Originally published Feb. 3, 2018 in the Sentinel-Tribune.

By MARIE THOMAS BAIRD, Sentinel-Tribune Education Editor

PERRYSBURG — Two math teachers at Penta Career Center are finding physical activity in the classroom is leading to better test scores.

Carrie Soellner and Shari McCourt attended a physical education conference in West Virginia three years ago. There they learned that by adding physical activity to the classroom, they could drop disciplinary problems and increase exam scores.

“It was the best PE class I have ever attended,” McCourt told the Penta board earlier this month.

So every day in Soellner’s financial literacy class, she gives the students a Brain Break and has them “spin” fitness dice. On a visit Monday, the dice landed on a three, which meant three exercises. That turned into 10 pushups, 10 jumping jacks and one minute in the plank position.

Penta’s Kyle Kolodzieski, from Perrysburg schools, does push ups with fellow students. Photo by J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune

“Come on guys, we have less than 30 seconds to go,” which elicited responses of “oh my God” and “feel the burn.”

Planks are not his favorite, said senior Anthony Borders, from Bowling Green High School and in Penta’s Powersports & Engine Systems program. In fact, Soellner’s marking of Thanksgiving with Planksgiving was brutal.

However, “I love this,” he said about the exercises. “They’re a great way to get your mind off math.”

In her second year using physical activities in the classroom, Soellner is pleased with the results.

“I have way fewer failures than when I started,” she said. “They’ve actually been really good with it.”

Although getting students on board the first day was not so easy.

“I had to reassure them I’m not just a crazy lady,” she said with a laugh.

Down the hallway in McCourt’s classroom, she was dividing students into groups of three to play Bingo Race.

Each team got a bingo page of math problems — this week it was factors — with each square being a math problem. Once a problem was solved, one student had to do an exercise before heading to the table to find the appropriate answer. The first team to get a row of answers correct won.

“This is giving them more practice,” McCourt said. “And by getting their blood flowing, they’re more likely to retain what they learned.”

The result?

“The kids are more confident in the math because they get to practice it.”

She too has seen test scores rise.

“I get tired of sitting,” agreed senior Dakota Blecke, from Eastwood High School who is enrolled in Penta’s medical technologies academy program. “I like the moving around.”

“We found a way to practice math fun,” said McCourt.

The two teachers presented their idea to a High Schools That Work conference in Nashville in 2017 to a standing-room-only crowd.

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