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Math Games for Every Sport

Celebrate spring’s big days in sports with slam-dunk-home-run-ace-in-the-hole classroom games.

  • Grades: 3–5

Earth Day is Every Day Gearing up for an April study on the environment? Don't miss our unit "A Balancing Act," with thoughtful ideas for discussing and studying endangered animals.

March — March Madness by the Numbers

Enjoy the NCAA basketball tournament and math practice all March long! Give each student 24 small pieces of paper and 12 plastic cups. Invite students to put the name of a different college team on each piece of paper. Then have them put two pieces of paper at random into each cup, and blindly pick one out of each cup to determine the “winner.” Have students keep track of each team’s record and average (wins divided by games played).
Overtime: Give students game scores—for instance, Rutgers 24 v. University of Connecticut 10. By what percentage did RU outscore UConn?

Early April — Major League Conversion

Here’s a quick dice game to practice calculating batting averages. Students roll a pair of dice (an “at bat”). A 2, 3, 11, or 12 is a “hit”; any other roll is an “out.” Students keep rolling the dice and keeping track of hits. At several points in the game, stop the play and ask kids to create the fraction and decimal for the batting average (hits divided by at bats). For example, in the case of 2 for 3, the fraction would be 2/3 and the decimal .67. Play individually or in teams with a batting order and innings.
Extra inning: How much more likely is it that you’ll roll a 6 than a 12? Compare various dice rolls; ask for answers in fractions.

May — Kentucky Derby

On a piece of paper, have each student draw a racetrack—a large oval with a smaller oval inside. Then draw a vertical line at the bottom center for the start/finish line. Divide the track into fractions—quarter poles (top, right, and left), eighth poles (halfway between the quarter poles), and sixteenth poles (halfway between the eighth poles). Challenge students to draw their horses running at various fractions: 3/8, 5/16, 3⁄4, and 11/16, for example.
Triple Crown: Try fractions between the fractions. Where would a horse be at 23/32 around the track? Or 61/64?

Late May — Indianapolis 500

Fast finishers? Let students take a trip to Indianapolis for the fastest sports race of the year—and fractions practice for speedsters. Give each student two columns of numbers: one containing the numbers of total race laps (e.g., 20) and the other containing the numbers of completed laps (10). Challenge students to race against time to come up with the reduced fractions and decimals (1/2 or .500) for each pair in their columns.
Victory lap: Do the same activity with miles per hour. Give average speed per lap (i.e., 100 mph) and an actual speed on that lap (80 mph) and race to give the fraction and decimal.

Early June— Stanley Cup Finals

Break up a long lesson with some learning-packed fun: Invite students to hit a “hockey puck” (black paper crumpled and flattened) with their pencils into a shoebox “goal” for a small prize. The trick: The student must convert a given decimal into a fraction (e.g., .75 into 3/4), then get the puck in the exact number of times (3 out of 4 times).
Overtime: Instead of a decimal, give a large fraction (24/32) to reduce (3/4).

Late June — Wimbledon Bingo

Have breakfast at Wimbledon any day leading up to the big event. Invite students to draw a tennis racket head—a big circle with 10 horizontal lines and 10 vertical ones, creating 100 small boxes the right size for a Cheerio. Kids can number boxes 1 through 100 if they like. Explain that these numbers represent percents. Give a small handful of Cheerios to each student. Call out a fraction. Each student will race to convert the fraction to a percentage and put a piece of cereal in the appropriate box.
Extra sets: In pairs, have one student put two pieces of cereal down on two number boxes to create a fraction, then have the other student calculate the decimal (reducing if possible).

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