Foot tapping, thumb twiddling, and finger drumming can all be considered ways to stave off boredom and occupy time. Those techniques, however, may now be considered outdated thanks to a new craze: fidget spinners.
“It keeps him occupied at times when he otherwise might be complaining about being bored,” John Kane said of his 7-year-old son Jake. “It keeps him busy, but it’s a good kind of busy.”
Fidget spinners, or toys that consist of a bearing in the center of a multi-lobed structure made from metal or plastic designed to spin along the axis, began to rise in popularity in April 2017, when there was a spike in Google searches for the term. By May, some variety of fidget spinner occupied the top 20 spots on Amazon’s list of best-selling toys.
“I don’t know why I love them so much,” Jake Kane, a Columbus Elementary student, said. “I guess I just like to see them spin.”
Forest Lake resident and home-school student Aurora Erickson values her glow-in-the-dark fidget spinner as an invaluable tool.
“It helps me to concentrate more when my hands have something to be occupied with,” she said.
Erickson’s passion for her spinner, however, goes beyond just using it to pass the time.
Jake and Aurora are certainly not the only youth infatuated by the fidget spinner craze. Many students have latched onto the spinners, and subsequently many schools have been forced to come up with rules regarding their use.
Wyoming Elementary fourth-grade teacher Aimee Ferguson decided to embrace the craze and use it to her advantage. She took a cue from author and public speaker Denis Sheeran, who advocates for making the things that students are already into relevant from an educational standpoint.
“I thought to myself, ‘Clearly, these fidget spinners matter to my students,’” she said. “I wanted to find a way to create a math lesson around the phenomenon.”
Ferguson was teaching her students about decimals at the time the toys really became prevalent. She surprised her students by requesting that they bring their spinners to class. She had them use a stopwatch to time how long the devices would spin. If the stopwatch determined that the fidget spinner spun for 5.27 seconds, students were tasked with finding the tens place, the ones place, the decimal point, the tenths place, and the hundredths place. After three spins, they added all the times together. She also used the spinners to calculate values for ranges and averages.
“This worked very well to get my students excited about math,” Ferguson said. “A worksheet would have shut them off. Here, they were adding and subtracting decimals, and they thought they were just playing with fidget spinners.”
Previously, Ferguson had written a math lesson involving bottle flipping. The idea behind that craze was to flip a bottle and attempt to get it to land upright.
“I have no idea what the next craze will be,” she said. “But I do know that I will find a way to use it to engage my students in a worthwhile way.”