When ‘Kicking and Screaming’ is Part of the Curriculum

Thursday, April 18, 2019

by Brittany Baronski '19

Allison Young, a fifth-year student graduating from Saint Joseph’s University’s combined 5-year undergraduate and graduate program in mathematics education, has been changing up the way her students think about math.

Together with Tetyana Berezovski, Ph.D., director of the graduate program, Young began developing martial arts-based mathematics curriculum for middle school students using lessons she developed in an after school program in Philadelphia run by Zhang Sah Martial Arts last summer.

“I definitely believe that a large portion of the anxiety surrounding math comes from not being able to see real world connections. When students are not able to see how they can relate to the subject, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking it is not useful,” Young explains. “However, when they see the problems as connected to non-academic things such as karate, they are able to look at the problem in a new and less challenging way.”

Young believes that math is everywhere – that it is not difficult to find connections between math and everyday activities. She picked exercises specifically to get students out of their seats and interact with math first hand.

“The students like being able to physically 'do the math' by getting up and doing the martial arts moves from the assignments,” says Young. “In doing so, they can let their imagination and curiosity run free and often think of high-level academic questions and ideas that I had not even considered while creating the curriculum.”

In January 2019, Young presented her study at the Joint Mathematical Meeting, which is the world’s largest mathematic conference. While at the conference, Young received an outstanding poster award – marking the first time the university has received such recognition.

For Young, math is fun and interesting – and the satisfaction she gets from seeing a student light up when they understand a topic is unparalleled.

“I am so excited to bring fun and new ideas to my classroom. There is so much possibility for education now with modern technology that I don’t want to ever have a ‘boring’ day in class,” Young says. “From doing karate and other activities that my students like, to looking into modern day math and mathematicians, to student-led interactive projects and everything in between, I know my classroom will be one in which students learn to love and appreciate math as much as I do!”

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