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A Deeper Look at Dance and Math

By Cemal Ford, 3-4 Teacher

The 3-4s recently went to the Meany Center on the University of Washington campus for the presentation of Pilobolus, a modern dance company that started in 1970. They believe that arts education is crucial in the development of students as creative problem solvers and culturally aware community members. This closely aligns with our UCDS Mission that we model and implement through our programs. Especially with Class Meeting, All School Meeting, Theme and Math Vitamin. (Learn about these program components and more on our glossary page.)

At the show, the dancers and producer explained and displayed dances that date back to the 1970s, and the story behind each. This showed the students that it was more than just a freestyle of twist, turns flips or funny body movements or the new popular dance craze. It showed history, technique and art. It showed their hard work, dedication and practice after learning the history and backstory of certain dances.

This can be compared to a Math Vitamin or non-fiction reading in terms of approach, process and finished product. When starting a Math Vitamin we teach students to read then re-read the problem to get a better understanding of the story and how to proceed. Then we have them underline important info and star what they don’t understand. This is the same first step in non-fiction to read, reread and highlight to understand the story.

The second step is when you are rehearsing for the show which is equivalent to the students digging in and working through the process of their work. The third and final stage to finish the process is the show, the final performance—which for us is the thorough explanation of build, draw and record to demonstrate student understanding. By seeing the similar comparisons between what we are doing at school and what a modern dance company like Pilobolus does in their process, I think we are setting the kids up for success down the line in how to approach, process and come to solutions with projects and problem solving.