Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2018

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 08/31/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Psychological and Quantitative Foundations

First Advisor

Nicpon, Megan Foley

Second Advisor

Missall, Kristen

First Committee Member

Cook, Susan Wagner

Second Committee Member

Ehly, Stewart

Third Committee Member

Zebrowski, Patricia


Discrepancies in math knowledge emerge as early as four years of age, demonstrating need for effective early math interventions. Early math curricula and targeted instructional strategies have been shown to increase geometric knowledge in early childhood, particularly as that relates to shape learning. Existing educational research has not examined the specific role hand gesture embedded in instruction may have on early geometric learning, although in the psychological literature, effects of gesture on mathematical and spatial learning are well-documented.

One hundred and twenty-one preschoolers and kindergarteners, divided among three instructional conditions—no observed gesture, seeing gesture, and seeing and doing gesture during instruction—participated in this study. Child knowledge of shape was measured on a shape sorting task before and after an instructional lesson. The researcher also collected data on spoken and gestured strategies used during the sorting task.

Experimental condition influenced participant sorting performance when participants were exposed to gesture and encouraged to gesture themselves. Participant performance for this condition significantly differed from that of participants who were not exposed to gesture during instruction. Experimental condition did not significantly increase frequency of spoken or gestured strategies more indicative of shape knowledge. Child engagement in gesture during learning, regardless of condition, and socioeconomic status significantly impacted performance, aligning with existing findings in psychological and educational literature. The researcher proposed future directions for early intervention work in targeting shape knowledge.


xiii, 131 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 102-117).


Copyright © 2018 Nicole M. Hendrix