One of the greatest benefits of my involvement with the online community known as #MTBoS, is the variety of perspectives that the educators, who make it what is it, bring to it. One such unique perspective is that of Malke Rosenfeld. Malke’s pedagogical focus is an interdisciplinary approach to learning which incorporates both mathematics and dance into what she calls “whole body math learning.”
Research has shown that “active tasks increased the engaged behavior of students both with and without disabilities. Downing et al. (1996) also found that opportunities to move around the room, use tactile and kinesthetic learning for hands-on activities, and have multiple response options increased the participation of all three students with autism in their study” (Katz and Mirenda, 2002). Because of this, I have been interested in Malke’s take on whole body math learning for some time. Which made having the opportunity to preview her upcoming book, Math on the Move, especially enticing.
Malke has spent over a decade developing and refining the math and dance program called, Math in Your Feet. The book details the approach of Math in Your Feet, how the body can be used as a mathematical thinking and sense-making tool as well as highlighting various classroom applications.
She also manages to address the question, “How is this math?” Her answer is a nuanced one, but crudely paraphrased here, is that math is more than a set of discrete skills to be practiced 30 at a time on a worksheet. This includes spatial reasoning and problem solving.
Of course, as a special education teacher, I was drawn to the section entitled, “Considerations for Students with Particular Needs.” Here, Malke successfully avoids one of the major pitfalls of most books that propose modifications for students with special needs, by clumping these unique learners into one homogeneous blob called, “students with special needs.” She uses student-first language to describe methods that can support students with a variety of needs and strengths, such as: autism spectrum disorder, sensory defensiveness, auditory processing and language-related needs, physical and mobility challenges, attention issues, and cognitive challenges. She ends this section with how progress is demonstrated in the Math in Your Feet program, “…success is defined by a student’s growth compared with him- or herself.” Words that could make any special education teacher do their own happy dance!