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Sliding geometry into memory
Oak Park teacher uses popular dance in math instruction

By Bayne Hughes 340-2432

A seventh-grade teacher has turned an Oak Park Middle School commons area into a combination dance floor/graph paper.

Teacher Sara Parsley is using the "Electric Slide," a song that's popular in country line dancing, disco and hip hop, to teach geometry. Students are laughing and having a good time as they follow the dance instructions of the emcee.

They're learning terms like translation, transfer, reflection and rotation to describe the dance steps. As they rotate through the steps, Parsley asks them how many degrees they've rotated. Students answer in unison, "90 degrees." When they turn again, they respond to her inquiry, "180 degrees."

Now the students respond quickly with a geometric answer.

What does translation mean? "That's what we do when we slide to the left and then slide to the right," student Gary Grisham III said.

What does rotation mean? "That's when we turn but the center stays in the same spot," student Jalen Daily said.

What about transfer? "That's just moving in general," Lily Hess said.

Parsley baffled the students when she first took them into the commons and began talking about learning the "Electric Slide." Some were familiar with the song/dance, but most weren't.

"At first, it was kind of frustrating as we tried to learn the steps, but then it became a lot of fun," said Daily, who likes it when the announcer says, "Cha-cha-cha, slide to the left/right."

Grisham said he usually doesn't dance, but Parsley found a way that even the coolest students thought was a great way to learn geometry.

Most of the students agreed that Silk Watson, Katie Long and Daily were the best Electric Slide dancers in the class.

"It's definitely a lot more fun than copying notes off the board and sitting in our desks doing nothing while listening to a lecture," Daily said.

Principal Dwight Satterfield said Parsley impressed him with the way she imbedded a lesson into something that was fun.

"If she'd just gone over it in the class, they probably wouldn't remember it over the long term," Satterfield said. "Now they'll always remember doing the 'Electric Slide' in Ms. Parsley's class and the geometry terms they learned while doing the dance."

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