Embodied Learning with Osmo

Embodied learning involves the whole body when learning and constructing knowledge. Embodiment means that states of the body, such as arm movements, arise during social interaction and play central roles in social information processing (Barsalou, 2003). Numerous studies have shown that body movements and embodied learning can have substantive positive effects on children’s cognition, learning, and academic achievement (Chandler & Tricot, 2015). Anderson (2003) explains that Embodied Cognition is learning that results from interactions with our environment. In primary grades, students count with their fingers, use number blocks, and manipulativew, to develop basic number sense.

As I was reading the articles, I continued to connect this to STEM activities in the classroom. In a lot of STEM challenges, students are building, tinkering, and making, using their hands. We often interact with nature for science, whether it be nature walks, documenting ideas in our science journals or on the iPad, or doing experiments. From my experience, I have found that students retain more information and can share evidence of their learning when it is connected to a hands-on, interactive project or lesson.

I also connected these articles to Osmo game sets for the iPads. I recently adopted this in my classroom for math rotations. I think that incorporating Osmo into a math program is an example of a learning activity that incorporates motion activity and digital technologies. Osmo is a gaming accessory for the iPad. It includes a base, reflective mirror, and tangible pieces. It creates a hands-on learning experience paired with technology. The learner interacts with the pieces and the iPad, an example of motion activity and embodied learning. Osmo is intended for children aged 6-12. Students love using it because of its game-based learning style. “Researchers agree that the use of manipulatives in mathematics increases mathematics achievement and plays a large part in student learning, understanding, and conceptualization of simple to complex concepts” (Boggan, Harper, & Whitmire, 2010).

Questions I am left with…

Is embodied learning as effective for students who can’t control their body?

How can we provide more embodiment during math instruction, not just in activities?


Barsalou, L. W. (2003). The psychology of learning and motivation: Psychology of learning and motivation volume 43 social embodiment.43C, 43. doi:10.1016/S0079-7421(03)01011-9

Boggan, M., Harper, S., & Whitmire, A. (2010). Using manipulatives to teach elementary Mathematics. Journal of Instructional Pedagogies. Retrieved from http://www.aabri.com/manuscripts/10451.pdf

Chandler, P., Paul Chandler, & André Tricot. (09/01/2015). Educational psychology review: Mind your body: The essential role of body movements in children’s learning Springer. doi:10.1007/s10648-015-9333-3



  1. Hi Danielle,

    Great post! I would like to address your excellent question, “Is embodied learning as effective for students who can’t control their body?”
    I think that embodied learning would be an excellent and effective process for students who cannot control their bodies. I’m not sure if it is “as effective” as with other students but I think it would be a positive experience.

    Scaffolding the learning experiences for the students would allow them to have success and build on what they have accomplished. Students would be working to co-ordinate the brain and body to accomplish some goal. In my experience in science and makerspace classes, students who have had trouble with managing their bodies (for a variety of reasons) have had success when they are able to use their body in the learning process. It was by no means perfect – but was a positive experience for the students, their classmates, and educational staff.

    What have you found?

  2. Thanks for the post Danielle. Your post reminded me that students usually remember better while doing something physical (not sure if urban myth) even if unrelated to content. For example, learners can be doing stretches while learning math to exercise their whole body in learning. Action certainly keeps students engaged, but maybe provides opportunities to associate memories with physical movement as well. Do you think finger motions on tablets are similar or different than whole body interaction?


  3. Hi Natalie, I completely agree. It is definitely a positive experience. This past year I had a student with ADHD, and a learning disability in reading, writing, and math. My hope was that hands-on opportunities (coding, makerspace, robotics) where he could construct knowledge would be beneficial and engaging, however he vocally shared that he could only work on things for a few minutes before he got distracted and needed a break. I am definitely going to be doing more research to see how we can best support all of our learners needs.

    Andrew, I am envisioning learners doing stretches while I am teaching and I feel that I may be distracted :). Definitely a lot to consider when thinking about how we can incorporate embodied learning into mathematics. My plan for next year is to use more stations with manipulatives, and add mystery qr codes in the hallway for students to walk around and answer questions. I tried it a few years ago in the older grades and the students loved it!

