Using Sports to Motivate Math Learners: Examples for Teaching Mathematical Literacy

Using Sports to Motivate Math Learners: Examples for Teaching Mathematical Literacy

Natalie Lynn Kautz, Michelle A. Kowalsky
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4721-2.ch015
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Motivating 21st century mathematics learners is becoming increasingly difficult. Most students will no longer sit still and learn using the methods that were utilized in classrooms 100 years ago. Today, many teachers struggle to find ways to excite their students while teaching them mathematics. This chapter will present ideas for mathematics learning using sports, a particular area of interest for students of all ages. The rich variety of numbers generated by all types of sports, as well as connections to popular culture extensions, naturally provides opportunities for exploration in numerical literacy. Using real sports data, students can perform operations and calculations, do statistical analyses, and create charts or graphs to enhance their learning of both basic and advanced operations. Nearly every concept taught in a K-12 mathematics curriculum can be adapted to include sports information.
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Naturally, we must start with the standards in order to determine difficulty levels. The Common Core State Standards Initiative aims to prepare kindergarten through twelfth grade students for college, career, and life. At the time of the writing of this article, forty-one states, the District of Columbia, and four territories have adopted these standards (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010a). The Common Core’s high-quality standards for mathematics and technological literacy lend themselves easily to exploration with sports. While various approaches to data literacy have emerged to engage students at all levels among the sciences, social sciences, and humanities (Stornaiulo, 2020; Roberts & Lyons, 2020; Visco, 2019), the basis of mathematical content must still be referenced and reinforced in its simplest form so that teachers can learn ways to integrate these concepts into their everyday teaching.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Motivation: A willingness, enthusiasm, or desire to complete a task.

Curriculum: Subjects to be studied in a school (plural, curricula ).

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: Since 1920, the world’s largest mathematics education organization, which advocates for high-quality mathematics teaching and maintains a set of assessment standards or mathematics goals for students.

Neurotypical: Having typical or ordinary brain development, not on the autism spectrum, not having neurologic or developmental disorders.

Differentiated Instruction (or Differentiation): An effective teaching method that provides all students in a classroom the learning styles and techniques that meet their individual needs, even if that means providing different activities for different students.

Geometry: A branch of mathematics concerned with points, lines, angles, planes, surfaces, shapes, and solids.

Numeracy: The ability to understand and interpret numbers with confidence, and use them to solve real world problems.

Manipulatives: Objects that help students see mathematical concepts through hands-on experiences that are often engaging for children.

Common Core Standards: A set of research-based academic standards in mathematics and English/language arts literacy that outline the skills students should have acquired by the completion of each grade level. The standards are maintained by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices. As of 2020, forty-one states, the District of Columbia, and four territories have voluntarily adopted the Common Core Standards.

Statistics: A branch of science that deals with probability, data collection, organization, analysis, interpretation, inferences, and presentation of quantitative data.

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