Designing a Kinesthetic Station: Get Kids Moving in Math Class

Can the Station Rotation Model work in a math class? I get this question a lot. I’ve coached math teachers who struggle to imagine designing their lessons using this model because the curriculum is so linear. Even though concepts build on one another, the Station Rotation Model can provide students with opportunities to spiral back and review concepts or apply what they are learning to the world beyond the classroom. I invited Sarah Dunn, M.Ed to write a series of blogs about how she is using the Station Rotation Model in her math class.

Trying something new in the classroom isn’t easy. It takes courage from both the teacher and the students. I can understand why so many teachers are reluctant to move beyond their comfort zones and experiment with new teaching strategies. 

I am a digital teacher leader at my school. I have been using technology to enhance my students’ education experience, and my classroom is a space where other teachers can come and see technology-infused lessons in action. This year, I have decided to use this position to demonstrate dynamic blended learning lessons. I am specifically focusing on using the Station Rotation Model in my math classes. 

As I designed my first station rotation lesson, I was driven by three key questions: 

  • How could I get my students really engaged in our math lessons? 
  • How could I get the students to have discussions about mathematical concepts?
  • How can I make a concrete connection between the mathematical concept we are focused on and the real world?

From those questions, the kinesthetic station was born!

Kinesthetic Station

When I design my station rotation lessons, I include a kinesthetic station that requires the students to work with their hands and utilize tools to actively engage with math concepts. I work in a vocational district where my students are focused on exploring career pathways. As a result, I want the work we do in class to prepare them for being on a job site and working with their hands to solve problems. So, how could I bring that hands-on learning and real-world application into my lessons? Could I send students outside of the classroom to explore math concepts? Could I design tasks that require students to work with tools? Yes!

For one of our first kinesthetic stations, I gave my students a piece of sheet metal, a giant post-it note, an 8.5 x 11 copy of the picture below, and sent them on their way.

The main objective of this task was to have the students measure the radii of each quarter circle and the central angle. Then use those measurements to calculate the arc length and sector area. This activity built on a previous lesson where we discussed that the central angles for the two-quarter circles would be congruent since the circles are concentric.

Even if you don’t have a career focus at your school, you can still encourage students to make real-life connections. For example, with exponential growth or decay, students could collect data from the addition or removal of M&Ms dumped from a cup and then use regression to develop the growth/decay equation.

Everything in math can be related to something outside the classroom. For example, teachers can play around with “triangle experiments.” The idea is to use similar triangles and the proportional relationship between the sides to calculate the length/height of an object. Simply, take a walk around your school and find obscure objects on the ceiling or at the top of a high wall (e.g., the light in the stairwell) to inspire math problems. Again, it’s getting the students out of their seats. That’s what the kinesthetic station is all about.

Our most recent kinesthetic station was scavenger hunt focused on coordinate geometry (e.g.,  rotations, translations, and reflections). I copied the blueprints for our school on a coordinate grid and then had my students transform an X shape around the building. The scavenger hunt questions sent them all over campus and prompted them to answer questions about each wing of the school.

As I observed the students during this scavenger hunt activity, I was thrilled to see them engaging in conversations about the tasks. They were helping each other and explaining the procedural methods of the task while working together to answer each question. They enjoyed being out of the classroom and the scavenger hunt design piqued their interest in the activity. Overall, the level of engagement in this kinesthetic station was incredibly high.

For algebraic and exponential based concepts, I would encourage math teachers to use the kinesthetic station as an experiment station and have the students collect their own data. If there is ever an opportunity for students to collect the data for a data analysis problem, a linear equation, exponential or quadratic, let them do it! Avoid giving students random data sets because it steals the most engaging part of a math activity. 

Math is everywhere. The kinesthetic station allows students to dig in and investigate. Students need to be able to make these connections if they are going to use what they learned in the classroom when they venture into the world. I encourage teachers to send students on math adventures and don’t be afraid to move the learning outside of the classroom. 

Sarah Dunn is a high school math teacher and digital teacher leader in a vocational-technical school district in Wilmington, Delaware. She has flipped the instruction of the content to incorporate more hands-on and blended learning activities. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her husband and two daughters.

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