Though most states mandate physical education for all public school students, many schools aren’t necessarily doing enough to ensure that students get the most out of these classes as is possible. While it may not be immediately apparent through a cursory glance at physical education curriculum, the subject actually presents a valuable opportunity to reinforce skills and concepts learned in other academic areas.

PE presents a valuable opportunity to reinforce other subject areas.

Through a mix of blended learning, creative curriculum and classroom management, gym can become a magnificent learning opportunity for all students. Take a look at these suggestions:

Change the Rules of the Game to Support the Classroom

By nature, gym class presents a wonderful opportunity to hone students’ understanding of scientific curriculum. Since the coursework undertaken centers on physical activity and well-being, gym teachers have a unique capacity to explain subjects such as kinesiology, nutrition, and anatomy. These subjects can also be used to deepen student understanding of mathematics and English. In a recent tweet, Marquette’s College of Education posted a New York Times article that describes how some Florida teachers are making this happen.

If you are considering this in your school, you might begin by incorporating scientific explanations of activities that also use math and English topics into your curriculum. For example, when students are stretching or exercising, you can have them count their repetitions by various numbers in order to reinforce basic mathematics. You might also post lists of vocabulary words around the gym and have students define one or more before they can move to another station.

Play Math Tag

Another wonderful idea for integrating mathematics into gym class is involving  games that your students are already playing. For example, PE Central has advocated the use of an activity called math tag. In this game, students line up in pairs and then each proceeds to shake one hand at the other three times in sequence, much like rock paper scissors. Once they’ve reached the third shake, each student tries to add the total number of fingers extended. The first person to say the number aloud then runs while the other one chases them. The game is simple, requires little to no equipment besides an open space, and can be relied on to enforce basic addition.

Write Nutrition Journals

Most gym classes have some component of education geared toward nutrition and proper diet. This presents a perfect chance to hone students’ writing skills, in addition to helping them live more healthfully. In order to do so, the Yale – New Haven Teachers Institute recommends keeping nutrition journals, in which students document what they’re eating and its nutritional value. This can easily be worked into any unit on nutrition, requires only a notebook, and is a great opportunity for your students to practice writing. You can even incorporate vocabulary words for that extra boost.