Saturday, March 26, 2011

Insight # 3: Teaching Math Through Physical Movement, What Lies Ahead

I am fortunate to live with an innovative thinker.  In our discussions on my recent foray into gaming we realized that mathematical instruction has the potential to radically change if it adopts gaming technologies. It can break free from two-dimensional expression using pen and paper into the multi-dimensional world of virtual reality and movement thanks to tools such as  microsoft's kinetics and Nintendo 3DS. Children will be able to understand complex mathematical expressions even at the kindergarten level.

In traditional learning we use abstract terms, for example: multiplication, addition, division and subtraction. We symbolize them two dimensionally with  pen and paper or perhaps or even three dimensionally when using manipulatives.  A cube is a x a x a.  Tools like kinetics allow us to take our expression from two-dimensional symbology into a 3-D interpretive medium based on movement.  When a child is moving, the movements can be interpreted by kinetics to carry mathematical meaning.  An arm pointing diagonally means multiplication:  3 X 4. A movement horizontally is addition or subtraction. As the child moves,  their movements becomes interpreted  as a series of mathematical expressions.  A child can use his or her body to write a mathematical story.

A child can also receive immediate feedback on whether they have used the most efficient expression to articulate mathematical thinking. The number 24 could be expressed as a series of 12 horizontal gestures of 2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2+2.  Technology can provide them with immediate feeback that a more efficient expression of 24 might be a diagonal movement of 6x4 or 2x12.  Technology interprets and  records their mathematical thinking.

We know that children learn best when moving.  A dance becomes a series of  mathematical expressions.   Lending this idea to creative arts, at its most evolved level an interpretive dancer becomes a free-thinking mathematician.

Thank you Jeremy!


  1. Heidi,

    Have you met @eliza_peterson and - Elizabeth talks about this from the arts integration perspective. I see it combining both game based learning and the physical arts as well.

    - Ian

  2. I haven't Ian. Thanks for the suggestion. This is a wonderful concept to be exploring. I will definitely have a look,