using principles of design

An excerpt from the published BYU article "BYU projects show how students are prepared to make an impact on the world"

Jennifer Canizales (College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences)

Analytics and art – two skills that go together like peanut butter and pickles, but for BYU student Jennifer Canizales, that isn’t the case. Canizales, who will soon graduate with a master’s degree in math education, has always loved flexing the analytical side of her brain to solve complex equations. But she’s equally gifted as an artist and enjoys utilizing the creative side of her brain – a unique combination.

After a student teaching internship, Canizales pondered ways to make teaching math more exciting and more effective. “Like many students, I’ve been in math classes where it’s hard to follow all of the information that’s up on the board,” she said. “I started to wonder how I could combine my passion for design and math to make board work better.”

Canizales research uses principles of design to help math teachers create board work that is easier for students to comprehend.
Photo by Jennifer Canizales

Canizales dove into existing research on pedagogy and studied Gestalt theory and Cognitive Load theory to better understand how students learn. Drawing on principles of design; like using color to connect recurring themes in equations and grouping related formulas together, she created new board plans for math teachers to make instruction visually appealing and easier to understand.

She’s tested her board work model in undergraduate math classes at BYU with promising results. Students reported lower cognitive load and better recall when being taught with design-based board work. Students also said they felt like they were receiving higher-quality instruction from the teacher.

“By applying design principles to board work we can lower the extraneous cognitive load for students and increase their ability to understand the math,” she said.

Canizales has presented her findings at educator conferences across the nation and hopes to publish her research and empower more teachers with resources to plan effective board work lessons.

By Tyler Stahle, April 11, 2023

Read the full article here
Media Contact: Tyler Stahle