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It sounds good, but does physically active learning actually work?

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

Learning maths whilst being physically active. It definitely sounds like fun, but does it really work?

The short answer is yes, it does. A six-week study conducted by academics at Leeds Beckett University has concluded that the Maths on the Move (MOTM) programme both improves maths attainment and increases physical activity levels.

The study, conducted prior to lockdown at the end of 2019, compared outcomes for children taking part in a MOTM programme against control groups who continued with traditional classroom-style maths lessons. All MOTM sessions were delivered by experienced Aspire-trained educators.

This enabled researchers to find out how MOTM affected children’s chances of meeting the in-school activity target of 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day.

Compared to the control group:

  • · 28% more children achieved the recommended physical activity levels in a school day.

  • · On average children secured an additional 5 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and 5.7 minutes of light physical activity.

  • · There was a reduction of 9.5 minutes of inactive time.

Even prior to lockdown, less than half of children were achieving the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations around physical activity and the figure has worsened throughout the pandemic. The results of this study show that physically active learning can help to fix this problem.

So, we can increase activity, but what about maths performance?

Researchers measured maths performance using tests before and at the end of the programme. Maths attainment test performance significantly improved over time for children on the MOTM programme when compared to the control groups.

The scores for children on the MOTM programme increased from a baseline average score of 11.3/25 (45.2%) to 18.1/25 (72.4%). The scores for the control groups increased from 10.1/25 (40.4%) to 11/25 (44%) over the same period of time.

These findings support our own year-long study across the academic year 2019 – 2020, where

· 93% of children demonstrated an improvement in maths performance

· 80% of children also reported an increase in confidence relating to maths.

You can read more about that study here.

Researchers found that MOTM was an overwhelmingly positive experience for schools.

Here’s what some of the children and their teachers had to say:

Why do we need physically active learning?

Pandemic or no pandemic, all schools face the dual challenges of keeping children healthy through physical activity and ensuring their academic success.

Structured, active learning programmes enable teachers to cut the time children are expected to sit at a desk whilst still covering the academic curriculum.

Children respond positively to an active learning environment. It can boost confidence and improve academic performance.

Physical activity in school can be integrated into daily routines rather than positioned as an optional extra.

Why is Maths on the Move a good choice?

  • · Aspire has been delivering physically active learning programmes since 2010 and MOTM for five years. It’s a well-developed programme that is proven to really work.

  • · The programme has been designed to provide total flexibility to schools. It is suitable for all abilities and can be tailored to suit your pupils’ individual requirements.

  • · MOTM has been designed to meet the funding criteria laid out by both the PE and Sports Premium, and the Pupil Premium.

What’s next?

Following the success of MOTM, Aspire, MOTM programme creators, are now developing English on the Move. We expect that this programme will be available in schools from January 2022.

Find out more

We’re running a free webinar on Thursday 17th June at 4:30pm for anyone who is interested in hearing more about the latest study. The webinar, featuring Dr Jade Morris who carried out the research, will look at how and why to introduce physically active learning into your primary school.


We offer FREE trials to schools, to observe Maths on the Move in practice and assess if it’s something you’d like to offer to children.

To book a free trial e-mail our Program Lead James at or give us a call, details below:


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