Lesson: Integrating Dance into Math

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Lesson Objective

Participants will explore practical applications and example lessons of dance integrated into math

Dance Concepts

The following are the dance concepts most commonly or naturally integrated into math courses. However, this list is not exhaustive. As covered in Unit 2, you should now understand the scope of dance as well as have access to the standards if you would like to explore other connections.

There are five elements: Body, Action, Space, Time, Energy (B.A.S.T.E.) that can serve as lenses to help students analyze, discuss, manipulate, and create movement. Each category describes who is dancing or what is moving (body), what they are doing (action), where they are in relation to others or their surroundings (space), when they are moving or for how long (time), and how they are moving or the quality of movement (energy).

Perpich Center for Arts Education, & University of MN Dance Program. (2018). The Elements of Dance. Retrieved from https://www.elementsofdance.org/
  • Math Applications: As a non-dance teacher, you should not feel the need to teach dance elements as a broad concept, or feel like you need to integrate all five elements. In math, typically teachers focus on space and/or time. As you will see in examples below, both of these elements can have numerous applications for math teachers of every grade level or demographic.
    • Space: Students can practice movement in different ways that allows them to visually and physically experience space in a 3-dimensional way. Examples of different space concepts include size of dancer's shape or movement (small/large) or pathways of a dancer's movement (straight/zig-zag/curved). ~ See Elements of Dance chart above for more
    • Time: Students can practice counting and visualizing numbers in more complex and engaging ways. Examples of different time concepts are counting music in specific meters (3/4, 6/8) or dividing up measures. ~ See Elements of Dance chart above for more
  • NCAS Artistic Process: Dance element concepts can be developed into activities that facilitate creating, performing, responding, and connecting. With more space for movement activities, students can practice and choreograph movement according to different elements. At a desk, students can view dances and discuss the connections between the video and related math concepts.
  • Note: Depending on your resource on Dance Elements you may see only three or four elements listed. Sometimes the terminology also varies (example: "Energy" may be labeled as "force" or "effort")
Here is a quick video on Dance Elements if you are still unsure about this dance concept.

When designing a short phrase of movement or a full length dance piece, choreographers will consider what structure to organize the movement to achieve an intended meaning or intent. Then choreographers will use different devices to continue manipulating their choreography in new and creative ways.

Fitzgerald, S. (n.d.). Slideshow Presentation. Retrieved from https://slideplayer.com/slide/9165266/
  • Math Applications: While you or your students may not have much choreographing experience, if at all, choreographic structures can be an engaging and logical way to approach the artistic craft. In math, this could help students learn patterns and sequencing.
    • Structures: Students can practice planning movement in specific patterns. Examples of different structures include AB or ABA which would imply that a choreographer has assigned one step or short phrase as "A" and another as "B". These can then be repeated in different patterns according to the lettered structure. ~ See Dance Spirit article below for more
    • Devices: Students can use devices to manipulate already created phrases. Examples of different devices include cannon (multiple dancers begin a phrase at different times like 'row row row your boat') and retrograde (dance is performed 'forward' normally and the completely reversed 'backwards).
  • NCAS Artistic Processes: Choreographic structures and devices can be best developed into activities that facilitate creating, performing. Ideally with more space for movement activities, students can manipulate and choreograph movement with specific to a method. However, at a desk, students could possibly also complete responding and connecting activities while watching videos or discussing.
  • Note: Depending on your resource, choreographic structures may be referred to as forms. Also if you are teaching any choreography-related unit where students get to create movement, it may help to review "choreography"=product / "choreographer"=person / "choreographing"=process.

>>>Here is an article that expands on certain structures: https://www.dancespirit.com/how-to-structure-a-dance-2326035194.html


PBS Learning Media and KET Education | Math + Arts
These lessons are great examples of dance and math fully integrated for multiple grade levels. Each includes materials, resources for both students and teachers, in-depth procedures, and alignment to common core standards.

  • Dance Space ~ Grades 2-4 ~ 2-5 Class Periods: Students learn how to find the area of a rectangle while completing an African group dance. Through movement, they also explicitly practice two dance elements: space and actions. This means that they learn how to view space in a new perspective as they move in different formations, directions, and pathways with locomotor (traveling) and non-locomotor (in-place) actions.
  • Geometry in Dance ~ Grades 3-5 ~ 2-5 Class Periods: Students learn how to identify right triangles and symmetry of shapes while learning a Quadrille social dance. Through movement, they also explicitly practice three dance elements: space, actions, and force (sometimes referred to as energy/effort). This means that they learn to practice different shapes with their bodies and in formations with their peers.
  • Graph a Dance ~ Grades 4-6 ~ 2-5 Class Periods: Students learn how to graph formations, shapes, and pathways of dancers while learning an American square dance. Through movement, they practice and choreograph different figures with a focus on the dance element. Then they practice graphing the shapes and pathways on paper (space).
  • Absolute Value of Dance ~ Grades 6-8 ~ 3-4 Class Periods: Students learn how to calculate absolute value while learning a Quadrille social dance and choreographing different figures. This unit also explores the purposes of dance and the dance elements. Then they practice graphing and performing different formations (space).
  • Rotation, Reflection, and Translation in Dance ~ Grades 7-9 ~ 4 Class Periods: Students learn how to describe movement as a series of rotations, reflections, and translations while learning an American square dance. They practice manipulating movement that portrays those concepts in pairs and small groups.

United Arts Council
These lessons are also great examples of dance and math fully integrated for the younger grade levels. Each includes clear activity outlines, assessments, and differentiated approaches.

  • Decomposing Dance ~ Grade K ~ 1 Class Period by Sarah Downing: Students learn how to decompose numbers in to tens and ones while students practice improvised movement. They practice counting and grouping themselves while moving in different pathways, levels, and freezing in different shapes (space).
  • Math in Motion ~ Grade K-1 ~ 1 Class Period by Heather Daughtery, Jennifer Joyner, JoAnn Biggs, Diane Gumpper: Students learn how to classify objects by physical property while they practice and choreograph different patterns. They create movement and transitions (choreographic structures) as they learn about addition and subtraction.
  • The Perfect Quadrilateral ~ Grade 3 ~ 1 Class Period adapted from The Perfect Square by Michael Hall: Students learn about the characteristics of quadrilaterals while they practice improvising and manipulating shapes in partners (space).


Nearpod 1.jpg

Click here to join our Collaboration Nearpod (with code CPGLM) and respond to the question: How do you plan to integrate dance into your classroom? -- After reviewing these applications and examples, describe a content topic that interests you.

Your contributions will be public to any other participants in this course. Feel free to peruse other responses.

Additional Resources

  • Belcastro, S.-M., & Schaffer, K. (2011) | This article introduces a multitude of potential connections between math and dance concepts not mentioned in examples above. Some math concepts include symmetry, sound, vertices. Some dance concepts include the dance elements, laban's eight movement qualities, and choreography. From more superficial connections to deeper ones, this article can help any math educator clearly see potential in an integrated unit.


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