# Mathematics and Dance: Enhancing Understanding Through Movement

A guest post by Jenna Jensen:

Erik Stern and Karl Schaefer discuss the cross-curricular possibilities with math and the art of movement and dance in their video, Math Dance. I think it is appropriate to ask in what ways can art benefit the math classroom? Is dance the only method that we should consider? What benefits do students gain from movement in the classroom? Not only am I on track to become a math teacher at the secondary level, but I also am a dancer. How perfect is it to come across a Ted talk that addresses two of my greatest passions in life? Stern and Schaefer begin by simply dancing and moving on stage and transition into the ways these moves can relate to mathematics and can happen in the classroom. They were able to use movement and dance to work with students on counting combinations. They did this by having students figure out the different combinations their hands could make when shaking hands. A simple problem, but one that becomes much more interactive and fun for students as they come up with their own fun handshakes. They continue to go through multiple movement-based activities that can be done in the classroom to teach mathematical concepts. They also address the benefits of movement and learning in the classroom. In regard to the benefits of movement in classroom, there is a book titled Teaching with the Brain in Mind by Eric Jensen that provides and array of reasons that movement when learning is good for the brain.

As we have looked at the benefits of movement in the classroom, I would now like to on the idea of math and dance. What ways can we use dance to teach mathematics or to simply learn mathematics? Can we do so at a college level? One book titled Discovering the Art of Mathematics: Dance connects ideas and patterns in mathematics to dance. The entire book is based on movement. One of the most interesting aspects of this book is that it is an inquiry-based book. It allows the person reading the book to do the work and activities to discover how different types of dance can be related to mathematics. The book states, “this is a not a regular textbook. This is a book which makes you move and think and write and discuss” (p. 7). It is not simply a book that gives you questions and asks you to solve for an answer; you must work through and discover new ways to find solutions or answers. In order to find those solutions, you must use movement and dance. The book addresses multiple types of dances and the connections that can be made to mathematics. Between the video and the book, there are two different approaches to combine dance and math. The video takes a mathematical concept and finds a ways to make movement work in order to teach it. On the other hand, the book takes a type of dance and finds the different connections that can be made to mathematics. Both the Ted talk and book offer great tools and resources for those teaching mathematics and both address the benefits of using the creativity of movement to teach a mathematical concept.

As I continued to look for more information on how to connect the ideas of mathematics with movement, I came across a very impressive mathematical dance discussed in the article,“Dancing Triangular Squares—The Process of Creating a Mathematical Dance,” by Corinne Wolfe. Not only did I find an article about the dance that was performed I was also able to find a video. The name of the article was “Dancing Triangular Squares—The Process of Creating a Mathematical Dance.” This article takes a completely different approach to how dance and mathematics can be combined. In this article the author “uses movement to illustrate mathematical concepts in lessons” (p.11). Wolfe also uses movement to discover links between different shapes. The ultimate product of the performance was to demonstrate “how two consecutive triangular numbers make a square number” (p. 11). The article shows just how the dance itself works.

As I compare the original Ted talk, the inquiry-based book based on dance, and the article where students actually perform the dance, I begin to recognize the differences among the three. In our original video, we used movement in the classroom to teach students different mathematical concepts; in the book, we discovered that we can learn math from different types of dances; and in the last article with the corresponding video, we are looking at teaching an audience a concept by dancing/performing for them.

We have seen from two places that we can indeed use math and dance as one. What about other arts? Can we use drawing? Acting? The answer is yes. I came across a article titled “Improvisation in the Mathematics Classroom” by Andrea Young which discusses the possibility of taking the art of acting and improv and using that to teach mathematics. In this essay, the author discusses the idea that students get to think creatively when doing these improv exercises. The same goes for when we combine dance and math. Improvisation also pushes students just a little outside of their comfort zone and allows them to take risks (p. 469). Young uses improvisation in her classroom not only to review concepts and move forward with lessons (as the other resources addressed with their own creative methods) but also as a tool and technique to get students to know each other.

Works Cited:
Http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqIy4eFpZwJ23O7a7Y-lFgA. “MATHS DANCE: TRIANGULAR SQUARES by Corinne Wolfe.” YouTube. YouTube, 21 Feb. 2014. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.
Jensen, Eric. Teaching with the Brain in Mind. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1998. Print.
Ornes, Stephen. “Math Dance”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110.26 (2013): 10465–10465. Web.
Renesse, Christine Von, Volker Ecke, Julian F. Floran, and Phillip K. Hotchkiss. Dance: Mathematical Inquiry in the Liberal Arts. N.p.: Draft, n.d. Art of Mathematics. Draft, Sept. 2015. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.
TEDxTalks. “Math Dance: Erik Stern and Karl Schaffer at TEDxManhattanBeach.” YouTube. YouTube, 18 Nov. 2012. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.
Wolfe, Corinne. “Dancing Triangular Squares – The Process Of Creating A Mathematical Dance.” Mathematics Teaching 242 (2014): 11-13. Academic Search Complete. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.
Young, Andrea. “Improvisation in the Mathematics Classroom.” PRIMUS: Problems, Resources, and Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies 23.5 (2013): 467-76. Taylor & Francis Online. PRIMUS: Problems, Resources, and Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies, 28 Jan. 2013. Web. 06 Apr. 2016.
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