In Chapter One of Math on the Move: Engaging Students in Whole Body Learning I share a little of the history of how I developed Math in Your Feet and also describe how, in the years before making the connection between my dance style of percussive dance and mathematics, I worked to support children in becoming dance makers using the elements of this not-quite mainstream dance form. So what is this percussive dance and how does it connect to math and, most puzzling, why do we need to use our feet?
This question about feet came up a lot during almost weekly Skype sessions with the amazing Mary Walker Hope in Ontario, Canada. In January 2018 I was lucky enough to get a peek at the awesome Math in Your Feet patterns and footwork resulting from a 2nd through 8th grade exploration in her school board. I figure that others may ask this “Why are we using our feet?” question from time to time so in this post I’d like to elucidate the “feet” aspect of the math and dance that we make while creating patterns with our feet in Math in Your Feet.
First of all, there many, many (MANY!) different dance styles in this world. Some of them are percussive (rhythm based) and some of them are not. Sometimes they’re a combination of both. Percussive dance is probably best known through the international performance phenomenon called Riverdance which features Irish step dancing. You might also be familiar with percussive dance through all those tap classes either you or your kid took at some point.
The main focus of percussive dance styles is to be a rhythm maker using different parts of your feet. The Pattern Properties I created lay out the basic elements of this kind of dance, similar to what creative movement is to modern dance. To answer “why feet” look at the Movement category of the Math in Your Feet Pattern Properties chart on the left. Each movement has a clear sound associated with the movement. Making sure you produce that sound is one aspect that makes this kind of dance so satisfying. In the chart below I’ve provided some information about how these sounds are made.
So, there you have it! Making patterns and sounds with your feet is fun and satisfying, not to mention mathematical!
Malke Rosenfeld is a percussive dance teaching artist, Heinemann author, editor, math explorer, and presenter whose interests focus on the learning that happens at the intersection of math and the moving body. She delights in creating rich environments in which children and adults can explore, make, play, and talk math based on their own questions and inclinations.You can find out more about her work at malkerosenfeld.com, on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.