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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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My Kung Fu is Better Than Your Kung Fu!


I want to share a creative way to motivate and focus your students during math instruction. I call it Kung Fu Math.

First~ I created a series of belts or levels that the students aspire to and have them write it in their notebooks.

Then~ I tell them that everytime they get a math problem correct they earn a tally or "notch" towards the next stripe or belt. Everytime a student earns three notches they move up a stripe or belt (my ranking system is three stripes then they change colors. For instance~ a white belt must get three stripes before earning a yellow belt--or solve nine math problems correctly).

Now for the fun part! When a student achieves a stripe or belt change~ they stand up at their desks in a "karate stance." I then go around with paddedfocus mitts (you can get them at a sporting good store)~ and the students get to practice a technique on the pads as the other students cheer.

The move doesn't have to be anything fancy~ and you don't want to try anything dangerous. Stick to the basics. My kids do a palm strike or a straight punch or a front kick and yell "Hiya!" as the other students cheer them on. You can learn some basic moves by watching YouTube or have a student in class who trains in martial arts demonstrate some moves for the class.

If you really want to get crazy~ you can play some fun music in the background like "Kung Fu Fighting."

We practice Kung Fu math about once a week. I find it keeps the students focused~ motivated~ and physically active as they strive to see who willbecome the true Kung Fu math master!