• Katherine Bangert

Getting in Shape: Using math to stay active

A note about the author: Katherine Bangert is currently a lecturer at Iowa State University in Human Development & Family Studies. She is also a member of the Iowa Farm to ECE Coalition.

Help! We are stuck inside and we can't get out!

Well, usually that becomes the case as temperatures continue to drop during cold Iowa winters. However, I hope you all have enjoyed the warm welcome to the new year! Just in case, as winter usually does make its appearance known, I will share some fun ways to make the most of a truly cold day when you are stuck inside.

First, I’d like to share a fun fact:

As it turns out, physical activity is not just good for your body, it can directly improve your cognitive skills, which leads to better focus, memory, and learning. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain and sets off a series of chemical changes that foster brain cell growth and protection for memory and thinking skills. Following the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative with 5-2-1-0, setting aside one hour (this can be broken down into smaller intervals) for exercise a day will prove to be very beneficial.

As stated, I want to share some fun ways to incorporate math into everyday physical activity. I bet some of you even do this already and might not have connected how well you are teaching our young learners! Mathematics has a universal application and can make the simplest things in life a bit more fun and add confidence. Win, win!

Here are some ideas:

  • Use a calendar to inspire daily activities for a fun number variation. (Here is a quick one I made online for free)

  • Using a tissue box or small stacking block, create exercise dice with different movements and numbers to complete the activity. Templates can also be found online for free.

  • Painters tape! Use tape to make various shapes and paths around the house for children to follow. Integrate with the dice and you have a new game!

  • Cosmic Kids – this is free to use on youtube.com and you are providing active screen time versus passive consumption. Provide a timer and have children see how many poses they can follow along with during the yoga stories. This can be tallied at the end and could become a game as well. (sample tally sheet to edit)

With a little bit of set-up, you are providing activities that can be completed independently (Mommy needs 5 minutes kids!) or together fostering both relationship growth and a passion for staying active. If you use these four suggestions broken down into 15 minute intervals, you have provided one hour of physical activity that promotes higher math cognition. Way to go!


1. Cleveland Clinic. Physical exercise: useful tips for a healthy brain. Retrieved from https://healthybrains.org/pillar-physical/

Cosmic Kids. (2016, September 28). How cosmic kids yoga meets official guidelines for physical activity. Retrieved from 2. https://www.cosmickids.com/how-cosmic-kids-yoga-meets-official-guidelines-for-physical-activity/

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