Strong Body, Strong Mind: The Effects of Implementing Physical Activity within a Mathematics Course for Deployed Sailors
Test anxiety can act as a major inhibitor for students to perform to their ability. Students can find that what life decisions they are going to be afforded is going to be determined by a series of multiple choice mathematics questions. There must be a way to deal with their test anxiety so that the true nature of their knowledge is displayed, and in the process promote learning. Meditative breathing, stretching, and physical activity have been shown to reduce stress. Furthermore, physical activity has also shown an effect on behavioral and cognitive states. This study investigates if these activities can be used in the classroom to promote learning and achievement within a mathematics course. In order to find students who share a minimum level of physical fitness and operate under some of the most stressful conditions possible, the participants were chosen from mathematics courses taught to sailors while on deployment. Two same class ships were chosen to be a part of the study. Each ship had courses split into exercise groups and a control group. Students were given a pre-test followed by eight weeks of instruction and then a post-test, interview data was collected after the course. During the instruction, weekly reviews were set so control groups were rewarded with points for correct answers and exercise groups were tasked with physical activity for incorrect answers.
Study A found that post test scores were not significantly different between the exercise and control group. However, the exercise group did attend more tutoring events than their counterparts. Interview data did indicate students in the exercise group felt a greater sense of engagement, fun, and camaraderie. Based upon variations in mathematic exposure between the two groups another study was planned to find participant groups that were closer reflections of each other.
Study B was conducted with a more reflective representation of student math background. The results found that the exercise group scored higher in post-test and tutoring events than the control group. Interview data also showed consistent results with Study A, where the exercise group reported a greater sense of engagement, fun and camaraderie.