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Howe Hall AIMS P.E. infusion makes math fun

Published on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022

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girl cheering on teammateboy putting numbers up on the wallThe tribe has spoken: infusion lessons help students retain information they learn in school, and nobody can claim “immunity” when it comes to having fun in class.

This recent “Survivor”-themed P.E. activity at Howe Hall AIMS had fourth-graders practicing their knowledge of place values while they burned some energy in the school’s multipurpose room on Monday.

Fourth grade math teacher Tim Capazzi collaborated with P.E. teacher Kim Pond to create a P.E. infusion lesson that combined place value standards with motion standards – and the students loved it.

“I got a lot of thumbs up when I got back to the classroom, so I think they really enjoyed it,” he said. “They were really tired and quiet, so I think the exercise part definitely worked out.”

Howe Hall AIMS is known for its arts infusion philosophy: students participate weekly in classes for dance, drama, music, P.E. and visual art.  In addition, the fine arts and classroom teachers deliver arts-infused lessons utilizing a team teaching approach. These lessons are based on state standards but are taught through the eyes of an artist. Students apply fine arts skills as they work to master academic standards.

“It really takes the lessons that we do and gives them something that is a little more memorable,” Capazzi said. “We all learned our ABC’s by singing them, so combining arts and regular school is something that has always been done. So giving them a motion to go with something that they do, maybe that helps them remember the standard a little bit better.”

The school started math and P.E. infusion a few years ago. Pond works with all the math teachers to come up with great lesson plans that have to do with P.E. and math; Mondays are her “infusion days.”

“We have a good time, we try to get the kids moving while they’re learning or reviewing multiplication facts or, like today, with place value,” Pond said.

Pond added that the school finds that after students do that physical activity and then go take something like a test, they tend to score higher.

“It gets them up and moving and their brain cells (are) activated,” she said, adding, “Last week, we had fifth-grade infusion right before a test, and every single one of those kids passed the test.”

Pond and Capazzi decided to model this particular activity off the game show “Survivor” because Capazzi is a big fan of the show; the lesson was entitled “Place Value Survivor.”  

The students were greeted in the multipurpose room with tribal music, plus Capazzi dressing the part of long-time “Survivor” show host Jeff Probst.

Nobody was voted off any island, and the fourth-graders were vying for some awesome stickers in lieu of $1 million.

The class was split up into five teams (or “tribes”) with about five students per group. Each team was a different color, the students wore scarves that represented their team colors. They also got to come up with a team name; this lesson pitted the Bumblebees, the Tigers, Team MAYVO (which was an anagram using the first letters of all the team members’ names), the Green Panthers and the Survivors against each other in a relay race. 

Each team was equipped with the numbers 0 through 9 on big pieces of paper. They also had little white boards to do math problems by hand.

The way the game worked was Capazzi would display a place value word problem on the big screen above the stage in the multipurpose room. Each round had a different challenge:students doing relay race

Make a three-digit number with a 6 in the tens place.

Make a six-digit number with a 4 in the thousands place.

Make the largest five-digit number you can that has a 3 in the hundreds place.

Make the smallest four-digit number you can that has a 2 in the thousands place.

Make a six-digit number with a 7 in it that is 100 times greater than the 7 in 23,871.

Put the sum of 4,561 and 3,295.

Put up the difference between 11,098 and 5,662.

The students would first have to come up with the answer, and then display them on the wall on the other side of the room by posting their giant numbers to a line of Velcro. Students could only go up one by one, and only place one number at a time during their turn.

two kids side shuffling

There was no running or walking to the wall involved; each round, Pond would give the students a different motion to execute as they headed to the wall, such as hopping on both feet, side shuffling, skipping and, at one point, using little scooters to “swim” to the wall.

“The challenge was not just to solve the problem as quickly as possible, but also to work together as a team to make sure you got the number back and forth in the right motion as quickly as you could,” Capazzi said. “It presented a couple different layers of challenges, and that was fun.”

The students got the right answers pretty often – there were only a few times when a number (or numbers) was placed in the wrong spot on the wall. Capazzi would do a group discussion about the answers following each round to make sure everyone understood why one answer might have been wrong.

A team was eliminated each round but everyone got a sticker – “So unlike regular ‘Survivor,’ everyone at least wins,” Capazzi added.

Pond said she thinks the students loved it.

“I know they got a good workout – and that is the idea, to show them math can be fun,” she said.

The pandemic prevented students from being able to work together as a team in recent years. The lesson did more than reinforce the students’ math knowledge while getting them moving; the teachers noticed a lot of great teamwork and collaboration going on among the groups as they carried out the activity.

“Now that we’re working more together in groups, it is nice to see them getting back to that teamwork challenge,” Capazzi said.

The students finish up the infusion lessons by reflecting and jotting down their thoughts so teachers can receive feedback.

“That feedback is great because we’ll take the infusion lessons that we did this year and then we’ll try to integrate them next year and have them do them on their own…because they have great ideas and they’re smart,” he said.

Capazzi said this method of schooling is much more interactive than anything else.

“When you do something like this, this is the sort of thing that really sticks in their mind and helps them remember things down the road,” he said, adding, “They’re going to remember the motion and the fun that they had more than a worksheet that they did.”

The teachers said they love having the chance to collaborate and bring such lessons to the students at Howe Hall AIMS.

“I love that every Monday, it’s my ‘infusion day’…and I know that I’m going to be working with other teachers, and I absolutely love working with other teachers,” Pond said.

student on scooter team members talking to each other

Monica Kreber
kreberm@bcsdschools.net