Make Math an Olympic Event: Go for the Gold!

By: Mary Kienstra on: February 3, 2014  in: Olympics. engagement

This year we have an outstanding opportunity to bring a real life event to our math classrooms.  The Winter Olympics in Sochi are just the thing to help our students realize that math is everywhere.  Let’s make math an Olympic event.

The Sochi Winter Olympics are coming up this week.  What a perfect way for students to see numbers in real life. My students will choose a sport or event to research and then become the “expert.” They’ll find 5 ways that math is used in that sport, 4 fun facts about the sport, 3 medal winners (gold, silver, and bronze), 1 graph and 1 sentence about the graph, and 1 way the event is scored.  This information will become a presentation to the class.
When my students entered the room, the “Olympic Theme” by John Williams was playing.  Very few of them had heard it. They were curious.  Then I asked them to write a list of everything they know about the Winter Olympics.  I was shocked by what little background knowledge they had.  They are very excited about the project though!

Time for Kids Online is a good resource for students to find information about the Olympics.  The Sochi 2014 site and the NBC Olympics site also have information that students will need to help them complete this assignment.  I plan to make a giant pictograph where we can keep track of the USA medals – gold, silver, and bronze.  That way we can discuss the games each day and talk about what is happening.  I’m sure there will be some interesting videos available during the Olympics that will keep the excitement alive in class.  I’ll keep my eyes open as every newspaper and magazine will have Olympic information that I can share with my students.

My experience is that kids always love the Olympics.  Focusing this student interest on math is a good way to enhance the math curriculum and bring it to life.  When it comes to student engagement in math: Go for the Gold!

What other kinds of Olympic lessons are you using?  Please share your ideas!

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