by Kristi Lindsay
My family and I are enjoying watching the 2010 Winter Olympics. We marvel at the speed skaters racing around the rink with skates barely catching on one another and skiers hurdling themselves down the mountain at break-neck speeds.
But for me, as a mom and former educator, the best part of the Olympics is the real-world mathematics applications that occur with every event and venue. Some of these real-world math skills include counting backward, subtraction, numeric sequences, ordinal numbers, addition, greater than/less than, and charts and graphs, just to name a few.
I addressed many math skills and vocabulary with my own children as we watched the different Olympic competitions. For example, my sons
- determined snowboarders’ ranks by evaluating if scores were greater than or less than the first place score
- sequenced scores from least to greatest to determine the medalists
- counted backwards from 45 as the speed skaters completed each round of their relay
- discussed the concept of time because the relay and many other winter competitions were timed with the least time being the best score
- tracked the medals won with a chart displayed on line.
Without knowing it, the boys utilized their newly acquired skills and enjoyed the benefits of using math in real-world situations. Their new math skills helped them better understand and appreciate the sports they were watching.
Math matters when it is relevant! And, the opportunities to make math relevant are endless. My former struggling students “got math” when I explained how the skills were applicable to their every day lives. When I used simple stories, funny poems, weather charts, sports statistics or scores, and recipes to introduce and reinforce math skills, the struggling learners grasped the skills quicker. The skills became relevant! That’s why when I wrote all of the Basic Math Practice series, I made sure to include many hands-on, real-world applications to introduce and reinforce the basic math skills addressed in each binder.
As educators and parents, I urge you to make learning math skills fun for your students and children. Find what interests them. Then take advantage of those real-world, teachable moments, such as the Olympics, and make abstract, seemingly irrelevant math skills matter.