Maths takes centre stage at University of Sunderland

Students at the university have developed a programme to make maths for KS1 pupils memorable and fun, while discovering new career options

Children aged five to seven years enjoyed a very unusual maths lesson this week, when North East dance and performing arts students brought numbers to life in performance, with their latest project, Numberbods.

The University of Sunderland students’ months of hard work came to fruition this week when they took to the stage at the university’s dance studio in front of an audience of children and teachers.

Numberbods is an interactive learning experience using dance, poetry, original music and narration to engage Key Stage 1 children (aged five to seven years) with maths in a fun and memorable way.

Rachel Emms-Hobbins, Programme Leader for Dance and senior lecturer at the university, has been liaising with teachers at local primary schools, and says that the feedback from parents and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive. Numberbods follows the success of Sciencebods and is part of Learningbods – a concept which forms the basis of Rachel’s research with colleague Sarah Riach.

“Schools have told us that this model has really developed confidence in the lower end achievers with their maths skills,” said Rachel. “They’ve even told us that some of the activities our students have created in the performance, such as using their bodies to create sums using multiplication and addition signs, have translated directly in their teaching in the classroom.”

Students at the University of Sunderland are joined by children aged five to seven to help make maths fun, with Numberbods

“Our workshops provide teachers with warm-ups and creative ideas to enhance learning.”

Students work as a professional dance company, DUSC (Dance University of Sunderland Company), in order to learn key career skills such as working as an ambassador with outside agencies, marketing their company and performances, transport and logistics, and working as a collective group.

“Schools pay for the performances and workshops, so students must learn to operate professionally, as they will in their careers beyond university,” says Rachel. “Our graduates have high levels of employment due in part to the skills they learn working as a professional company.”

In fact the schools have been so impressed by the students, that one school offered a teacher training post to one of the young dancers.

“A number of the students had never worked with children before,” added Rachel. “This experience has really brought out skills and career options many had never even considered.” 

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