Teacher incorporates Dancing with the Stars in math, writing lesson plans

DUNDALK - When you watch Dancing with the Stars, you see bright lights, fancy costumes and intricate footwork.  When fourth grade teacher Stephanie Minderlein watches the show, she sees math problems and writing exercises.

ABC's hit dance show is cha-cha-ing its way into Minderlein's class at Dundalk Elementary school.  She's a huge fan of the show and when she learned her kids loved it too, it seemed like a no-brainer to combine the show with her lesson plans.

"I have in previous years incorporated different things that the students like just because it engages them more in the learning and it makes it more fun for them," Minderlein said.

The students use the dancers' scores to calculate mean, median, mode and range.  They keep track of scores on line graphs and bar graphs.  And they demonstrate the different elements of geometry by coming up with fun dances to popular songs like "What Does the Fox Say?"

"It’s much more fun and it brings more excitement to it," said Da’Jhe Pratters, one of Minderlein's students.

"Our teacher gives us fun stuff to do, she doesn’t give us packets and boring stuff," said Jacob Morehouse, whose nickname is Mini Hough, after pro dancer Derek Hough.

One of the writing lessons included penning persuasive letters to Hough, asking him to visit their classroom.  While the star dancer couldn't fit the kids into his busy schedule, he did send them each personalized autograph pictures.

"They’re very enthusiastic, they’re very excited about learning, which is great to see," said Minderlein.

Since she began using Dancing with the Stars in her lesson plans, Minderlein says she has seen big improvements in her students.  She said their test scores are going up and they're learning how to work together as a team.

"It is time consuming to come up with the lesson plans," she said.  "But the reaction on their faces and the enthusiasm they show in the classroom makes it all worth it."

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