Friday, November 21, 2014

Math In Motion

So I have figured out another way to remain active without even trying.  It's the math classes I teach which the kids have named Math In Motion.  You see, I don't let them sit down during math class!  I have discovered that there are a number of motion techniques that can assist kids in learning rote facts like their multiplication tables and other math facts.

I got this idea a few months ago, cogitated on it for a while, then came up with my plan.  I am on A MISSION to prevent kids from counting on their fingers.  I can't stand it!  I especially can't stand it when they are trying to figure out a multiplication problem by counting on their fingers.  It just can't be done - well, certainly not in an efficient or timely manner.  They might eventually come up with the right answer, but just as often they will give up since they don't have those basic math facts under their belts.

So, I purchased a few inexpensive toys, printed off a multiplication grid for each kid, and began pulling small groups of kids out of their regular classes to work on math.  Originally, I called them Mathaletes or Mathamagicians or Matheists.  None of that stuck.  Finally, one kid complained that I never let them sit down (for say, oh, 12 whole minutes) and out of my mouth came the words, "No, you'll learn better if you remain in motion."  Math In Motion was born.

So, in addition to standing to work on their math facts and doing work on the blackboard, they also do push ups, sit ups, toe touches, claps, snaps, running in place, marching - anything they want to have fun and make math easier.  I don't think that all of school is or should be 'fun'.  I think that kids can do hard things - hard work, learn hard facts.  I know they can.  The key part is convincing them of that.

Moving while learning is a good way to pull this off.  These kids are in grades 3 through 6 so there are a number of absolutes:
1. they love getting out of regular class
2. they love attention
3. they love showing off
4. they love learning - even when they don't know it
5. they take pride in learning - and demonstrating - new skills
6. they love moving.

Is that enough for you?  Six reasons to move while learning math.  One day, I happened to be near the office where kids were dismissed for the day as parents signed them out.  I saw one of 'my' kids and asked her if she'd told her mom what her math homework was.  She told her mom it was her threes.  Her mom got right on board with that, stating they'd have to get out the flashcards.  I told mom that flashcards were great but that Jordan had to do them standing on one leg.  Mom gave me the strangest look.  So, I gave her the short version, knowing that Jordan would fill her in.  I said I didn't care how she practiced the threes so long as she was moving while she did it - standing on one leg, tossing a ball, clapping her hands - since that would engage all her learning skills.  Mom said okay.

So far, Math In Motion has been a great success.  We started off focusing on multiplication, only to learn that they needed their addition and subtraction facts too.  Wow!  Lots to learn.  But, they are engaged and, when the kids set their own homework - say the threes - for when I return the following week (Tuesday or Wednesday), they'll have those facts down pat.  So far, the kids have not let me down.  They are proud to demonstrate their mastery of their newest facts.  Hooray!

Now, I'm planning to set up some sort of Math-olympics for later in the year so I can acknowledge and let them show off their skills - and give prizes.  For now, their prizes are oatmeal cookies from the dollar store and my attention and praise.

And, what am I getting out of it.  As a teacher, I'm, of course, gratified that this technique is working.  But, I'm also getting some great exercise.  You see, I stand up all day, walk up and down about a million stairs in the two 100 year old school buildings, and demonstrate the physical activity I want the kids to do.  I'm tired when the afternoons are done!

PS - I'm certain I'm not the first person to come up with this learning technique.  And, I won't be copyrighting it or anything. 

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