According to Dr. Roger Sperry, 1981 Nobel prize winner for brain research, “90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by the movement of the spine.” If this is the case, why in the world are we making kids sit still to learn? To that end, I’ve come up with some easy ways to incorporate movement, specifically yoga, into a math class.
Measure a Mountain: In pairs or teams, children take Mountain pose and are measured (inches, centimeters, hands, paperclips, whatever you’d like) from head to heel. Then, measure the child in Extended Mountain pose using the same units. With this data, you can do tons of math. Find the height difference in Mountain and Extended Mountain. Find the mean, median, mode, and range of the class’ data. How many children in Mountain pose would it take to be as tall as Mt. Everest? As deep as the Marianas Trench? Graph your findings. You could do the same with Tree pose and compare the child’s height with Redwood trees.
Tree Topple: Again in teams or pairs, one child takes Tree pose and the other times how long he/she can stay balancing in the pose. Try it on both sides. Use the data as described in Measure a Mountain. You could also try other balance poses and compare results.
Pompom Poppers: Each child gets a pompom and holds it in outstretched hands. Pop the pompom lightly into the air and catch it in the backs of the hands. Then pop it again, flipping the hands to be palms up. Once kids get the hang of it, they can practice skip counting while popping the pompoms.
Ratio Breath: This is a great activity to settle energy and focus concentration. Kids start by noticing their breath. They should try to have their inhales match their exhales. For example, if they inhale to a count of 5, they should exhale to a count of 5. Even proportions, in and out. Then change the ratio. Have them breathe in a count of 5, but exhale a count of 10 (1:2 ratio). You can change this up by adding pauses at the top and bottom of the breath (1:1:2:1), too.
Breathing Counts: Have kids notice their breath and count the seconds in one round (in and out). This is sometimes better done with partners watching each other’s breath. Then, use this number to calculate the number of breaths they take in a minute, hour, day, etc. You could graph this information, too. It may be interesting to find breathing rates for other animals to compare with their own.
Shape Shifters: Once kids are ready for geometry, yoga poses are a goldmine! Pick any pose and measure the angles you find – complementary, right, obtuse, acute. Do the same with lines you find in the pose – parallel, perpendicular, etc. Protractors could even be used!
Sun Salutation: Teach kids to do a Sun Salutation and record how long it takes to do one full series. As before, use the data to create graphs and predict how many you could perform in an hour, a day, or a year!
Feet on the Floor: For younger students, simply counting hands on the floor or toes in the air can be a fun challenge. For instance, a child in Downward Facing Dog has 2 feet on the floor and 2 hands. How many fingers is this? How many toes? What if she picks up one foot? How many toes are on the floor in the whole class? This works with any pose!
Make learning math kinesthetic, creative, and fun! Yoga is a perfect addition to your classroom. For more ideas, check out EduKAY. Kidding Around Yoga has developed a 6-hour professional development workshop specifically to incorporate yoga into the classroom, not just in math but throughout the day!