Learning “Math on the Move”: Effectiveness of a Combined Numeracy and Physical Activity Program for Primary School Children

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Background: Physically active learning that combines physical activity with core curriculum areas is emerging in school-based health interventions. This study investigates the effectiveness of learning an important numeracy skill of times tables (TT) while concurrently engaging in aerobic activity compared with a seated classroom approach. Methods: Grade-4 primary school students were randomly allocated to physical activity (P) or classroom (C) groups and received the alternate condition in the following term. P group received moderate to vigorous exercise (20 min, 3 times per week, 6 wk) while simultaneously learning selected TT. C group received similar learning, but seated. Changes in TT accuracy, general numeracy, aerobic fitness, and body mass index were assessed. Data were expressed as mean (SEM) and between-condition effect size (ES; 95% confidence interval). Results: Participants [N = 85; 55% male, 9.8 (0.3) y, 36.4% overweight/obese] improved similarly on TT in both conditions [C group: 2.2% (1.1%); P group: 2.5% (1.3%); ES = 0.03; −0.30 to 0.36; P = .86]. Improvement in general numeracy was significantly greater for P group than C group [C group: 0.7% (1.2%); P group: 5.3% (1.4%); ES = 0.42; 0.08 to 0.75; P < .03]. An improvement in aerobic fitness for P group (P < .01) was not significantly greater than C group [C group: 0.8 (0.6); P group: 2.2 (0.5) mL·kg·min−1; ES = 0.32; −0.01 to 0.66; P = .06]. Body mass index was unchanged. Conclusion: Combined movement with learning TT was effective. Physically active learning paradigms may contribute to meeting daily physical activity guidelines while supporting or even boosting learning.

Vetter, O’Dwyer, and Orr are with the Discipline of Exercise and Sport Science, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia. O’Connor is with Discipline of Exercise and Sport Science, and Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney, NSW, Australia. O’Dwyer is also with School of Exercise Science, Sport and Health, Charles Sturt University, Bathhurst, NSW, Australia.

Vetter (mvet2126@uni.sydney.edu.au or melanie.vetter@sydney.edu.au) is corresponding author.

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