  4. Hey Danielle,

    Thanks for sharing Osmo! I’ve never heard of this app before, but it seems like a great learning opportunity for students. I also notice they have coding apps as well. What’s your experience with these? What age group do you find these target?

    In reading Novak et al.’s article, there seems to be mixed support on whether physical manipulatives fully support conceptual understanding of math, as “children can become preoccupied with irrelevant details of perceptually rich symbols, or see their actions as relevant only to the objects on which they were trained rather than to a more general concept” (Novak, M.A. et al., 2014). Perhaps the blocks of Osmo do not detract from the conceptual understanding as students as able to see and count the dots on the number pieces, but something to consider as we move forward in introducing these apps to our students. Perhaps this is where the artificial environments would be better suited?

    You also ask a really great question of how effective is embodied learning to students who can’t control their bodies. I think more research needs to be done on this to fully grasp its effectiveness, but I would imagine that it can be effective as long as the motions have meaning for the learner. A great question to delve into further to meet the needs of all our diverse learners.


  5. Hi Danielle!

    I was very excited to read your post about incorporating Osmo’s into your math classroom as I will be doing the same in the fall with Grade 1 students. Having being playing around with the various games myself, I have really been keen to the programming of the games and know the students will really enjoy using these during math centres. To answer your second question, I spent some time in the primary classes in June observing fellow colleagues and one teacher used physical routines to build connections with the students while they were counting by having them stand and doing knee raises while they counted in different patterns. It was great to see movement incorporated into her teaching as opposed to just having the students recite the counting sitting in their desks. This made me connect with Winn’s article in the importance of movement and learning and Novak’s article on action and gestures. As well, I think when students are given opportunities to engage in meaningful opportunities that connect the learning concept with real world experiences does true embodiment occur. Perhaps more educators need to take more risks in teaching outside of the classroom and thinking of using different spaces to provide these opportunities. It might not be possible for all concepts being taught, but would be interesting to attempt. Thanks again for sharing your ideas this week!


  6. Hi Danielle,
    I am so excited to be reminded about Osmo, it is currently sitting in my Amazon wish list. In answer to your question, I would like to think that embodied learning would be effective for students that have troubles controlling their bodies. My reasoning is a colleague has had a silent bike in her class and it has resulted in a significant change in students being able to successfully control their bodies. I have been using sizzle seats, rocking chairs, resistance bands for a few years with success with my students. I wonder if learning was more active for these students then we would need so many of these other tools.

    1. Hi Sarah. I would love to incorporate the sizzle seats, etc., however we lack funding at our school. We receive 50 dollars to support our classroom for the entire year. How did you go about getting all of this into the classroom?

  7. Hi Danielle,

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge about Osmo. I’ve never heard of it before but I would love to incorporate something like this into my classroom. When you purchase the starter kit does it only come with the one iPad stand? How many students can work on just the one program at a time? I can picture arguing already if I only bought one!

    With regards to your question about embodied learning for students who have trouble controlling their bodies, I immediately thought of students who have ADHD. Most of the time, I find that those students with difficulties have trouble focusing if what they are doing is not keeping their attention. Utilizing AR/VR technologies would keep them engaged as well as moving! I recently came across a program called Timocco and while I have not used it myself or integrated it into my classroom, it is a great example of how VR can benefit students with special needs.


    1. Hi Kirsten,
      When you purchase the kit it comes with the iPad stand and reflective mirror, as well as 4 different app necessities (tanagrams, numbers, and words). https://www.playosmo.com/en/landing-gk/?cc=ca&gclid=CjwKCAjw5PDLBRB0EiwAh-27MtDwVc6zNU1-Tzljpg7x-w8hRScmg3WKGv73pqqOt5VzMk6VBNbFGxoCt9gQAvD_BwE
      I have four in my classroom so I set them up on a circular table. You can have one student work independently, or two students competing. My students love playing with each other. It’s extremely motivating and engaging.

      Thanks for sharing about Timocco. I just watched the video and it looks amazing! I will see about incorporating that next year, or even suggesting parents to use this at home.

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