Math and Science Teaching Methods: Strategies Using Choreography and Human Movements

Choreography in the Classroom

Suppose you walk into a middle school math classroom and entertain the kids by playing the video-clip of a very child-friendly classical dance accompanied by lovely music. At the end of the video, you ask kids to give any examples of “acute angles” from the video. How do you think that the kids would respond?

Whenever I have attempted this, I tell you honestly, the kids reacted as if they never expected this question. When I talk to teachers later, they endorse the point of view. Just look at any middle school textbook in math or science. You will find plenty of activities, but not many that make use of music or dance as math and science teaching methods. Strategies using music and dance, however, can have a great impact.

Music and dance are an important part of all cultures. Despite this, our textbooks do not exploit the potential of this aspect in enabling kids to learn lesson concepts. I don’t deny that computer games are an effective resource, if carefully and properly planned by the teacher, but our system has become too reliant on them as alternate activities.

In my own teaching, I have had the pleasure of using a wide range of classical dance forms from different cultures as math an science teaching methods. Strategies like this are useful to teach lesson concepts like angles, centrifugal force etc. Once kids get used to this media, they love it. In fact I have seen even parents enjoying dancing with their children as they watch their children relate lesson concepts with their movements.

In Kuchipoodi, an ancient Indian classical dance form, the dancer stands on a brass plate carrying a pot of water and goes one full circle without stepping out from the plate or spilling water from the pot. Similarly, in Odissi, the dancer swirls a brass plate round without ever disturbing its stability whatsoever. These are just two examples to show the high level of pleasant complexities involved in performing art forms that are being practiced for thousands of years in India. I have had the pleasure of using such dance forms in my classroom teaching and teacher development programs.

Human Movements in the Classroom

It sometimes so happens that a physics teacher is expected to work with no material resources. This is a situation in which simple and decent body movements can come to the teacher’s rescue as science and math teaching strategies. We usually associate such activities with teaching of languages and social studies only. This is not always true, as my students and I have found out.

"Properties of matter" can be taught as follows: Pupils can be asked to enact the role of molecules. In solid form they "stick" together; when heated, they slightly move and "flow". On further heating, they get "disintegrated" and "kick" themselves away from each other with great force.

"Molecular Theory of Magnetism" can be taught using the idea of "soldiers" on march-past and in chaos.

Heat transmission can be handled by using a box as a packet of "heat energy" and passed on from particle to particle. (In my workshops for science teachers I have found teachers suddenly surprised when the packet is thrown instead of being passed on, from one particle [me] to some particle [a participant] at the end of the room!)

Once I had to teach energy conversion in a high school in a remote area known as Endaselassie in Northern Ethiopia 28 years back. The school had absolutely no teaching resource. I asked my students to imagine a large metal spring to be "fixed" at one end of the classroom such that the spring "spreads out" across the room when "pulled". I "pushed" the spring back to its fixed end with great "difficulty" resulting in "sweat" and then released it suddenly. Then I invited a student volunteer to do the role-play. As the drama was being enacted, I explained the two kinds of energy involved and the inter conversion. My pupils were amused to discover the latent heavy weight champion in their slim physics teacher. More importantly, they understood the lesson concept.

There are numerous concepts such as diffusion, osmosis, electron flow in a conductor, electrolytic reactions, exothermic and endothermic reactions etc. where classical dance movements can be used as effective science and math teaching strategies. I can recollect several instances in which I have used video clips of classical dances and decent human movements.

Try using these math and science teaching methods. Strategies such as these will help your students learn science and math. Teaching strategies that are both unexpected and fun are, after all, often the most memorable.