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The City Journals

Hunter Teacher Uses Colors to Teach Math

Apr 08, 2016 11:14AM ● By Bryan Scott

By Natalie Mollinet | [email protected]

West Valley - Devon Cooper is one of many fine teachers at Hunter High school, but principal Craig Stauffer said Cooper has taken his math teaching to another level. This is helping not only Cooper teach, but it’s helping the students understand one of the hardest subjects: math. 

Cooper loves exploring beautiful, scenic Utah and explores from the Wasatch Mountains down to the national parks. She’s looking to explore Bryce Canyon this summer and loves her ski time at Alta. 

When Cooper isn’t discovering Utah, she’s in the classroom working hard to help her students understand a really tricky subject for many. 

“Math has a bad reputation when it comes to students and their parents,” Cooper said. “I try to teach math differently to create a new perspective. I teach in color.” 

As far as most people know, math is full of numbers and letters, including Greek letters, that have no meaning to the non-math population. Cooper found this new way of teaching by finding research done on the brain and how using color can help people associate problems with the color. 

“My inspiration to teach in color comes from brain research and learning techniques,” she said, “I have learned that it helps visual learners with connecting color to the math and kinesthetic learners with something tangible to change up in their notes.” 

Math is a very left-brain subject, and when it comes to arts the right brain takes control. For students that use their right brain more, using color can help them organize their thoughts better and help them understand where the teacher is coming from when they’re explaining a math problem. 

For example, with matrices, the teacher will use certain colors for different sets of numbers to help the student know which number multiplies with each number. It helps the student organize and visually see where the teacher is working. 

“My students take notes in markers, crayons and highlighters,” she said, “I teach them songs if I have one over the topic, and I try to give them ways to relate to the math.” 

According to studies, being good at math isn’t a natural thing. A survey done in 2010 conducted by Change the Equation found that three out of every 10 Americans consider themselves bad at math. 

Studies also showed that people who think they’re bad at math have had an early belief that they are bad at math and never will be good. The person then starts to believe they’re bad at math and that they were born with it and therefore won’t put the effort into trying to build the ability to be good at math. 

With Cooper helping her students learn math in this way, students are able to see math isn’t a scary thing and they are able to do it, even the students that feel their strength comes from arts. 

“Color is a right-brain strength, and math is the left-brain strength,” Cooper said, “And any pathways to connect the two sides creates deeper understanding and stronger connections.” 

Cooper teaches four secondary math classes, and she teaches a wide age range of students at Hunter. She is impressed with her students and their newfound dedication to learning math through this new way of learning. 

“I have seen students more engaged with learning and more willing to attempt the work, which is half the battle in teaching math,” she said. 

But even though the students do try their best to learn their math, Stauffer agrees that Cooper is one of the best. 

“She is dedicated to helping her students learn math.”