For several decades, education research has been directed towards finding innovative and inclusive methods to make math learning more effective and fulfilling for a wide scope of pupils. Namely, experts are in agreement that the use of pupil-centred techniques for transmitting knowledge can succeed in instilling a love of learning numbers and math operations in children. The research espouses that starting such methods at a young age is integral for forming a solid knowledge base that can facilitate sustained growth and learning, making math skills acquisition a much smaller headache later on in pupils’ academic pursuits.
Two such pupil-centred and innovative techniques which can be used to teach math are movement (kinaesthetic learning) and storytelling.
WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH SAY?
- Why apply movement for learning math?
When it comes to movement and math learning, studies claim that they go together like peanut butter and jelly – a 2013 Institute of Medicine report following a study in a school in Sweden found that students who engaged in physical activity more often saw improved academic performance.
This has been supported by other experts who have found that, though a series of biological processes, movement is able to activate the brain cells that children use to learn.
Moving brings more oxygen, water and glucose to the brain and this rise in oxygenation levels allows for the relaxation of ocular and muscular tensions, enabling increased focus on academic tasks. Therefore, it’s easy to see why the traditional insistence that pupils should only put their bodies into motion for the playground and physical education class is an antiquated belief.
Kinaesthetic activities that can be used in math class to promote learning are: construction of geometric figures with Lego, visual memorisation of angles with arm movements, forming shapes with our bodies by dancing, and many more.
- Why apply storytelling for learning math?
Storytelling has long since been cemented as a method for creating better speakers and writers. Yet this technique can be applied to learning more than just literary concepts: as argued by a New York University article, since storytelling is an art form that teaches about the human experience, it is also applicable to STEM subjects as they are not outside the world of human experience. In practice, this is seen through the intrinsic attributes of stories: they provide pupils with real-world situations, which can therefore support them in contextualising abstract mathematical concepts.
Furthermore, this contextualisation can also be seen with stories referencing issues that are relevant to the learner, triggering an emotional response and identification with the elements in the story. Stories integrated into math problems might feature a crisis in the lives of the characters which only mathematical skills can solve. Presented in such a way, both pupils’ investment in the narrative of the story and their engagement with the concepts being taught increases.
Some good practices to be mindful of when integrating stories into math lessons are to use auditory/visual elements along with your text, write stories with which pupils can identify, co-create the stories with your class and encourage collaborative reading to combat math-related anxiety.
TO READ MORE ABOUT THE BENEFITS OF USING MOVEMENT AND STORYTELLING FOR TEACHING MATH…
You can check out the Research Booklet “The Advantages of Movement and Storytelling for Learning Math” developed by our partnership as part of the Erasmus+ project Math&Move by visiting: https://mathandmove.eu/resources/
- Apsai. “Why Kids Shouldn’t Sit Still in Class.” Asosiasi Perusahaan Sahabat Anak Indonesia(blog), March 29, 2017. http://apsai.or.id/kids-shouldnt-sit-still-class/.
- Grove, Jim. “Mouvement et apprentissage: quel est le lien?” Active For Life, March 4,2020. https://activeforlife.com/fr/mouvement-et-apprentissage/.
- Junkin, Samantha. “Story as a Mathematics Instructional Strategy.” Steam 4, no. 1(December 2019): 1–10.https://doi.org/10.5642/steam.20190401.06
- NYU. “Storytelling in Teaching and Learning,” n.d. http://www.nyu.edu/content/nyu/en/faculty/teaching-and-learning-resources/strategies-for-teaching-with-tech/storytelling-teching-and-learning.