5 Research-based Benefits of Coloring in Math Class
Updated: Apr 13
We have all been there. You find the coolest coloring activity for your upper elementary class, but you are afraid that your principal might pop in and question the learning that is taking place. Thankfully there is some great research that backs the use of coloring activities in your classroom. There are so many benefits to coloring, especially in math class! Here are 5 research-based benefits that will make you feel confident about giving your students a math coloring activity. Share this with your administrators and fellow teachers if they want to read about the awesome research that shows why coloring should be in every math classroom!
1. Coloring reduces anxiety
Math anxiety is a very real and common problem that many students struggle with. In fact, research shows that 93% of adults have some degree of math anxiety. How do we prevent this? While there are many great strategies to help prevent math anxiety from a young age, coloring has been shown to reduce overall anxiety. A recent study tested undergraduate students to see the impact coloring had on learning. Researchers of the study found that after 20 minutes of coloring, participants reported that it “significantly reduced anxiety compared with control and baseline scores”. Another study by Curry and Kassar found that coloring designs may be useful in lessoning stress-related problems “ if conducted before or immediately after the stressful activity. For example, people with test anxiety could color mandalas prior to taking a test”.
How could this help your upper elementary students? Give them a math coloring sheet as a warmup before a test or when they finish a task that might be perceived as more stressful!
2. Coloring increases creativity
There has been a big push to increase creativity in math classes for many reasons. Recent research supports the importance of creativity in mathematical problem solving and creativity is a crucial skill in STEM/STEAM fields. The same study that I mentioned above also found that after 20 minutes of coloring, students displayed more creative thinking and had better visual attention. While I could write an entire blog post on the positive effects of color on learning (which I might still do), coloring can be a great way to get your students thinking outside the box. Want an extra boost of creativity? Have students color things in green and blues.
3. Coloring and color helps increase memory
Another study looked at the importance of color and its impact on memory. The study concluded that “colour has the potential to increase chances of environmental stimuli to be encoded, stored, and retrieved successfully.” Adding color to any of a student’s math pages or worksheets (which are often in black and white) can positively impact a student’s ability to remember those concepts! Another study showed that “items studied as pictures are better remembered than items studied as words.” Coloring books, specifically math coloring books, can help your students remember those tricky math concepts due to the math pictures in them.
4. Coloring increases mindfulness and attention
Want to really get the benefit of coloring? Have students color, and then pair it with a core lesson directly after. Coloring has been linked to increasing student’s attention. According to a study done by Holt, Fubert, and Sweetingham, “coloring significantly reduced anxiety and increased mindfulness compared with control and baseline scores.” and also found that after coloring students were able to attend to what was happening in the present moment and be more “in the zone”.
Another way you could utilize this is to have students color right before a big test or state testing to help them focus on the task at hand.
5. Coloring increases student enjoyment and engagement in class
While I couldn’t find a study that directly linked coloring with enjoyment and engagement in math class, I can speak from experience. Students love coloring, especially when it comes to a theme they are interested in. Research even supports that children can enjoy and succeed in math, even if they previously disliked it, by changing how it is taught and by looking at it more creatively. What do your students love to do? Would coloring help increase engagement in your classroom?
Need a coloring activity to get started? Check out my math coloring books specifically designed for upper elementary math class