Publication Date

Fall 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Robert Cooper


embodied cognition, mathematical idea analysis, pedagogy

Subject Areas

Cognitive psychology; Educational technology


The Mathematical Ideas Analysis hypothesizes that abstract mathematical reasoning is unconsciously organized and integrated with sensory-motor experience. Basic research testing movement, language, and perception during math problem solving supports this hypothesis. Applied research primarily measures students’ performance on math tests after they engage in analogous sensory-motor tasks, but findings show mixed results. Sensory-motor tasks are dependent on several moderators (e.g., instructional guidance, developmental stage) known to help students learn, and studies vary in how each moderator is implemented. There is little research on the effectiveness of sensory-motor tasks without these moderators. This study compares different approaches to working with an interactive application designed to emulate how people intrinsically solve algebraic equations. A total of 130 participants (84 females, 54 males) were drawn from a pool of Introductory Psychology students attending San Jose State University. Participants were placed in three different learning environments, and their performance was measured by comparing improvement between a pre-test and a post-test. We found no difference between participants who worked alone with the application, were instructed by the experimenter while using the application, or who instructed the experimenter on how to solve equations using the application. Further research is needed to examine how and whether analogous sensory-motor interfaces are a useful learning tool, and if so, what circumstances are ideal for sensory-motor interfaces to be used.