May 5, 2015

Designing a Dance Routine - Math Patterns

We created mathematical patterns by choreographing dance routines.

Math is hiding everywhere. As a dance teacher I was responsible for determining how the dancers would move around the stage during a routine. From straight lines, to circles, to V's to multiple lines, the dancers needed to change positions multiple times, without bumping into each other, and in a way which was visually appealing to the audience. Although it sounds simple, in can be quite tricky moving from a straight line into a circle. In addition, groups with twelve dancers have many more symmetrical configuration possibilities than groups with other numbers.

Our group began with eight dancers, but the number was constantly being altered. At times one or two students were not able to dance in an appearance so the positions needed to change. Depending on who was missing, the changes could be barely noticed, to requiring one-half of the group to memorize new positions.

While I was working on my project, my seven year old daughter designed her own dance routine positions for her and her father. Then it occurred to me that this critical thinking and problem solving activity could be easily given as a project to children learning about patterns. There are so many possibilities of unique designs which can be created and shared.

In one of our groups there are seven children. Three are dressed like birds, one like an owl, two like bats and one like a baby bat. With this combination arranging the dancers in different positions creates different visual effects. For example, at one time the bats are in front and the birds are in back. At another time there are two small circles; one with birds and one with bats. At still another time the kids are arranged in a V. Putting the owl at the point, the birds on one leg and the bats on another leg let the owl be the boss during that portion of the dance.

Because we don't normally think of dance in terms of mathematics, it is surprising to many people how much math is involved. Participating in this type of dance is an excellent way to supplement math and pattern skills learned during school.

For more excellent ways to study math through dance please visit Math in Your Feet. The author is a dance teacher who hosts special hands-on math days at schools all around the country.

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