Study: Children Learn Math Best When Moving

Combining movement with learning increases the chance that children can retain aspects of math.Researchers at the University of Copenhagen released a study supporting that engaging the body when learning assists the brain in understanding and retaining information. Combining movement with learning increases the chance that children can retain aspects of math.

Members from the University’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise, and Sports, additionally found that children receiving individualized learning strategies were more likely to learn math as well.

Their study, Motor-enriched Learning Activities can Improve Mathematical in Preadolescent Children, was published in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience.

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So what is whole body learning?  It’s an approach to learning where concepts are taught fluidly.  For example, when learning addition or subtraction, young students could stand and create the equation 5 + 3 using their bodies and have a group of 5 and a group of 3 move together and then count off to understand that the total number would be 8.  The idea is to remove desks and paper practice from the process.

The study involved 165 first grade students from Denmark.  The first graders were recruited from three different schools and took a standardized math test before the study and again afterwards.  The researchers created three groups:

  • A control group that approached math through traditional teaching methods, seated at a desk with paper, pencils, and worksheets.
  • A second group remained sedentary, but approached math through fine motor skills. For example, they would use LEGOs to learn geometry or fractions.
  • A third group approached math using a whole body philosophy. The students did not remain seated at desks; in fact, desks were pushed to the side and children would learn geometry by making shapes with their bodies.

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At the conclusion of the six week study, child participants demonstrated improvement on a standardized math test.  While the control group showed no improvement, the group engaging their whole body while learning showed a 7.6% improvement overall.

Researchers concluded that modifying classrooms to include both more whole body learning activities as well as more individualized learning strategies could benefit student learning.


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