Visualization is one of the seven mathematical processes tied to the BC K-12 mathematics curricula, as well as the Western Northern Canadian Protocol (WNCP) mathematics documents. Visualization is a critical component of solving mathematical problems, and students need the opportunity to develop such visual skills. Students in a mathematics program that is mainly procedural often do not develop their capacity to form mental images, thus limiting their problem-solving ability.
Grayson Wheatley, formerly of Florida State University and Purdue University, feels strongly about mental imagery in math. He believes that “All meaningful mathematics learning is imaged-based.” His book Quick Draw provides teachers with short activities to engage students in mental imagery, thus helping to improve their spatial sense.
In Wheatley’s activities, a figure such as the one displayed in the corner is shown briefly to students. They are then asked to draw what they saw. It is shown again briefly, and students are asked to make any changes or additions they feel they need to make. After this, the image is revealed to the class and students are asked to describe what they saw. Some will have seen a two-dimensional image while others will have seen a three-dimensional image. There are often differences between images seen in the same number of dimensions. It is not uncommon to have five or six different descriptions of the drawing. There are no wrong answers here, just differences in perspective.
This link will take you to a page where you can watch Wheatley lead a class of grade 8 students in a Quick Draw activity using the sketch displayed on this page (the sketch he is using is hard to see in the video, so it is helpful to know in advance which one students are looking at.)
Quick Draw is available in hard copy or as a digital file from thinking101.ca
I hope you will give these activities a try. They are great warm-up activities!