Case in point, I recently found an undated conference paper by an associate professor from the Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Physics at the University of the Phillippines Los Baños. Among other things, the paper makes a case for "the cognitive and aesthetic similarities between mathematics and dance." Math in Your Feet is cited and described in one of the opening paragraphs. Never mind the fact that it's just a rehashing of promotional language direct from my website, the rest of the paper makes a pretty good argument for the importance and relevancy of integrating math and dance.
My favorite section of the paper is on pattern recognition (a major connecting theme in my program) and includes a quote from a book called The Math Gene by Keith Devlin, mathematician, NPR's Math Guy, and (among other things) a senior researcher at Stanford University's Center for the Study of Language and Information, who argues:
"mathematics is not about numbers, but about life. It is about the world in which we live. It is about ideas, and far from being dull and sterile, as it is often portrayed, is full of creativity. It is the science of patterns."Within this one quote are ideas I've been trying to communicate for years to the folks who hear about my program and inevitably reply, "Oh, you mean like counting your steps?" I always try to find a nice way to say, no, not really, but there's never enough time to explain my reasoning fully. However, I do have time and a little space here to say mathematics is more than numbers and counting and balancing your checkbook and that a program which teaches math through dance (or dance through math) is about more than counting too.
Mathematics is essentially a language invented to describe, manage and understand the physical world. (And if there are any mathematicians checking in on this blog, feel free to correct me!) That's why connecting math to the real-world helps kids better understand it, because the real world is math. And, no matter what your opinion is about dance being lumped in with 'things in the real world', please remember that we all move and without a firm grasp on spatial relationships, one of the foundations of a good mathematics education, you will most literally be lost.
That's why even the preschool version of Math in Your Feet has less to do with numbers and more to do with exploring and understanding where you are, where you want to be, and how you're going to get there. Add to that a chance to develop patterns of movement embedded in time as well as make creative choices while moving and you now have a powerful mathematical experience in real time and real space. The critical piece (for upper elementary kids, anyhow -- the younger ones just need as much kinesthetic experience with the concepts as their teachers are willing to fit into a school day) is that kids get a chance to bring the math back to the page. After all, math is a symbolic language, but it is really much more than counting.
I'm sure I'll be revisiting this theme in the future. But first I have to run to the library to pick up a couple of Keith Devlin's books.