It has long been known that children require individualized learning strategies. New research from the University of Copenhagen strengthens this view with the finding that children improve at math when instruction engages their bodies.
The Danish study investigated whether different types of math learning strategies changes the way children solves math problems. Results from the study underscore that many children improve at math when their bodies are engaged during instruction, and that math instruction should be individualized.
According to the researchers, children learn more if they move and use the whole body to learn. "Compared to previous studies which demonstrated that intense physical activity could improve learning outcomes, we have been able to show that lower intensity activities are just as effective, or even more effective, as long as movement is integrated into the topic at hand," added the team behind the study
After just six weeks of the study, all of the children improved their scores in a standardized fifty question national test. Children whose instruction included whole body activity performed best. Their performance improved by 7.6 percent, with nearly four more correct responses than the baseline, and twice as much improvement as the sedentary fine motor skills group.
When children were grouped according to pre study math performance, the results demonstrated that children with average and above average performance benefitted most from using the entire body in learning. Children who were not very good at math prior to the study received no particular benefit from the alternative instructional forms.
New school reforms often focus on the incorporation of physical activity during the school day, with the aim of improving motivation, well-being and learning of all children. However, individual understanding must be taken into account. Otherwise, we risk an unfortunate combined outcome in which those who are already proficient advance, while those who have not yet mastered concepts cannot keep up.