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Importance of Math Movement

Jul 06, 2020

Math + movement = Success

Engaging both the mind and body

Emily Staten, Lower School Teacher

Imagine you’re a teacher who must cover countless math standards within a school year and your math period is the last hour of the day. By the time math class rolls around, students can’t help but feel exhausted. So what’s a teacher to do? The answer is simple, let the students move, and I’ll explain why.

Movement breaks are needed in order to wake up the brain, and when you pair both movement and numeracy something magical happens. The directionality found in skip counting, multiplying multi-digit numbers, and telling time on a clock all make much more sense when you are able to hop, point, and physically act out the equation. Math is no longer strictly pencil and paper based. Students need to move in order to make connections in the brain around numeracy.

Similar to phonemic awareness, numeracy is crucial for a student to internalize and produce on their own. For example, when skip counting, a teacher should be able to say, “Let’s skip count by 6…ready? Six…” Without a visual, students should “see” the numbers in their mind’s eye. Students in my class went outside to jump rope to the multiples of six. “6, 12, 18, 24, 30…” As students jump to each multiple, feel the beat through their feet, see the class jumping in unison, and shout the math facts aloud, connections are made in the brain. 

Trying to achieve this level of connection while sitting still and being quiet is difficult. One day, I found that my class was struggling with the concept of counting forward and backward along a number line. Sitting wasn’t cutting it, so I had the students hop forward and backward to represent the directionality of the number while also saying the number aloud. This simultaneous action had the students up and engaged in the task.

I challenge you to add math to your child’s natural movement. With each step forward in a restaurant line, skip count by a given number. As they set the table, take out the trash, or simply kick a ball back and forth, assign a number to each motion: “0, ½, 1, 1 ½, 2, 2 ½, 3!” It sounds small, but encouraging them to connect math to movement will allow them to see, hear, and feel more math around them each day. If we excite them to feel math as a sort of rhythm and dance, I believe it will charge them to make those connections on their own. We as teachers cannot do it alone, we need your help. Let’s start a Math Movement!