Tag Archives: Manipulatives

Math In My Feet #TMC14

After joining the Mathtwitterblogosphere two years ago, I finally got to attend Twitter Math Camp. Yay!

Meg is my TMC Bookend Buddy because we hung out together at the start and end of the conference.

Meg is my TMC Bookend Buddy because we hung out together at the start and end of the conference.

In case you aren’t aware, Twitter Math Camp is a grassroots, “for teachers, by teachers” conference put on by fellow math educators from the US, Canada, and the UK. This year the conference was hosted by Jenks High School in Jenks, Oklahoma. (Thank you, @druinok!) There is no cost to attend and none of the presenters/facilitators are paid. This is very much a DIY conference, and I think that’s why everyone loves it so much. Not to mention I finally got to meet folks I’ve been talking to on Twitter for two years!

One of the things I really enjoy about TMC is the extended learning opportunity provided by the morning sessions. The session I attended all three mornings was called “Embodied Mathematics: Tools, Manipulatives, and Meaningful Movement in Math Class”. Our facilitators, Malke Rosenfeld and Christopher Danielson, helped us begin to explore four questions:

  • What role(s) do manipulatives play in learning mathematics?
  • What role does the body play in learning mathematics?
  • What does it mean to use manipulatives in a meaningful way?
  • How can we tell we are using manipulatives in a meaningful way?

I specifically say we began to explore these four questions because I don’t feel that we came to any solid conclusions, and that’s okay!

The focus of our work together was going through an abbreviated version of Malke’s Math In Your Feet workshop. Here is a blurb about the program from her website:

First and foremost, Math in Your Feet is an integration of two separate but highly complementary paths of inquiry. Percussive dance is a sophisticated, precise, and physical expression of time and space using foot-based dance patterns. Mathematics has been called both an art as well as the ‘science of patterns’ and initially developed to understand, describe, and manipulate the physical world.

Math in Your Feet leads students through the problem solving process of creating their own dance patterns. Along the way, they increase their understanding of mathematical topics such as: congruence, symmetry, transformation, angles and degrees, attributes, pattern recognition, symbols, and mapping on a coordinate grid, as well as deep experience with mathematical practices. The mathematical content of all activities was developed in collaboration with award-winning math education specialist Jane Cooney.

And here is an introduction video because this is a program you should see, not just read about. Actually, you should experience it for yourself, but barring that…


One thing that I really like about Math In Your Feet is that it happens at the intersection of math and dance. It isn’t just math and it isn’t just dance. It makes me wonder what other art forms and activities intersect with mathematics, and it makes me wonder how we can leverage that in our teaching. I think this is important because working in these intersections makes math meaningful. It provides an authenticity to the work teachers and students are doing in the classroom by blurring the lines between “school” mathematics and, for lack of a better term, actual mathematics.

If you want to see some of our work during these morning sessions, I recommend reading the Storify that Malke put together. You can also read her recap of the #BlueTapeLounge, the impromptu math and dance work that continued in the evenings in our hotel lobby.

As for the four questions we started exploring, I’m going to come back to them in future posts. My thoughts on them are still churning in the back of my mind, and I want to take some more time to reflect on them.