Grade Level Games that Connect Math with Physical Activity
Often when we think of “hand-on-learning”, science experiments and engineering projects quickly come to mind. What if “hands-on learning” could be “whole-body learning”? It can!
When students can connect their problem-solving skills to a practical application, they're more likely to retain the information and conceptually apply that information in a broader way. For example, a typical textbook prompt might instruct students to calculate the rate of speed of a train or a car based on a given distance and time. If you’ve never been on a train or aren’t old enough to drive - those problems feel disconnected.
But what if we asked students to simply stand up and count the number of jumping jacks they can do in 15 seconds, now calculate the rate of jumping jacks per second - take that a jump further - use that rate to estimate the number of jumping jacks they could do in 60 seconds.
Use these creative connections to support student learning through math and movement! Here are different ways to connect math to movement and physical activity and physical education.
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Kindergarten - 1st Grade
Skip Counting Hip-Hops
Hip-Hop: Start standing with feet together. Hop to the left, then hop to the right. Keep feet together while hopping side to side. Add a count with each hop, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10. Count by 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s!
Creative connections+: Use whisper counting to reinforce odds and evens. Hop to the left, whisper, “one”. Hop to the right, shout, “two”! Whispering the odd numbers, shouting the even numbers. Then switch!
2nd - 3rd Grade
Number Line Run
Have students line up in a typical, single-file line down the middle of the room. Ensure there is enough space between students so they can easily move to their left or to their right. Ask students to imagine they are standing on their own number line, at zero. Positive numbers are to their right, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and negative numbers are to their left, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5.
The instructor calls out a number line prompt, followed by, ”go”! Students will “show” their answer by moving to the appropriate spot on their own imaginary number line. Start with simple prompts. For example, “-3, go!”. Progressively make the prompts more challenging. For example, “a number greater than 2, go!” or “a number less than -1, go!” More than one answer may be correct, i.e., -2, -3, -4, and -5 are all less than -1.
Note: Adjust the number line according to students’ grade level and skill set. For example, instead of -5 to 5, it could be 0 to 10, or 0 to 100 by 10’s.
4th - 5th Grade
Students will run a relay race solving multiplication problems and working their way through the multiplication tables. (i.e. start round 1 with multiples of 1). Separate participants into groups or teams and instruct each team to form a single file line. On ‘go’, the first participant from each line will run across the space to a designated stopping point. The ‘runner’ must solve a multiplication problem (1x1) then run back and return to the end of their team’s line. The next team member must solve the next problem (1x2) and so on. Once a team reaches a certain problem, for example, 1x12, all team members must do jumping jacks to demonstrate they are finished. The first team all doing jumping jacks wins!
Play multiple rounds working through the multiplication tables. Switch up teams throughout the game if desired!
Participants will jump to form a variety of shapes and solve geometry-related problems.
Participants will solve equations to find the length of the sides of triangles. Ask students to use the Pythagorean theorem. If the base has a length of three hops and the height has a length of four hops, what would the hypotenuse be? They would have to recognize the formula, square both three and four, sum the squares to equal 25, then find the square root. The hypotenuse is five jumps! Students should then jump, with the correct amount of jumps per side to “build” their triangle.
Provide multiple triangles, give the length of two sides and ask students to solve for the third, answering in “jumps”.
Perimeter problems: Ask students to think about equilateral shapes with a perimeter of 20. Start by identifying factors of 20. 1,20; 2,10; and 4,5. By working through the factors, ask students to jump to form shapes matching the factors of 20. A square or four-sided figure would have a length of five hops, a hexagon, or five-sided figure, would have a length of four hops and a decagon, or ten-sided figure would have a length of two hops per side.
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Download the printable pdf version of PowerUp's Math and Movement Activites below.
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