Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dance Your Math Lessons

Smart, funny, and willing to prance on stage.  Karl Schaffer and Erik Stern sure know how to do a TEDx talk right! Watch the video below, and check out their Math Dance website.

From the video's description:
Karl Schaffer and Erik Stern founded the Dr. Schaffer and Mr. Stern Dance Ensemble in Santa Cruz, California in 1987. Drawing on their combined backgrounds in dance, mathematics, science, writing, music, theater, and athletics, they were drawn to uncommon fields as fodder for their choreography.
As you can see from the video, math education is one of those fields.

The pair begins each of their classes with a movement problem.  Dance and math concepts are introduced along the way.  But these two insist they are not using dance to "sugar coat the math" - it's the connections between concepts from the two arenas that are the "heart of the matter."

Schaffer and Stern say they have come to understand several key things about learning from their experience teaching with movement:
  1. embodying the problem is memorable, social, and creative; it makes math ideas accessible
  2. physical energy in the classroom an opportunity for everyone, not a distraction
  3. choreographic and mathematical thinking are composed of similar building blocks (e.g. remembering sequences, asking if things are bigger or smaller, etc)
I've talked about how science and dance go together surprisingly well in the past.  I'm glad to see that teaching math with movement is no exception.  Hopefully we'll continue to see many more pedagogical innovations like this in the future!


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