Math + movement = learning and fun!

 It looks like any other normal day on the playground at the George L. Cooke Elementary School, with students laughing and jumping, doing their best dinosaur impressions and chanting in unison. But, for the second-grade students in Joana Dutcher and Danielle D’Agata’s class this is all part of learning important foundational math skills.  

students in ms. dutcher and d'agata's class are posing by the number chart. The number chart is a painted chart on the asphalt ground of the playground. Students are standing around it. Over the summer months, Ms. Dutcher and Ms. D’Agata, along with Cooke staff April Lasky and Irina Natale, and Ms. Dutcher’s daughter, Maura (a Robert J. Kaiser Middle School student) volunteered many hours to paint a “100s chart” on one of the Cooke playgrounds. A 100s chart displays the numbers 1 – 100 from left to right in rows of 10. It’s a time-honored tool that helps build foundational math skills in students. While they’re typically displayed on a classroom wall or handed out as one-sheeters, the chart the group painted at Cooke is outdoors, allowing students to integrate fresh air, sunshine and movement into math class. After a season of success during the school’s summer academy, the group once again came together to add a second chart on another Cooke playground.   

three students have their hands extended to the sky. They are in the middle of a cheer.
Students play a game where they count in patterns and cheer every third number.

“Lots of research shows that incorporating physical activity into learning helps students learn,” Ms. Dutcher said. “It works well in all subjects, but it’s particularly useful for math.” 

students are standing on top of the numbers chart.
Students hurry to identify and stand on an odd number.

On Oct. 19, the second graders enthusiastically demonstrated how their class has been using the 100s chart. Students identified, and raced to stand on, particular numbers as Ms. Dutcher called them out. They pretended to be dinosaurs as they marched across the playground counting loudly in unison, and stopping to roar at every third number. They did exercises as they counted in patterns.  

the classes are standing around the numbers chart. They are all posing with their arms out imitating a dinosaur.
Showing off their best T-Rex pose. One of the games that the students enjoy involves roaring like a dinosaur as they count out patterns.

“It can be used to help with basic number recognition, identifying odds and evens, place values and so much more,” Ms. Dutcher said. “It’s flexible for all grade levels, and the students love seeing the bright colors and spending time outdoors.”