Search form

'Sports Math' Scores Points
With Students and Teachers


Looking for math activities to connect with this week's big Homecoming game? Teachers can grab students' interest with a site that teams math with sports -- and everyone comes out a winner! Included: Math teaching resources for all sports, all grades!

"Students need to be actively involved in the learning process. Finding some common ground with the kids can often mean the difference between success and frustration."

That's the philosophy shared by Tennessee teacher Terry Carter and other members of the instructional design team who created Tennessee Sports Math, a Web site that turns sports fans into math enthusiasts by providing lessons and activities that connect the classroom with the clubhouse. A single visit can turn your math lessons into home runs and your classroom spectators into enthusiastic participants!


The Tennessee Sports Math Project began in 1997, when Dr. Gary Keplinger, a Tennessee middle school teacher and former market researcher, obtained a Goals 2000 grant that allowed him to implement a plan to motivate his "at-risk" students by capitalizing on one of their major interests outside the classroom -- Tennessee sports. Keplinger recruited a team of Tennessee math, science, and physical education teachers to design and write sports-related activities appropriate for students in sixth through ninth grades. The result is a site that makes available more than 30 lessons and activities connected to a variety of Tennessee sports teams and sporting events.

The site includes resources for other grades as well. And many of the activities found on the site can be adapted to relate to sports teams in other localities or to national teams. As a matter of fact, plans are in the works to construct a new USA Sports Math site! (More on those projects later.)


Visitors to the Tennessee Sports Math site can access the activities either by sport or by learner objectives. Looking for an activity to connect to next week's big homecoming football game? Click to access by Sport Activities at the home page and check out Predict the Victor. In this activity, students find and record each team's statistics in a variety of categories, including average yards rushing, average yards passing, average number of penalties and yards lost, average time of possession, and average score per game. They then determine which team has the higher average in each category and which player on each team has the best statistics. Students analyze the information to predict the winning team and final score of an upcoming game. Finally, students are asked to apply their knowledge and identify other factors that might influence the outcome of the game.

If soccer, rather than football, is the sport of the season, provide students with a ball and invite them to play Soccer Geometry, as they answer questions, including the following:

  1. What polygons are on a soccer ball? Are they regular polygons?
  2. How many diagonals can be drawn in the polygons?
  3. Determine the surface area of the soccer ball, using the formula for surface area of a sphere. A=4~r in inches and centimeters.
  4. Soccer field sizes vary from 100 to 130 yards long (touch lines) and 50 to 100 yards wide (goal lines). Convert these measurements to meters.
  5. The penalty area in front of the goal measures 44 yards wide and extends 18 yards in front of the goal. Calculate this rectangular area.
  6. On a sheet of unlined paper, make a scale drawing of a soccer field. Include goals, goal area, penalty area, halfway line, and kickoff circle.

If you're interested in motivating your middle school students to learn a particular concept or skill, rather than in finding activities related to a particular sport, you can click to access by Learner Objectives instead. Here you'll find a list of curriculum areas that include Numeration; Whole Number Operations and Integers; Fractions; Decimals; Graphs, Tables, and Charts; Measurement; Geometry; Problem Solving; Probability and Statistics; and Ratio, Proportion, and Percent. Simply select an objective and choose a sports-related activity that supports it.

In Sports Mystery Graph (listed under Graphs, Tables, and Charts), students plot points on a graph to create the Memphis team logo.

In Geography and Introductory Percentages (listed in several cateogries), students are provided with a map of the United States and a list of Southern League AA Baseball teams. They learn that the league is comprised of 10 minor league teams based in Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. After locating each state on a map, students list each team next to its home state, and answer questions such as these:

  1. What percentage of the Southern League teams are located in Tennessee?
  2. Which state is home to 20 percent of the Southern League teams?
  3. What three states are home to 40 percent of the Southern League teams?


But those activities aren't all the site has to offer! In addition to the individual activities, the site includes a long-term Facility Project, in which students plan their own sports facility. In a series of eight activities, students

  • research sports facilities nationwide to find the cost of each;
  • determine what special features they'd like their facility to have;
  • draw a scale model of their proposed facility;
  • read maps to find the optimum location for the facility;
  • learn population concentrations to determine an appropriate capacity;
  • learn how sports facilities are financed;
  • construct a model of their proposed facility; and
  • schedule events and determine prices.

This is an activity that includes plenty of math for the future business leaders in your classroom and plenty of fun for even the most reluctant students.


But that's not all! Go back to the home page -- if you can tear yourself away from the fabulous sports activities -- and click Tennessee Mathematics Frameworks. Here you'll find links to mostly non-sports-related sites that address skills and concepts in the Tennessee State Math Frameworks and the Tennessee State Science Frameworks. The links, which can be used to support any state or district framework, have been provided by Tennessee teachers working in a variety of grade levels. They include teacher resources, student activities, and lesson plans for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

In this section of the site, each grade level is included in a three-grade cluster, from K-2 to 9-12. Clicking the appropriate cluster accesses a list of primary areas of study for those grades. Each area includes a set of learner expectations, and each learner expectation is followed by links to sites that support it. For example, in Grades K-2 Mathematics, the main headings include Number Sense and Number Theory; Estimation, Measurement, and Computation; Patterns, Functions, and Algebraic Thinking; Statistics and Probability; and Spatial Sense and Geometric Concepts. If you're teaching "Patterns, Functions, and Algebraic Thinking," and you want children to practice sorting and classifying objects by common attributes, you'll find the following links:

This section too provides an incredibly valuable and comprehensive resource for busy teachers!


The grant that supported the Tennessee Sports Math Project expired in June of 1998, but the site's creators are nowhere near ready to throw in the towel. They're developing additional activities and projects which will be added to the site shortly, and invite other educators to submit sports-related math lessons and activities as well. In the future, Dr. Keplinger also hopes that Tennessee sports teams will become involved in sponsoring contests at the site.

For now, however, Dr. Keplinger and his team are focusing their major efforts on developing, and finding financing for, a national sports math site that would provide sports-related math activities for students throughout the country. USA Sports Math, planned for students in grades k-12, will be the first project developed by Entertainers for Excellence in Education (E3) Foundation, Inc., a foundation recently established by Dr. Keplinger and other educators interested in motivating students by connecting their education to their interests. The goal of their first national site, according to Dr. Keplinger, will be to "provide interesting math activities based on sports to help educators and others reach students; to help students improve their math abilities; and to show that math can be fun."

Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
Copyright © 2004 Education World

Originally published 11/22/2004
Last updated 04/26/2010