Kinesthetic Activities Increase Student Engagement

Looking for elementary classroom engagement strategies? Learn how kinesthetic activities work to increase student engagement!

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how to increase student engagement strategies classroom

No parent or guardian wants their child to dread school or dislike learning. Plus, when children are not invested in their learning process, they are more challenging to teach and manage. That’s why educators are always looking for strategies to increase student engagement. Kinesthetic activities are a great way to improve classroom engagement, as a recent National Math Foundation study shows.

What is Student Engagement?

The Glossary of Education Reform defines student engagement as “the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught.” The level of engagement a student has is reflected in how motivated they are to learn and progress in school.

The National Center on Safe Support Learning Environments further breaks down student engagement into three main aspects: behavioral engagement, emotional engagement, and cognitive engagement.

Behavioral engagement refers to actions and habits that facilitate learning. For instance, an engaged student will have consistent attendance, complete assignments, and participate in class.

A student’s level of emotional engagement is defined by the extent and type of relationships the student has with teachers, other peers, and school in general. An emotionally engaged student likes school, has a mutually respectful relationship with their teachers, and feels a sense of belonging at school.

Cognitive engagement describes a student’s level of investment in their learning. A cognitively engaged student puts effort into completing assignments well and is generally curious about what else they can learn.

On the other hand, a disengaged student may find school boring and struggle to pay attention in class. They may not feel supported by their teachers. Furthermore, a disengaged student exhibits low interaction and indifferent or negative attitudes.

Kinesthetic Student Engagement Strategies

A recent study by the National Math Foundation found that kinesthetic activities significantly increased engagement across a sample size of 492 students. The study, known as The Mighty Multiplication Project, consisted of an 8-week math intervention for 3rd through 5th grade students. The intervention focused on incorporating kinesthetic learning strategies into multiplication lessons.

The students participated in a various of movement-based learning activities, including active math movements and jumping on Math & Movement floor mats. Teachers continued using traditional teaching activities, including whiteboard work, flashcards, and worksheets, along with the new kinesthetic activities.

Overall, the data concluded a highly significant relationship between the types of activities and the level of student engagement. Across the eight weeks, kinesthetic activities saw more significant levels of student engagement than traditional activities.

how to increase student engagement strategies classroom
how to increase student engagement strategies classroom

“Student and teacher feedback indicated that kinesthetic activities fostered greater instances and higher levels of engagement, enthusiasm, and positive attitudes towards mathematics in general and multiplication in specific,” the Mighty Multiplication Project report reads.

Why Kinesthetic Activities Work to Increase Student Engagement

We know elementary students like kinesthetic activities, but how does movement work as a classroom engagement strategy?

Addresses Physical Needs

Young children never like to sit still for long. Kinesthetic activities encourage movement while still learning. In fact, movement has biological benefits. Physical activity boosts blood flow and oxygen levels in the brain, therefore improving comprehension and memory retention. Students are more likely to stay engaged when their physical needs are met. Kinesthetic activities allow them to expend energy rather than fight against it while sitting at a desk.

Appropriately Challenges Students

Students are challenged in a new way when coordinating a physical movement with a math concept. They see hopping down a Skip Counting Mat as a new challenge or mission to complete. These new physical experiences can keep students interested in new math lessons.

Additionally, kinesthetic learners like to experience their learning. They learn best by interacting with their learning environment. With movement, students become physically active participants in their own learning, which is likely to keep them engaged.

how to increase student engagement strategies classroom

Fosters Autonomy and Self-Efficacy

During the Mighty Multiplication Project, students participated in kinesthetic skip counting activities using Math & Movement floor mats. They later went to complete a worksheet. Students realized that by moving their bodies on the mat, they had gained the skills to solve the worksheet’s multiplication problems.


In essence, they learned that their choice to participate impacted their learning. Their physical efforts paid off when their mental skills were tested with the worksheet!

Promotes Collaborative Learning

Kinesthetic classroom engagement strategies foster a collaborative learning environment. Students work together to move and solve problems. The classroom becomes a much more energized and interactive environment by nature during kinesthetic activities. Remember that students are more likely to stay engaged when they feel supported and like they belong in their class.

With mats like the Skip Counting Hops, it is easy for students to learn from one another. One student can hop down the mat to solve a multiplication problem. The other students can line up on the sides of the mat and count the number of hops aloud. They can also challenge the hopping student by calling out another multiplication problem to solve.

Looking for elementary classroom engagement strategies? Learn how kinesthetic activities work to increase student engagement!

Gamified Learning and Adds Competition

Many kinesthetic activities can feel game-like because they involve physically doing something to accomplish a goal. Plus, adding a little bit of friendly competition will motivate students to learn what they must know to keep up with other students.

For example, to win Bean Bag Baseball on the Skip Counting by 3s mat, students must know their multiplication by 3s!

Successful Classroom Engagement

So, how do educators start to increase student engagement with kinesthetic activities? The answer is to start small, as even short movement breaks can positively affect classroom engagement. Try incorporating active math movements into the school day. These movements can be done without any additional materials at students’ desks or while traveling in the hallway.

If you really want to give student engagement an extra boost, Math & Movement has a wide selection of kinesthetic learning materials available, including floor mats and stickers. Our Math Kits include some of our most popular products.

We also offer professional development training webinars and a wide selection of lesson plan ideas on our activity database. We aim to make kinesthetic teaching strategies possible and feasible in your classroom!

One teacher who participated in the Mighty Multiplication Project shared the change they saw in their students: “The students were highly motivated and engaged [as a result of the project]. Their attitude toward math was positive.”

Another participating teacher commented, “Just having a ‘games’ time at the start [of each lesson] helped tremendously with engagement, focus, and energy levels!”

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