Yonatan Berman is an IB school Mathematics teacher; originally from Israel, now living and teaching in Berlin and studying for his M.A in Educational Entrepreneurship in the Oulu University of Applied Science.
Yonatan created a new methodology that combines body memory and kinesthetic learning to encourage Math learning in a fun and engaging way while promoting social learning and teamwork among students.
Tell us about yourself, where are you from and what led you into education?
I am originally from Israel, where I studied electrical engineering and got my teaching certificate for math in secondary schools.
As a kid in school, I was one of those who during break time stayed in class and taught a lesson to my classmates. After graduating high school,
I was tutoring kids of various ages. I did it as a side job to my “real” job as an engineer until I decided to make a career change and become a teacher.
I was lucky to have extraordinary teachers throughout my school career who made math simple and accessible, even in the high levels. My main mission as a teacher is to create the same positive experience and use diverse pedagogical methods to make math look simple and useful.
How do you develop yourself as a teacher and what tips would you have for others?
Once you are in the school system, you are not officially required to participate in any professional development program. There are very few incentives, the curriculum remains the same regardless of how innovative you are, and I felt there is not much place for flexibility or personal interpretation. Therefore, I independently kept on reading blogs, following trends, attending conferences and then implemented new innovative methods in my lessons. Although it sounds promising, quite often it backfired and caused tension between other teachers who wanted to stick to their teaching style and not accept new tools or technology.
What is your most successful experience in the classroom?
When I manage to transform a math lesson into an interactive engaging experience. For example, in percentages lesson, the students used spreadsheets and created their own store. They had to price their products, perform taxes and currency conversion calculations, and allow price increase and decrease. Then they “visited” each others’ shops and simulated a purchase experience.
So what is Movematics?
The common element in the different creative ideas I bring into my lessons is movement. Kids struggle with the idea of sitting in one place throughout the entire day, every day. There are 3 main types of learning: auditory, visual and kinesthetic, and traditional teaching hardly pays attention to kinesthetic learning. Students remember an experience rather than a lecture, therefore, I developed math dances that promote social learning and teamwork, create a positive experience and creative work. By screening a video with music and distinct graphic elements, allowing the kids to move or perform simple hand gestures, all main learning styles are being addressed and all students are included in the experience.
How did you come up with this idea?
I study for a Master’s degree in Educational Entrepreneurship in Oulu University of Applied Science. We discuss innovative educational approaches and through the assignments and periodic boot camps, we are encouraged to execute creative ideas into a real product. Another inspiration is the dance world. Dancers are a perfect example of body memory and kinesthetic learning. If you ask dancers how they remember such long and complex dance routines, they simply reply that the body remembers. As part of my thesis, I discovered that researchers support this concept as very useful when preparing lesson plans. Besides bringing fun and creativity into the classroom, it also supports students when memorizing concepts or formulas. Why memorize a formula, if you can form the formula? Instead of formula sheets or repetitive geometry exercises students can create class photos, funny videos etc.
How do students and other teachers respond to it?
In the beginning, teachers were quite sceptic, as they thought they had to perform or dance in front of their students. Although they are more than welcome to do so, they can also click “play” and screen the video in class. It is important to mention that it doesn’t replace teaching or practice. It doesn’t take much of class time and is a great way to change the atmosphere.
What is your big goal with this project?
The main goal is: fun! It wouldn’t hurt anyone to use humour in lessons and help some students to be less anxious or stressed. It has great different interpretations from students all over the world and would love to reach out to many of them. Movement is an international language and combined with math it can be a tool to connect and promote creativity among students, that can be understood without using words.
What is the ideal school for you?
Schools in Finland set the perfect role model. For example, Kastelli school in Oulu which I visited as part of the Master’s program. The interior design, the distinct facilities of each room like modular furniture and diverse work stations all create a safe and inspiring place for students that encourages learning and creativity. Vast daylight and green spaces make these schools up-to-date and relevant, as well as the thorough training and full autonomy that teachers get.
WHO? Yonatan Berman. He teaches math in Tel Aviv and Berlin for 10 years. He is passionate about math and making his lesson more fun and engaging for the students. Founder of Movemathics Follow Yonatan on Freeed.com.