Mathematics through Movement: An Investigation of the Links between Kinaesthetic and Conceptual Learning: Karen Wood Describes How She Used Dance and Movement to Engage Students in Mathematical Investigations
Wood, Karen, Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom
Developing strategies for engaging mathematics activities is always a challenge. Teachers seek out new resources and online activities to excite students and support their learning. Mathematics through Movement offers an active learning strategy requiring few resources, and a bit of imagination, to achieve a variety of outcomes across mathematics domains. It is based on sound educational theory and a life time of experience in dance. This paper examines the beginnings of research into this teaching strategy in a remote setting in Western Australia. It shows that this teaching tool can motivate talk, deepen understandings, and engage students in mathematics tasks.
As a dancer, teacher of dance and mother, I had often reflected upon the significant role movement had in my life and that of my daughters. Dancers, dance teachers and parents had often commented that dance, callisthenics or movement of some sort, had supported students in their
school work. As a teacher I pondered on Gardner's kinesthetic learner and I am drawn to his statement: "Indeed participation in the arts is so natural and integral a part of human growth that an understanding of this process should provide important clues to many pivotal questions of human development," (Gardner, 1973, p. 23).
Observation of my classroom in northern Western Australia, in a small rural town, showed that students were more engaged with ideas and learning if there was an element of movement involved. Many seemed to be kinaesthetic learners. This prompted the use of interactive technology but also a deeper investigation of how I could use my understanding of movement to enhance some core mathematical concepts. The links seemed obvious in my mind but could I show a direct educational benefit for integration of dance with specific mathematics foci?
Informal action research was undertaken in my classroom and anecdotal notes, video recordings and reflective journal entries gathered. The data were showing that some core mathematical concepts could be clarified and new ideas scaffolded using movement, especially in the Shape domain. This raised questions regarding how effective dance might be in supporting learning in the other mathematics domains, (Number, Measurement, Chance and Data). A program of learning was devised with dance as the core strategy that addressed all mathematics domains and their links to movement (see Figure 1).
This paper will discuss the findings of that informal research, the testing of the initial outcomes in a new classroom with students with different learning styles and socioeconomic backgrounds, and further developments that were derived from the program outlined in Figure 1.
The following data were derived from observing students in a K-3 cohort of predominately indigenous Australian decent, around 25-27 students at any time, in a small remote township in Western Australia. During 2006, mathematics concepts were integrated into the classroom program using the following outlined in Figure 2.
The results from using the above strategies will be discussed using the categories, Engagement, Deeper Understandings, Contextual Understandings and Fostering Talk.
A primary result noted was the greater engagement of students with a learning task. The movement gave the tasks an element of fun and the students' enjoyment was very obvious in photographs and video tapes of the various activities. The nature of the tasks also made the students see that they could achieve the aims of the activities and therefore they were more easily engaged. For example, the students knew in the Square Dance that they could learn a series of simple steps to music and that the task was complete at the end of the music. They easily understood the directions to move in and the shapes they were creating when moving. This made the mathematics less confronting and more purposeful and the students responded accordingly. …