“Imagining your tennis serve or mentally running through an upcoing speech might help you perform better, studies have shown, but the reasons why have been unclear. (new research confirms that…) The mental picture activates and strengthens the very neural circuits…that you will need to recruit when it is time to perform.”
Recent neuroscience studies of the brain during mental rehearsal (visual, linguistic, etc.) find that much of the brain that is activated during actual performance is also energized during imaginary performance. These findings lend support for two classroom teaching strategies to facilitate learning and actual performance.
Warm Up and Transitions . . .
To increase brain receptivity and preparedness for a difficult task (such as math), it is helpful to have students “warm up” their math brain with a transition task before doing math. This would involve a clear and detailed visualization of the calculations to be encountered. Students should be encouraged to create a richly detailed mentalization of the problems. One study even found that students who imagined themselves as the class “math whiz” doing the problem scored higher on a subsequent test. Speaking the guided visualization in a calm and reassuring voice would also serve to reduce students’ anxiety prior to doing math.
Scientific American Mind 25, No 5, Sept / Oct (2014). pg. 18.