I love to use stairs and tiled floors when teaching math concepts. In fact, I integrate as much movement and games as possible into my lessons with students. This week, I will present my rationale and share a specific kinesthetic and playful strategy for teaching the coordinate plane.
Although many educators recognize the connection between learning, movement and games, many dismiss the correlation once children get beyond first and second grade. I propose we are never to old to move and play!
Movement Improves Learning for 4 Reasons:
- It feeds the brain by increasing blood flow and oxygen.
- It improves attention, alertness and motivation by uniting the brain and body.
- It helps nerve cells to bind together, which is the basis for learning new information.
- It triggers the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus which is an area of the brain that is used for memory and learning.
Games and "Play" Boosts Learning:
Studies also suggest that when students engage in academic games, they become more excited about school and their learning increases. In fact, by uniting movement and games with the curriculum students can encode new content on a body or cellular level. Body memory suggests that the body is capable of storing memories in organs, whereas cellular memory suggests that memories are stored in the cells of our bodies.
A Coordinate Plane Game:
Here is an easy, kinesthetic game that can be used to help students master the coordinate plane.
- Ask two student volunteers to use masking tape to designate the X and Y axis of the coordinate plane on a tiled floor.
- Next, ask two or more students to write the numbers on the X and Y axis. Finally, challenge another to define the four quadrants.
- Break the class into two groups (Group 1 and Group 2).
- Hand each group 16 index cards (you can play with more or less cards - depending on the number of students in the class).
- Ask the group members to write out four points for each quadrant such as (-3, 5).
- Check the stack of cards for accuracy and then ask a student to shuffle and swap the cards with the other group.
- Ask Group One to begin the game. One at a time, each member of the group will select a card from the deck and stand on the designated point on the coordinate plane. If there are not enough students to stand in the coordinate plane, then the index cards can be placed on the designated points. Group One will discontinue play when they have at least two players (index cards) in each of the four quadrants.
- Ask Group One to add up the number of points they plotted on the coordinate plane.
- Clear the coordinate plane for Group 2.
- Ask Group Two to repeat the same process.
- The winner of the game is the group that plotted the fewest number of points on the coordinate plane.
Clearly, teachers who require students to remain seated during the entire class period are not promoting optimal learning conditions. By adding movement and games, students will maintain engagement and energy levels and provide oxygen-rich blood to their brains for highest learning performance.
If you would like to learn more about the research behind this, check out the book: Teaching with the Brain in Mind, 2nd Edition: