Often when we think about Dance and Mathematics with think about geometry. The shapes and angles made when using the body can be useful for teaching about mathematics.
However, dance and music are also based on numbers and patterns. Using dance to introduce counting in Early Childhood education is a fun and playful way to engage child in Mathematics.
Using dance play as an introduction to number
Mathematics is abstract and because of this it requires multiple instruction approaches. Early number learning in children includes activities like finger counting, gesturing, singing counting songs and playing with tangible objects like blocks.
Movement stories and dance number games support verbal instructions through embodied cognitive connections.
“A proposed explanation for the relationship between physical movement and learning is that cell network binding processes within the students’ brains can be accelerated through stimulation of body-based actions (Ratey and Hagerman, 2018).”
Therefore, it makes sense to get your children moving, counting and playing.
Dance number play ideas for toddlers and preschoolers
- Sing music or dance at different speeds. Your child can dance, jump, or shake homemade musical instruments to slow or fast songs. Try singing nursery rhymes they already know, slowly and then speeding it up, dancing in different ways to match the tempo of the music.
- The children sing and dance as they count from 1 to 8, using the voice of different characters. Sing and move like an opera singer, like a cowboy, like you’re underwater, like a monster, a like tiger. Try counting forward and then backwards. You can use any instrumental music , it doesn’t just have to be up and down a scale.
- Rocket ship dances that involve a count down to blast off are good for counting backwards The Roaring Rockets Dance is fun to do.
Numbers on the move: 1,2,3 Dance and Count with me
There are many books that are fantastic fun for young children to use as a starting point for creative movement. I Got the Rhythm by Connie Scholfield-Morrison is one that I have used many times.
Numbers on the move:1,2,3 Dance and Count with me, by Teresa Benzie and illustrated by Mark Weber, is another go to book for movement and counting activities. The author is a social worker from the Center for Creative Change, and her thoughtful approach to introducing number and movement shows her deep connection with young children.
What I love about this dance book
This book connects dance and creative movement with a mathematics approach. I love the way the number of children increases on each page along with the number of movements they are engaged in.
Also, the delightful illustrations have children of diverse abilities represented and show movement from a range of perspectives. These include lying down, sitting, in pairs, groups, and individually.
The text graduated from quiet stretching movements through to high energy and finishes with cool down. This unfolding of movement demonstrates an understanding of the bodies need to build up to large gross motor movements. It also provides for children to calm down at the end of the activity.
The book is organized in three sections that increase in difficulty. Beginning with counting forwards, counting backwards, and then the more complex task of devising movement to match the rhythm of your name. Children have opportunities to break their names into sounds and then move to the beat.
In addition, the movements used throughout the book are age appropriate. They include slides, jumping, hopping, marches, kicks, twists, swings. This also increases children ability to describe their movement preferences by increasing their movement vocabulary.
Phrase like “Count backwards so you can be a counting hero’, really appeal to the learning style of this age group.
There are many moments in the book to explore a range of dance skills. Many encourage identifying rhythms, mindful breathing, and naming and using body parts.
So this book definitely gets the thumbs up from me!
Dance and number books and music
You may like to look at these alternatives for inspiration for your dance and number activities. They are all appropriate for early childhood learning and can be as short or as long as the children want to explore.
Ten Little Lady Bugs by Melanie Gerth. Here is a link to a free dance lesson that you could use.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Here are some dance ideas you could try.
The Numbers Freeze Dance Song for Kids is really useful if you have children with mobility issues. Alternatively, you could use the same idea of the song and change it to other body parts.
Dance and number are everywhere
Recently, my Grandson and I were counting the sounds in our names and doing movements to match what they sounded like. He reminded me that I had a very short name. I asked him how short was my name? His answer was ‘three letters but only one movement’.
He felt sorry for me because I only had one movement to perform, and he had three.
Mathematics and movement is everywhere in everyday life. Even wiping down a table can start a conversation about ‘edge’, ‘top’, and ‘bottom’. It can become a dance about wiping movements through the space covering area and large and small ways of using our body.
Using children’s natural desire to move can be a joyful learning experience. You are only limited by your ability to go along with the children’s imaginations.
Song An, Daniel Tillman, So Jung Kim, Josefina Tinajero & Junjun Wang (2019) Teaching Numbers Through Dance, Journal of Dance Education, 19:4, 148-157, DOI: 10.1080/15290824.2018.1472380
Ratey, John J., and Eric Hagerman. 2008. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. New York, NY: Little, Brown, and Co