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5 Ways to Boost Math Esteem: Play Kinesthetic Activities

If Kinesthetic learning is based on creativity, then Math is a natural pairing!

Kinesthetic learning and Math go together like peanut butter and jelly. However, in most classrooms or in most settings you will come across children and adults alike who say: “Math is hard”, “Math is boring”, “I just don’t get math”. Maybe part of the reason for that is because educators are not adding their peanut butter (kinesthetics) to their jelly (math). Without the peanut butter, all you have is jelly on a slice of bread, and who wants to get just a jelly sandwich?!

Kinesthetic teachers are the movers and shakers of education!

Have you ever watched a presentation where the speaker is just standing behind a podium talking in a monotone voice? It is not fun and it is hard to pay attention to the information being given. In contrast, have you ever watched a keynote where the speaker is up moving around the room getting everyone involved in what they are saying. It is electric and the fun energy becomes contagious around the room! Math teachers should use movement, action, and excitement to make their lessons more engaging. Let's encourage student retention by using activities during instruction that make learning fun! Kinesthetic Learning is one of the three different learning styles popularized by Neil D. Fleming. A kinesthetic learner needs to be actively doing something while learning to comprehend the materials. Kinesthetic learners often struggle during classroom time due to sedentary structured learning, i.e. lectures, because the learner’s body does not compute that they are actually doing something when the student is listening. Generally, these learners need to get up and move to truly learn and understand.

It has been scientifically proven that incorporating kinesthetics into structured learning creates a better learning environment. We as educators should be adding exciting and fun methods that get our students up and moving! So why aren’t there more educators out there incorporating kinesthetics with math?!

Kinesthetic Learners Need to Move!

1. They wiggle, tap, swing their legs, bounce, and often just can’t seem to sit still. They learn through their bodies and their sense of touch.

2. They have excellent “physical” memory – they learn quickly and permanently what they DO as they are learning.

3. Kinesthetic Leaners are often gifted in athletics, dancing, and other physical activities.

4. They are generally very coordinated and have an excellent sense of their body in space and of body timing. They have great hand-eye coordination and quick reactions.

Incorporating Kinesthetic Learning Strategies for Educators

Students who learn kinesthetically are usually labeled restless, problematic, or hyper, simply because their bodies need to be in action in order to learn. For teachers, this can be difficult to manage without classroom disruption during a lecture. So, here are some strategies for teachers to help create a kinesthetic learning environment in the classroom.

  • Offer various methods of instruction – lectures, paired readings, group work, experiments, projects, plays, etc., so you'll keep the kinesthetic learners surprised and still be able to deal with the days you want to present material in a straight-forward manner.

  • Incorporate kinesthetic activities during lecture time. Use cards, computer activities, dice, marbles, dominoes, fake money and coins for computation of units, physical clocks for telling time. Use anything that can transform abstract math concepts into concrete math activities.

  • Engage students to perform movement tasks during lectures such as writing on desk to take notes, using songs and chants to remember key points, make certain hand signs and gestures to connect to key vocabulary words, or even rearranging desk locations.

In my last blog post, I discussed how to incorporate non-computational real-world connections into a learning environment for Math. Most of the ideas I discussed are perfect examples of kinesthetic learning involving Math such as: cooking, art, driving, music, and sports.


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