Disembodiment before Embodiment


In the readings this week regarding embodied learning, I was interested in the applications of embodied learning theories to mathematics. The ability to understand numbers and unknowns is a concept that many students struggle with at some point in their academics.  Being able to experience the learning through more tactile means adds another dimension on learning to students.  Also, using signs and symbols to represent numerical equations can assist in students understanding on mathematical phenomena. Radford (2009) emphasizes that in order for students to embody their learning, they must first disembody their previous notions of spatial awareness. When students have partially developed ideas of mathematical concepts, it can be much more difficult for them to learning through embodied methods.


In the paper by Carraher et al (1985), the authors noted how children that had little to know formal education in Brazail were about to understand and compute mathematical problems as they bartered for goods in the markets. This demonstrates how the way we go about learning math in more formal education settings is not the only way to build real world skills.  For a project with my grade 4s, I gave them the opportunity to plan a party with a budget of $100. We walked to our nearby grocery store so that students could decide on products they wanted based on how many guests they were having. They had to use their math skills as well as planning skills to make sure they’re guests would be satisfied. I think this is the closed I’ve come to teaching embodied learning in mathematics. I’m curious what new educational technologies will emerge for educations to use in the classroom.


Some questions I have :


Embodied learning to me seems to be more of a teaching strategy that educators turn to when more traditional disembodied methods are not working. How can we make embodied learning more relevant and integrated into the curriculum?


The second questions ties into the first… If we use embodied learning in the classroom, how do we know it’s working? It seems that we may flip back to the traditional assessment formats to measure its success. I was wondering what types of measurable assessment can we conduct to demonstrate its effectiveness?




Carraher, T. N., Carraher, D. W., & Dias Schliemann, A. (1985).

British journal of developmental psychology: Mathematics in the streets and in schools British Psychological Society.


Radford, L. (2003) Gestures, Speech and Sprouting Signs: A Simiotic Cultures Approach to Students’ Types of Generaltizations. Mathematical Thinking and Learning


  1. Hi Tyler

    Personally, I too felt or am more inclined to use embodied learning as a teaching strategy. However, knowing its potential implications and ability to improve learning, I believe restructuring existing lessons to utilize embodied learning as a primary method of instruction would help its integration and relevancy. As opposed to using ‘traditional disembodied methods’ initially as a form of instruction, it’s clear other forms should be addressed first.

    As a result of these alternative forms of instruction, assessment also needs to change. Instead of traditional formats, like testing, educators will need to reflect on how these other forms of instruction should be assessed. Perhaps going to a different type of store with a different budget and purpose could be an alternative form of assessment?

    1. Thanks Darren for the interesting take on embodied learning. I feel as though traditional methods of teaching need to be rejigged to command a more all-encompassing approach. Opening up to new forms of assessment and developing student and parent appropriate language to guide their learning is something I’m looking forward to seeing in the future.

  2. Hi Tyler,

    With regards to your first question, I also agree that embodied learning can be thought of as a teaching strategy rather than an underlying pedagogical theme for an entire curriculum. I feel this way because in STEM education, the knowledge and concepts become more and more abstract as the learner dives deeper into the topic. Abstractness does not lend itself well to embodied learning because more and more accommodations would be needed to approximate and simulate the complexities.

    For example, your assignment with your grade 4’s and planning a party on a budget is an excellent activity that teaches students practical mathematics, the core concepts are mainly arithmetic. In higher levels of math, it becomes increasingly more difficult to find practical, embodied methods of exploring concepts (although one could argue that physics itself is an embodiment of math).

    However, I do believe that embodied learning has its place in establishing the core foundation of a subject. And as the student becomes more proficient at understanding internally, their ability to learn in a more disembodied and abstract manner allows them to extend their knowledge further.

  3. Hi Tyler,

    In regards to your second question referencing assessment methods when using embodied learning strategies, I wonder if this is a common concern across inquiry learning implementations. When assessing, the first question to ask is “What needs to be assessed?” With embodied learning strategies, is it content or skills/competencies (or a combination of both) that you are most interested in the student acquiring? Determine the “what” should help determine the “how”. From my own experience, I feel that student self assessments and rubrics are the most valuable types of assessments for less traditional ways of learning when assessing skills/competencies. When reading research literature, I often feel that the pre and post tests that are given to study participants are an effective measure of a students learning. Perhaps a similar assessment process could be valuable for content related assessments in an embodied math classroom.

    Thank you for sharing about your reading experiences from this past week. I didn’t explore embodied learning much, so appreciate reading about your reading adventure insights.

    1. I realized this after posting last evening {yes, my brain did feel like mush:)}, but am coming back to it now, just to clarify my last statement! Of course, I did explore embodied learning during the past week, but my main selected reading was more focused on theoretical rather empirical content, so the practicality of many of the other postings in this past week’s forum is appreciated. 🙂

      1. Thanks Jessica for your insight! You make a solid point that student self assessments and rubrics are valuable in assessing learning. They establish clear criteria for learning. I still find it difficult to develop an easy rubric that allows the student to assess their learning in a more abstract way in the younger elementary grades. The final product seems to be easier for students to gauge but reflecting assessing their own process is much more challenging.

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