As the new year is now upon us and gaining STEAM, we decided to write a blog post on sports and math FUN.
With the college football national championship approaching, and the NFL playoff and upcoming Superbowl hype all around us, I decided to write about my favorite subjects,
sports, the human mind, and math fun.
January also brings us the premier figure within science, math, and physics, Sir Isaac Newton, born Jan 4, 1643
Many of us are drawn to sports to witness the incredible. To see nearly super human feats accomplished on a regular basis. Witnessing the 120 mile per hour ball exit speed of a towering Aaron Judge home run in Yankee stadium, or a perfectly executed 3 point shot by Stephen Curry that averages a more than a 50 degree arc after leaving his hands can be enough to leave many in awe of sports and the physics that are inherent. However, there is another force at work that connects to a much larger portion of the human race. It is the focus and dedication it took for people like those mentioned above, to be able to routinely complete those tasks.
The way that these students of the game and followers of Newtonian physics trained their minds and their bodies over time to make it all possible.
This blog is dedicated to improving the way that ALL students learn math and use it in life, we will be drawing comparisons to Newton’s 3 laws of motion.
If we substitute, a student’s mind for a body, Newton’s first law would read, “A student’s mind at rest, tends to stay at rest, and a student’s mind in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” Just like the muscles of an athlete must be worked and conditioned to stave off atrophy that comes from prolonged rest or injury, the mind of a student cannot take prolonged time off from mathematical thinking. In a study by the NSLA, it was discovered that, ”Summer learning loss is one of the most significant causes of the achievement gap between lower and higher income you and one of the strongest contributors to the high school dropout rate… most youth lose about 2.6 months of math skills in the summer… by fifth grade, summer learning loss can leave low-income students 2.5-3 full years behind their peers.”
We want students to be engaged and in motion as we present math information to them. Worksheets and drills can be that unbalanced force/friction that puts a quick stop to learning, while games and manipulative based learning can add spark that interest to keep thought alive.
Newton’s second law states that Force= mass X acceleration
We can be the accelerator on the mass that is the student’s naturally curious mind. We just need to unlock the key to help the student discover his or her potential in learning, and the individual power that this can provide. The same force that drives elite athletes to drill repetition in order to master simple concepts and movements like dribbling a basketball or perfecting a freestyle swimming stroke can be evoked to motivate students in mathematics. As a baseball coach at the collegiate level, with a lifetime of coaching at lower levels, I have learned that all athletes can be motivated to succeed at their highest potential. It is a matter of finding the key (process) that motivates them at an individual level.
This can come through team building activities and positive peer pressure, the feeling of overcoming obstacles and achieving personal growth, and the simplest method I have seen… making the process fun.
Players may not have thought rolling a baseball to a partner while bent at the waist and in the knees while shuffling back and forth across the length of an individual gym would be fun. However, by throwing in the element of competition between partner groups and illustrating the progression of how this activity will lead to team improvement on the baseball field, I have seen young adult males shouting and giving high fives after an extremely physical rigorous practice session.
I have also been fortunate to see this in countless classrooms and learning environments as well. I have seen students picking up on the energy of their instructor as well as the energy from their peers to gain an exciting experience of the learning process. We all know that repetition is important for the brain to learn and transfer knowledge to the unconsciously acting portion of the brain. Child development expert, Dr. Karyn Purvis, stated that, “Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain, unless it is done with play, in which case, it takes between 10-20 repetitions."
Can you imagine it, a math room with students buzzing with energy, productive thought, positive interaction, and emotional growth through the failures? This is similar to the energy and feel of practices I worked to design on a daily basis for my baseball players.
Similar to the way that a baseball or softball batter can turn around the velocity of a pitched ball and send it hurtling towards the field of play, we as educators, can help determine and accelerate the direction and velocity of the students’ minds with whom we work. Teachers and parents can redirect the frustration their students experience in math with fun games and projects that build towards a culture of success and achievement. They can intervene by helping their students have math fun and improve outcomes using their own directed energy to help students accelerate their learning curve, and most importantly, their own curiosity by setting minds in motion.
Some of the most fun our students can have with us and each other comes from games. Many of the most popular sports are a game, featuring competition, teamwork, and social interaction. Games in the classroom or at home are a great way to develop learning and long term perseverance similar to that of sports in our society, while reducing much of the anxiety (student and instructor) that can come with math time. Learning games are a great way to introduce and improve things like; strategy, problem solving, decision making, fun repetition, teamwork, social interaction (peer to peer learning), multisensory application, and friendly competition. Students that play math games are better able to apply practiced concepts to real life situations and flourish as learners for life.
MANGO Math provides ideal processes, plans, and games for easy use anytime anywhere. Our game-based math kits get students excited and engaged in learning math. Studies show that when students play and have math fun, their math scores and confidence improve. We have helped tens of thousands of students enjoy their math learning more and are on a mission to reach more students and empower more instructors every day.
If you would like to learn more about making math fun for your students, please email me at email@example.com
To see some great examples of math in sports check out ESPN's Sports Science Site:
To learn more about Sir Isaac Newton's contributions to the Scientific Revolution of the 17th Century, watch this video by Neil deGrasse Tyson: