By Jessica DiLorenzo- Arts Integration Specialist
Not only does research confirm that movement stimulates the prefrontal cortex and enhances the learning process, but students in Sarasota County are now continually requesting their teachers to engage them in math and science experiences that involve dance. Students and teachers alike recognize that dance and movement are pathways to a deeper understanding of concepts, and help students memorize facts and sequences that might normally be rather boring to practice. A 4th grader from Atwater elementary exclaimed, “I had so much trouble with my 7’s (math facts), but I can remember the movements and the numbers too.”
One way students are using movement in the classroom is through physically sculpting numbers and symbols with their bodies in order to represent different equations. Students also have the option to use different body parts (elbow, knee, foot) to “paint” the numbers or show different quantities of dance moves to represent the numbers. This strategy was offered to our Arts Integration League this winter by Kennedy Center teaching artist Randy Barron, and has been adapted by arts integration specialist, Jessica DiLorenzo, to fit specific classroom and grade level needs throughout the district. Not only does this strategy tremendously increase student engagement but it also promotes team work and problem solving.
After sharing a number sentence with a peer, an ESE student from Garden elementary stated, “I’m not usually good at interacting with other students, but I did a good job with this. I wasn’t afraid to show my numbers.”
“Arts can afford a student that ability to learn how to control themselves and express themselves in different ways and then they can apply it to life.…”
4th Grade Teacher- Pine View
One wonderful thing about linking math and movement in this way is its adaptability for all ages and abilities. Teachers are able to differentiate to meet the needs of their unique learners. For instance, in advanced 4th and 5th grade math classes at Tuttle and Pineview, students are using the math and movement strategies to create x and y coordinate planes and represent mixed numbers and fractions. They are modeling fractions and deepening their conceptual understanding of the content. “When we create tableaus and movement we are able to visualize. When you can visualize the numbers and fractions you can create a tableau for it,” a 5th grader at Emma E. Booker Elementary explained.
The students’ academic growth, improved self-awareness, metacognition, and ability to work as a team has had a profound impact on the teachers and students alike. They are beginning to see these strategies as integral when it comes to solidifying concepts and giving the students an alternative way to express their knowledge. In most cases, teachers are finding that their students understand more than they are showing on paper. Additionally, because students are creating a product, teachers can identify holes in their students’ understanding. They are able to offer immediate feedback and alter questions and experiences to take their students to the next level academically, socially, and creatively.