Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Math, Dance & the Shoehorn, Together Again

First off, what's the difference between this:

and this?

Which one provides the more meaningful learning experience with multiplication? 

I mean, just look how many ways we can experience and come to understand multiplication! Stunning. Given this reality, why would we want our students to only understand multiplication as a series of facts?

So, now, take a look and tell me the difference between this (done as part of a computer science education project):

And this (start around 0:25 and watch until at least 2:00):

Which one provides you the more meaningful experience with Hungarian folk dance traditions?  

Can you see what happens when the dancing's sole purpose is to be shoehorned into a formal mathematical framework (the sorting algorithms)? 

To me, Video #1 has some interesting footwork but the choreography seems stilted and out of context -- sort of like only ever memorizing multiplication facts.

This may just be my own particular sensitivity but I'm curious what you think. Bonus points for going to the dance/computer science project website, trying out one of the sorts and reporting back how or if the dancing helped you any more than the computer animation they provide.


  1. Before going to the website, I assumed that the value of the dance would be that the creation of the dance would be a way for students to apply a sorting method they had learned to a different context. That is, I assumed the dance had been created by students after learning the algorithm. I could imagine that being a valuable exercise for the students, even if the final product is not terribly enlightening. But the website gives no indication that that was what happened with this project.

    As a way of teaching different sorting methods, I don't think the dance is effective, and of course it is even less effective at being an introduction to Hungarian folk dance, but I don't think that is part of its intended purpose, so I'll give it a pass on that front.

  2. YES! This is the thing...the value of the dance in learning 'about' different math ideas and processes is in the *doing* and thinking. The quality of the final product, in my mind, is less important than the making process...unless you have enough time to really polish your work w/in the dance aesthetic. That takes time and lots of practice. In those sorting algorithms videos someone else did all the thinking and the professional dancers did the dancing...


Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!


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