Does Kinesthetic Learning Support English Language Learners?

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English Language Learners (ELL)/English as a Second Language (ESL) students are falling behind their classmates at an alarming rate. About 35% of ELL/ESL students are behind in math. Compared to their non-ELL/ESL counterparts, 47% are behind in reading (Fry 2003). This is a statistically significant percentage of students. Numbers like these cannot be ignored.

The reasons for this gap are complex and varied. Many are very hard or even impossible to address by teachers alone. Fortunately, teachers do hold the key to one of the most effective ways to address the issue in the classroom: they can teach students the way they learn best. Studies show that when educators use tactile and kinesthetic methods, ELL/ESL students are successful and excited to learn.

Research shows “ESL students strongly preferred kinesthetic and tactile learning styles.” Students taught through “preferred learning styles scored higher on tests, fact knowledge, attitude, and efficiency than those taught…different from their preferred styles” (Reid). This is the golden key teachers have been seeking. Now, they simply need to learn how to teach students the way ELL/ESL students want and need to be taught – using kinesthetic and multisensory strategies and tools.

That sounds like a tall order, but with Math & Movement, it can be very easy! Math & Movement integrates the three primary learning styles – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic – with a focus on kinesthetic learning. This allows for a more effective approach than the classic auditory-focused classroom. Learning how to use the Math & Movement program is simple, straightforward, and even fun for teachers and students. Understanding how to implement kinesthetic learning strategies and combining them with auditory and visual tools unlocks the door to meet the needs of ELL/ESL students. With this approach, teachers have the power to close the gap for ELL/ESL students.


Math & Movement Materials:

Check out our current mats in other languages! These mats can be paired with the English version of the mats or used on their to help students learn concepts kinesthetically! If you have ideas for other mats that would help your ELL/ESL students, please contact us! We are always looking for new ideas that will help students succeed!


Richard Fry (2007) How Far Behind in Math and Reading and English Language Learners? Analysis, Pew Hispanic Center. Available from:

Reid JM (1987) The Learning Style Preferences of ESL Students. TESOL Quarterly 21(1): 87–111.

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