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Math with the Dancemat

Working groupKnowledge Construction
Junior Research Group Neuro-cognitive Plasticity
FundingDFG (3rd funding phase)
Project description

Basic research on numerical cognition suggests that numbers are represented along a spatially oriented mental number line. This number line representation is crucial for complex arithmetic procedures as it is associated with children’s understanding of numerical magnitude. Additionally, recent research suggests that the development of the mental number line can be promoted by sensorimotor experiences in accordance with theories of embodied cognition. Accordingly, can children profit from embodied cognition when learning numerical competencies? Are sensorimotor experiences beneficial for learning more complex numerical and arithmetic concepts and procedures?

A the IWM it is investigated how sensorimotor experiences on a digital dancemat can be used to corroborate numerical development complementing the traditional model of teaching and learning arrangements in a way that is conducive to learning. In the first and second funding period, it was observed consistently that embodied numerical trainings are effective for primary school children learning basic numerical competencies. In particular, numerical competencies, such as the understanding of number magnitude along a mental number line or the place-value structure of the Arabic number system, could be trained successfully using physical experiences when children stepped to the left and to the right on the dancemat. In the current funding period, it is planned to extend these findings to more complex numerical contents and new target groups. Therefore, the focus will be on natural and, in particular, negative numbers. The understanding of negative numbers provides an important building block for dealling with numerical issues in everyday life, such as understanding temperatures, debit and credit, and sea level. Moreover, higher mathematical contents, such as algebraic equations, require a mastery of negative numbers.

The following examples for research questions give an insight into the research activities of the IWM:

Can spatial-numerical associations be extended by the range of negative numbers? Is an embodied training conducive to learning negative numbers in pupils beyond primary school (5th to 7th grade)?

The IWM conducts fundamental research with practical relevance. The project provides insights into the development of bodily influences on numerical processing. Furthermore, these findings constitute further steps towards the development of a media-supported intervention programs.


Prof. Dr. Hans-Christoph Nürk, University of Tübingen, Psychological Institute, Section Diagnostics and Cognitive Neuropsychology


Dackermann, T. Fischer, U., Nuerk, H.-C., Cress, U., & Moeller, K. (2017). Applying embodied cognition: from useful interventions and their theoretical underpinnings to practical applications. ZDM Mathematics Education.  https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11858-017-0850-z

Fischer, U., Moeller, K.,Class, F., Huber, S., Cress, U., & Nuerk, H.-C. (2016). Dancing with the SNARC: Measuring spatial-numerical associations on a digital dance mat. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70, 306-315.  https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cep0000084

Dackermann, T., Fischer, U., Cress, U., Nuerk, H.-C., & Moeller, K. (2016). Bewegtes Lernen numerischer Kompetenzen. Themenheft: Psychologie und Wissensmedien. Psychologische Rundschau, 67(2), 102-109.  https://dx.doi.org/10.1026/0033-3042/a000302