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Shake Up Math Class: Why Movement is the Missing Ingredient for Elementary Success (and How Unruly Math Can Help)

James Sanders
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Have you ever noticed how kids naturally gravitate towards movement and play? It's not just about having fun – it's how they learn best. Now, imagine if we harnessed that energy in math class. That's the magic of Unruly Math, a popular solution for transforming elementary math education, one active lesson at a time.

The Learning Power of Movement: It's Not Just Gym Class Anymore

We've all heard the phrase "body and mind." Research backs it up: physical activity isn't just about fitness. It rewires young brains for better learning. The University of Michigan found that movement boosts focus, reduces stress, and helps kids remember what they've learned. Think about it – who’s in a better position to master a new skill: a child fidgeting at a desk or one actively engaged in a math game?

Studies have consistently shown that incorporating physical activity into learning routines can significantly improve cognitive functions and academic performance. For instance, kinesthetic learning labs, like those implemented in the Port Jervis School District, demonstrate how movement-based learning can effectively reinforce classroom lessons and make learning more dynamic and engaging.

Unruly Math: Where Math Meets Play (and Standards!)

These aren't your average math drills. They're cleverly designed games that get kids off their screens, out of their seats, and collaborating with their peers. Remember those long months of remote learning during COVID? We saw firsthand how crucial social interaction is for learning. Unruly Math brings back the joy of tackling challenges together, building math skills and problem-solving grit.

Integrating movement into math lessons isn't just a novelty; it's a necessity. Programs like SHINE for Girls have successfully combined math education with physical activities like dance. This approach improves math scores, boosts confidence, and reduces math anxiety.

Why Unruly Math is a Teacher's Best Friend

Less Screen Time, More Active Time: Today's kids spend a worrying amount of time glued to screens. Unruly Math gives them a healthy break while helping them meet those essential math standards. This shift from screen dependency can improve well-being and foster a more interactive and engaging learning environment.

Math Anxiety Buster: Math shouldn't be scary. Unruly Math turns it into a game, boosting confidence and making those "a-ha!" moments happen more often. The results are tangible: the SHINE for Girls program saw girls' math scores soar when they learned through dance! This hands-on approach transforms abstract concepts into tangible experiences, making learning more accessible and enjoyable.

Better Grades, Happier Kids: The research is clear—kids who move more often do better in school. Imagine a classroom where math isn't a chore but an adventure! By integrating physical activity into the curriculum, teachers can create a more dynamic and effective learning environment that caters to their students' diverse needs.

Get Moving in Your Classroom: It's Easier Than You Think

Brain Breaks: A quick jumping jack session or a walk around the room can work wonders. These short bursts of physical activity can re-energize students and improve their focus and concentration.

Active Games: Think "Four Corners" with math problems or using whiteboards for a moving quiz. These interactive activities make learning more engaging and collaborative, encouraging students to participate actively in their education.

Whole-Body Learning: Take it further – have kids use their bodies to act out math concepts. The sillier, the better! This approach makes learning fun and helps students internalize and remember the material more effectively.

Let's Make Math Unruly (and Irresistible!)

The old way of teaching math – sitting still and memorizing – just doesn't cut it anymore. In the words of Tom Biesanz, the creator of Pattern Play Math, "Attitude is so important for math." Unruly Math flips that attitude, turning math into something kids want to do.

So, educators, let's embrace the power of movement. Your students' brains (and bodies!) will thank you. By incorporating kinesthetic learning strategies, you can create a more engaging and practical educational experience that meets the needs of today's learners.

Ready to get Unruly? Check out Unruly Math today and watch your math class become an active, joyful learning hub!


  1. University of Michigan. "Using Physical Movement to Increase Student Engagement and Learning." LSA Technology Services, https://lsa.umich.edu/technology-services/news-events/all-news/teaching-tip-of-the-week/using-physical-movement-to-increase-student-engagement-and-learning.html. Accessed 19 June 2024.
  2. Sharon E. Siegel. "Port schools keep students learning while moving." For the Gazette, https://www.recordonline.com/story/news/2023/10/25/port-jervis-schools-kinesthetic-labs-students-learning-movement/71121390007/.
  3. Jake Newby. "SHINE for Girls: Middle school students dance their way to better math scores." Pensacola News Journal, https://www.pnj.com/story/news/2023/10/20/shine-for-girls-program-improves-math-scores-through-dance/71121340007/.
  4. Callie Fausey. "The Floor Is Fractions: Santa Barbara Kids Learn Math on Playground." The Santa Barbara Independent, https://www.independent.com/2023/07/14/the-floor-is-fractions-santa-barbara-kids-learn-math-on-playground/.

Unruly Studios makers of Unruly Splats, programmable, stompable floor tiles that help kids learn fundamental coding skills through recess-style play. Best for elementary and middle school students from PE to science or coding class, a great addition to the classroom for active STEM coding and play!

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