Classhack: Math Aerobics

smiley reflectionToday’s classhack is a gift from Bonny Prudhomme, Professor of Mathematics. To help her students understand the shapes and properties of various curves, Bonny invites her students to get moving. For example, students are encouraged to stand up and use their arms to approximate the U-shape of a parabolic curve. To demonstrate the mapping of a reflection, students might raise their arms like the “Y” in the “YMCA” dance, then lower their arms to form an inverted “Y.” Learners mimic horizontal transformations by assuming a pose and then literally walking the shape across the X-axis of the floor. Vertical transformations…you guessed it…involve raising and lowering a shape made by the arms. ymca-dance2a_moz

Ms. Prudhomme’s strategy is consistent with these observations from Susan Griss. Writing about “The Power of Movement in Teaching and Learning,” published in March, 2013 at Education Week, Gris notes:

“In a traditional classroom, when a teacher asks a question, “Who can tell me … ?” usually four or five hands go up. The teacher will call on one student, and perhaps on another few to see if their answers agree with the first, but the teacher will have no way of knowing what is going on in the heads of the other 20 students.

The kinesthetic teacher has a different approach. “Show me … ” Twenty-five students are being asked to respond physically to the question: Show me what comes first, the comma or the closed quotation mark. Show me if this is a series or parallel circuit. Show me an animal that lives in the rainforest; show me how the character feels just before the story’s climax. Immediately, all of the students respond, and their learning is made visible. They have to think about what they are going to do, and literally take a stand. If they want to change their answer, they don’t have to erase anything, they just change their pose. Rather than calling attention to the “mistake,” the focus is on the “re-take,” which lessens the fear of failure that is so prevalent among students today…”

(Notice that Ms. Griss offers examples from different disciplines. We can all try Bonny’s trick!)

You can view the full article at Ed Week Teacher.

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