I’m sure many of us did not grow up attending classes that taught classic subjects like math and spelling with the use of active physical activity while learning these concepts? Mullender et al. (10.1542/peds.2015-2743) decided to study this new way of learning by performing a cluster randomized trial to investigate the effect of using physical activity to teach spelling and math to second and third graders in 12 elementary schools with each school being assigned to the intervention or serving as a control. For example, in learning multiplication, students would jump up and down as many times as the math problem’s answer required.
The trial lasted for two years involving use of the physical activity teaching technique 3 times a week and at the end of the study, tests in language and math skills were administered. The results reveal significant learning gains in the group that got the physical activity while learning their math and spelling. The results of their physical health as a result of doing the classroom physical activity are not revealed (at least not in this particular manuscript).
So should we convert all schools to this new learning method or are there risks to considering this technique such as the extra time it takes to teach the same material while also doing moderate to vigorous physical activity? Drs. Neelon, Hesketh and vanSluijs share with us an accompanying commentary (10.1542/peds.2015-4137) on this study that provides some further lessons learned from this new use for physical activity and raise some issues as to the generalizability of these results.
While this study may not change the way you practice, it may make you even more successful at providing another reason to insure physical activity is a part of the daily schedule for all children in school. Do your homework and read this study and commentary to learn more.