Master Math via Body Movements

Published: 28th January 2015 02:03 PM  |   Last Updated: 28th January 2015 02:03 PM   |  A+A-


NEW YORK: Imagine your kid contorting his or her body and waving arms to master math. This is the future with body-based tasks while interacting with a Kinect for Windows mathematics program, researchers report.

The team from University of Vermont found that students learned geometric principles more easily when they incorporated physical movements into maths lesson plans.

The Kinect is a motion sensor input device that allows people to interact with computers based on their natural movements.

The study by Carmen Petrick Smith, assistant professor of mathematics education, showed significant gains in the understanding of angles and angle measurements by elementary school students who performed body-based tasks while interacting with Kinect for Windows.

"When students are acting out a math problem and using their body to help them explain the answer, that is another modality," Smith said .

"Maybe they do not know the words quite yet but they have a way to express it using their body that they did not have before when they were sitting in a row of desks looking up at the teacher and searching for an answer," she noted.

For the study, Smith and her team engaged 30 third and fourth-grade students in a series of tasks that involved moving their arms to form angles projected on a large Kinect screen.

The screen changed colours when the students' arms formed acute, right, obtuse and straight angles.

A protractor helped students measure and refine their movements.

Students were asked to figure out the hidden rules that made each of the four colours appear on the screen.

Smith's paper adds evidence to a developing area of cognitive science, known as embodied cognition.

It says the brain alone does not generate behaviour but that it actually works in concert with physical movements and other environmental and neural processes such as perception, action and emotion.

The paper was published in the Journal of Mathematical Behavior.


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