Moving for Math

A classroom full of children waving their arms up and down, jumping, and tapping to the beat may sound like a gym class, but these movement exercises are actually designed for the classroom to help children learn math and writing.

Researchers in a new study, published in the Journal of Mathematical Behavior, revealed that children grasp mathematical principles quicker when physical movements are incorporated into the lesson plans.

In the study, the researchers found that elementary school children made significant gains in understanding angles and angle measurements when they performed body-based tasks as part of a math program.

Let The Body Do The Learning

Thirty 3rd and 4th grade students performed a series of tasks that involved moving their arms to form angles mirroring the ones projected on the screen. The images changed color on the screen when the children’s arms formed the correct acute, right, obtuse, and straight angles.

An image of a protractor also appeared on the screen to help the students’ measure and refine their movements. Additionally, students tried to figure out the reasons as to why the screen flashed various colors in response to their movements.

On the other hand, students who participated in the control group focused on static representations of angles and experienced fewer gains in learning compared to students who participated in the movement-based lessons.

The findings add to the growing body of research in the area of cognitive science that reveals the brain alone does not generate behavior, but rather, works in conjunction with physical movements and other neural processes such as action, emotion, and perception.  

NeuroNet Note:

Dynamic learning environments in which students use their bodies to act out mathematical angles or spell out words are a fun and engaging way for children to learn. For example with NeuroNet air writing, children are internalizing the concepts of up, down, etc. in body space, and they are feeling how their body space relates to their visual space.  This relationship between body space and visual space helps them “see” the spatial relationships they need for quick and accurate letter formation in handwriting. 

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