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Learning Strategies: Children Learn Math Better When Instruction Engages Their Bodies

Update Date: Feb 13, 2017 07:19 PM EST

Most people, when asked what their least favorite subject in school is, would answer, "Math". However, a high proficiency in Math has always been linked to intelligence and success in the future. With this complex relationship between Math and the students, researchers sought out to determine the best and most effective way for young children to have better performance when it comes to the least favorite subject in school. In fact, the researchers found that children learn Math better when their instruction engages their bodies.

The study, published in the internationally renowned scientific journal Frontiers of Human Neuroscience<, specifically investigated how physical activity, fine and gross motor activity, integrated into Math lessons help improve the mathematical performance of children. It was conducted by researchers from University of Copenhagen's Department of Nutrition, Exercise, and Sports.

A total of 165 pre-adolescent Danish children participated in the 6-week cluster-randomized intervention study. The children had a median age of 7.5. The children were divided into three group. The first group was the control group who received traditional mathematical school instructions. The second group was the fine motor mathematical group while the third group was the gross motor mathematical group. Both the fine motor and the gross motor mathematical groups had fine and gross motor activities integrated into their studies, respectively.

In order to measure the mathematical performance of the students who participated in the study, they were tested before the lesson, immediately after the lesson, and lastly eight weeks after the math lesson was conducted. The students' mathematical performances were tested using a 50-item standardized math test.

The study found that after taking the math lessons, all groups showed improvement in their mathematical performance from before the lesson to immediately after the lesson were conducted. However, the gross motor math group had a significantly higher improvement in mathematical performance compared to both the fine motor and control group. But the researchers did find that after eight weeks, there were no significant differences between the three groups.

The researchers also found that children who displayed average to above average mathematical performance benefitted most to the physical activity integrated math lessons. While children who displayed below average math performance did not benefit at all from the physical activity integrated lesson. This just proves to the researchers that in developing new forms of teaching strategies, understanding the individual intricacies of each student. Moreover, the study proves that regardless of the intensity of the physical activity, it is effective in motivating and improving the academic performance of the students.

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