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West Valley View, Avondale, Arizona, Friday, April 6, 2012


Math gets a roundhouse kick Quentin Elem. teacher uses ninja moves to teach fractions

VANESSA ASLAN-BLAIR, EIGHTH-GRADE math teacher at Quentin Elementary in Avondale, uses ninja moves to teach her pupils about fractions.

by Emily McCann staff writer

Pupils in Vanessa Aslan-Blair’s eighth- grade math classes at Quentin Elementary in

Avondale are dominating fractions with a swift kick and a chop of their hands. Aslan-Blair started incorporating ninja moves into her math lessons about seven years ago to appeal to pupils’ multiple senses.

“The students who are not visual learners, that are the bodily kinesthetic kids, that

is how they process the information,” she said. “Instead of me sitting there lecturing 100 percent of the time only doing visual and auditory, they actually get to feel the motion.” She even created a video, in which she wears a full ninja costume and teaches about adding and subtracting fractions, using her arms as numerators and legs for denominators. “The first time I do it, I wear the ninja costume,” Aslan-Blair said. “They get a huge kick out of it. I have to be very discreet and not give them any hints beforehand, because I want them to be surprised.” To see for yourself how it’s done, go to “When Ms. Blair first showed it to us, we didn’t think it was her,” Akeriya Baselt, 14, said. “Then she showed us the credits. It was really funny, but it helped us. It’s a lot easier to learn with the method than trying to read it from the book, because the book makes it sound really confusing.” Most pupils have difficulty with fractions, Aslan-Blair said. She has other ninja moves for multiplying and dividing fractions, but hasn’t put them on video yet. “At first I thought it was kind of crazy and weird, but now I like the idea of it,” Fabien Gutierrez, 14, said. “I never got multiplying them until we started doing the flipping of the hand movements and I started to get used to it.” Aslan-Blair never did martial arts before she started using the method, but said she wanted to create a different way for her pupils to

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View photos by Emily McCann

ZACHARY CALDARA, 14, RIGHT, Alexis Cossy Leon, 13, and Jatavious Sanders, 14, practice doing fractions using ninja moves in their eighth-grade classroom at Quentin Elementary in Avondale.


“The best part of doing this is actually seeing it work,” she said. “Students will be taking a test and making slight motions in their seats — trying to be discreet — then getting 100’s on their tests.”

Aslan-Blair also uses other bodily kinesthetic activities to teach different forms of math, including disco moves for slope and the YMCA song to explain Y equals MX plus B.

“This is the one the kids seem to have the most fun with, because they feel like they’re little ninjas,” she said. “I think it’s a good way to teach us;

it’s catchy and I like doing it,” Fabien said. “The movements are something different instead of just her being in front of the class writing on the board.”

Emily McCann can be reached by email at or on Twitter @NewsbyEmily.

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