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How Does Coloring in Math Class Help Improve Math Skills?


Why Are We Coloring in Math Class?

Today, as my 6th grade students were working on a color by number in math class (which I thought was a fun, different way to practice math), one of them asked, “How does coloring help with math?” The question was asked with a “there’s no reason I should have to do this” attitude.

I explained that:

  1. Coloring helps with motor skills.
  2. Coloring helps us to use the brain in a different way.
  3. Exercising the brain in different ways could help in all things that require thinking (not just math).

Math can filled with tension and anxiety for many students. So tap into the benefits coloring with these engaging activities that will help you incorporate coloring in math class.

I don’t think he really appreciated my answer:-)

So, I decided to do a little research, to see what I could find.

Most of what I found (I didn’t spend a super-long time searching, because I didn’t have that much time!) was related to:

  1. Benefits of coloring for young children (and did relate to math skills)
  2. Benefits for adults

Here are a few benefits I found, as coloring relates to adults:

Benefits of Coloring

According to the Huffington Post (10/13/14), coloring benefits adults (and I would assume children as well) because it”…generates wellness, quietness and also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity.” In addition, psychologist Gloria Martinez Ayala states that when we color, we activate different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres.”

The action involves both logic, by which we color forms, and creativity, when mixing and matching colors. This incorporates the areas of the cerebral cortex involved in vision and fine motor skills [coordination necessary to make small, precise movements]. The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.”According to PenCentral (their link is no longer active), coloring benefits adults in helping them to maintain fine motor skills – this requires extra work by your brain to coordinate your actions and muscle control in your hands and arms.

Coloring can help delay the loss of fine motor skills as people age. Coloring may also help fight cognitive loss, especially if challenging pieces are completed every so often.

This color by number integer activity is a great way to incorporate the benefits of coloring in math class.

Click to download this FREE color by number!

Incorporating Coloring in Math Class

I didn’t necessarily find research to answer my student’s exact question. But I did find was quite interesting and can certainly be applicable to middle school math students!

Anecdotally, I’d add that when I spend time coloring, my mind wanders a bit….thinking, exploring ideas, brainstorming. While my hand is coloring and my brain is being stimulated, I’ve often thought of solutions to problems and stumbled upon excellent new ideas:-)

If you know of other articles or published research to support the role of coloring in improving math skills, please let us know in the comments! This post was originally written in 2015, so there may be new research by the time you read this!

In a few more recent blog posts, I wrote about:

  1.  Why it’s important to include coloring in math even if your students are virtual.
  2. What types of coloring you can include!


Welcome to Cognitive Cardio Math! I’m Ellie, a wife, mom, grandma, and dog ‘mom,’ and I’ve spent just about my whole life in school! With nearly 30 years in education, I’ve taught:

  • All subject areas in 4th and 5th grades
  • Math, ELA, and science in 6th grade (middle school)

I’ve been creating resources for teachers since 2012 and have worked in the elearning industry for about five years as well!

If you’re looking for ideas and resources to help you teach math (and a little ELA), I can help you out!



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