Integrating juggling with math lessons: A randomized controlled trial assessing effects of physically active learning on maths performance and enjoyment in primary school children

Vera van den Berg, Amika S. Singh, Annet Komen, Chris Hazelebach, Ivo van Hilvoorde, Mai J. M. Chinapaw

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There are tentative indications that physical activity (PA) during school time can be beneficial for children’s academic performance. So far, most studies have focused on the effects of moderate-to-vigorous PA, for example, in the form of energizers or extra physical education lessons. Little is known about the effects of physically active learning, in which PA is integrated with the academic content of the lessons, especially in preadolescent children. Moreover, there is a lack of knowledge regarding the enjoyment of physically active learning in this age group. Therefore, the aim of the current study was to assess the effects of integrating juggling with math practice in primary school children, on (1) multiplication memorization performance and (2) enjoyment during the math lessons. We conducted a cluster randomized controlled trial, in which 312 children (mean age 10.4 years) from nine Dutch primary schools participated. Fourteen classes were randomly assigned to either a group that learned juggling whilst practicing multiplication tables (intervention group), or to a group that practiced the same multiplication tables while sedentary (control group). Both interventions had a duration of 5 weeks and consisted of 20 short lessons (4 lessons per week, 5 to 8 min). We used mixed-model analyses to examine the effect of the intervention on multiplication memorization performance. Group (control or intervention) was used as the fixed factor, and class and school as random intercepts. Analyses were adjusted for pretest multiplication performance, age, gender, general motor skill level, physical activity behavior (PAQ-C), and academic math performance. No significant intervention effect on multiplication performance were observed. However, the math-juggling program significantly increased enjoyment of children during the math lessons. We can conclude that the intervention did not improve, but neither deteriorated children’s math performance. The increased enjoyment in the math-juggling group can serve as an important starting point for structurally incorporating physical activities in the classroom setting.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2452
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2019

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