Balance Board Math

Balance Board Math (BBM) aims to explore what kinds of learning become possible when the balance system participates directly in mathematical activity. In BBM, learners rock on a wooden balance board to explore a range of mathematical concepts including absolute value, angles, and functions. This project reimagines human-computer interactions in math instructional design to accommodate learners’ sensory needs. We expand upon earlier efforts to develop a pedagogical platform inclusive of students’ sensory diversity using embodied design.

Current project team: Sofia Tancredi, Helen Li, Julia Wang, Kimiko Ryokai. This project is also part of the SpEED initiative.

Series of three photographs a woman sitting on wooden balance board against blue background. number line is overlaid over each image. in the first image, (sofia)’s hands are together at her midline, and point where they meet labelled 0 line. second right hand remains middle while left has moved by about foot to -4. movement resulted slight leftward tilt board. third even further another 6 inches or so -6, tilted as result.

Mechanism of the Balance Number Line. Movement of hands along the number line elicits shifts in the board’s balance.

Rationale: Some learners in Special Education, especially learners with ADHD and on the autism spectrum, need more movement stimulation than is typically offered in the classroom in order to regulate and attend (Dunn, 1997). This situation is further exacerbated by the fact that students’ spontaneous movements such as pacing or rocking are generally read as disruptive in classrooms. In parallel, recent developments in cognitive science suggest that moving in new ways forms the basis for conceptual learning (Varela et al., 1991) , and the balance sensory system has been specifically implicated in cognitive development and conceptual reasoning (Hitier et al. 2014, Antle et al., 2013). What if balance system engagement were made readily available through, and even incorporated into, instructional activities for mathematics conceptual learning? How might learners’ sensory regulation needs be fulfilled through such novel forms of instruction? How can mathematical concepts be not only seen, heard, or touched, but also perceived through balance?

Relevant Publications and Presentations:

Tancredi, S., Chen, R. S. Y., Krause, C., & Siu, Y.–T. (in press). The need for SpEED: Reimagining accessibility through Special Education Embodied Design. In S. L. Macrine & J.M. Fugate (Eds.), Movement matters: How embodied cognition informs teaching and learning.  M.I.T. Press.

Tancredi, S., Chen, R. S. Y., & Krause, C. (2021, May 6-9). SpEEDing towards equitable instruction: Special Education Embodied Design for sensory diversity (Panel). Uncommon Senses III: Back to the Future of the Senses, Montreal, Canada.

Tancredi, S., Chen, R. S. Y., Krause, C., & Abrahamson, D. (2021, March). Getting up to SpEED: Special education embodied design for sensorially equitable inclusion. Invited keynote in F. Gomez Paloma (Convener), Inclusion Week. University of Macerata, Italy, March 16, 2021.


Tancredi, S., Chen, R., Krause, C. (2021, November 13). The Need for SpEED: Special Education Embodied Design (Colloquium Talk). Graduate Group in Science and Mathematics Education (SESAME) Colloquium, Berkeley, California, United States.

Tancredi, S. (2020, October). The Balance Number Line; Incorporating Vestibular Activation into Math Instruction. Poster presented at STAR Sensory Symposium, Virtual Symposium, October 9, 2020.

Tancredi, S., Chen, R., & Krause, C. (2020, February 2). The need for SpEED: Special education embodied design (Panel). UC-SpEDDR, Los Angeles, California.