Thursday, November 19, 2009

Review: Gymathtics by Exploramania

I've read numerous times the benefits of getting kids moving while learning. To increase retention, experts recommend activities such as tossing a ball back and forth while learning spelling words or performing jumping jacks while reciting multiplication tables. I've found the science behind this theory to be valid. My daughter used to reduce the time required to memorize AWANA verses by jumping rope with the words. A mini-trampoline in our school room has also been utilized to set physical rhythm to items for memorization with successful results. An added bonus is that my kids are getting a bit of exercise in the process.
This movement and learning correlation has been embraced by Gymathtics, an exercise DVD by Exploramania. In this 30-minute DVD, Carrie Scheiner, Exploramania founder, leads four young people of various ages (age 6 - college, meet the cast) through exercises integrated with math instruction . You can read about Ms. Scheiner's inspiration for Gymathtics here.

Four exercise segments appear on the DVD: Shape Stretches Warm Up, Counting Calisthenics, Pattern Power, and Well-Being Wind Down. The following video shows a clip from each section.

The math concepts taught are approximately a 2nd - 5th grade level. Basic geometry is taught in Shape Stretches, counting (odd, even, place value) numbers in Counting Calisthenics, and patterns (using sequence of exercises) in Pattern Power. The last segment, Well-Being Wind Down, does not include any math concepts. Instead, this segment focuses on relaxation and lifestyle sayings in combination with the stretches.

While I like the concept, this DVD didn't go over well in our household. The age of my kids, 10 and almost 13, was most likely a contributing factor. Not only are my kids beyond the math concepts, they felt the DVD was a little too cheesy to make it tolerable. I tend to agree with the hokey assessment and I found the numerous high fives between cast members a bit irritating. Of course, I've never been one for a Richard Simmons approach to exercise. We have numerous exercise DVDs geared toward kids collecting dust in our household, an indication that the anti-Richard Simmons movement is genetic.

I think younger kids, perhaps in the age 5-8 range, may have a better appreciation for Gymathtics. The exercises are easy enough for younger ones, but still provide a good workout for various ages. I liked that there are several ages in the DVD with varying abilities. This will avoid discouragement among viewers. If exercise DVDs are your thing, Gymathtics would be a productive method of getting the wiggles out while learning. Save time by doing PE and math review at the same time!

For the math concepts, I liked the Shape Stretches the best as I felt it most successfully merged the physical body with the math element. I would have liked to see the math carried through to the last segment, Well-Being Wind Down. Instead of math instruction, comments like “Eat healthy foods in moderate portions,” and “Respect and appreciate people and the planet,” are said throughout. While some respond well to this sort of encouragement, it just adds to the hokey factor for me. It also struck me as a rather abrupt shift away from the math in the rest of the DVD.

With the cold weather approaching, this DVD may be the perfect tool to keep your kids appropriately active indoors and a welcome change to seat work. The award-winning Gymathics can be purchased for $24.99 at the Exploramania website. You may also be interested in the second of the series which targets 4th-7th grade, Gymathetics 2.0, due to be released soon.

Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew's blog to read more reviews on this product and others.

Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result in my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew, a team of 100+ homeschooling parents. While the product was provided at no expense to me in order to provide this review, I have not received any other compensation. Furthermore, receipt of the product does not guarantee a positive review. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool.

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