University of Vermont

University Communications

Designing the Math Class of the Future

Carmen Petrick Smith

Can students Electric Slide their way toward a better understanding of the X- and Y-axes? Yes, says Carmen Petrick Smith, who’s researching an observation she made back in her days of teaching high school: that students learn geometric principles more easily when physical movements are in the lesson plan.

Now a UVM assistant professor of mathematics education, she and her team — which includes both graduate and undergraduate students — have published research showing significant gains in elementary kids’ understanding of angles when they used their bodies to interact with a Kinect for Windows mathematics program.

“Maybe they don’t know the words quite yet,” she says, “but they have a way to express it using their bodies that they didn’t have before when they were sitting in a row of desks looking up at the teacher and searching for an answer.” It’s work that could point the way toward more effective — and active — math classrooms everywhere.

Learn more about this study.