Using Olympics to Teach Math
The London Games are just days away, but you don’t have to travel across the pond to take part in the Olympics fun! Laura Overdeck, mother of three and founder of the Bedtime Math national online community, says parents can enjoy math with their kids while watching the Olympics together. Math is the key to ‘faster, higher, stronger’: the scores, times, and distances all involve numbers to mark the winner.
1. Measure time with your own Olympic-style race. Many Olympic sports are won when an athlete gets from point A to point B fastest. Help your kids understand time with your own Olympic-style race outside. Use a stopwatch to time each family member and then compare times to see who finished fastest.
2. Keep track of medals won. Throughout the Olympics, total the number of gold, silver, and bronze medals won by U.S. athletes. Create a chart on a poster board or piece of paper, and use gold, silver, and bronze stars to track medal wins.
3. Go the distance. Olympic events like the long jump and the shot put are two great examples of sports that can be used to teach your kids about distance. Use a measuring tape to measure how far your child can throw a baseball, or see how much distance he or she can cover in a long jump-inspired leap.
4. Count everything. There are so many different ways to practice counting during the Olympics. As you’re watching the different sports competitions, ask your children to tell you how many players are on the field, lanes are in the pool, or countries are represented in a particular event – the opportunities for counting are endless!
Let the Math Games begin!
Here’s an example of math problems from Bedtime Math, Olympics themed, of course!
Today marks the start of the 30th Olympic Games. Athletes from all over the world have come to London to compete in everything from gymnastics and swimming to canoeing and hurdling. There are even events like trampolining just to give more of us a shot at superstardom. But when you consider all these sports, all the countries competing, and all the athletes who tried to qualify, you see what level of superstar we’re talking about: The ones who’ve made it are the best out of 7 billion people. As they go for the gold, victory will all come down to the numbers.
Wee ones (counting on fingers): If the Summer Olympics happen every 4 years, in what year did the last Summer Olympics happen?
Little kids: For some Olympic events, you have to master multiple sports. The Triathlon involves 3 sports (swimming, biking, and running), the Pentathlon has 5 sports, and the Decathlon has 10. If you compete in all 3 events, how many rounds of sports do you play? Bonus: If there are 4 different diving events, with gold, silver, and bronze medals for men and again for women, how many different medals will be won for diving?
Big kids: If the 2012 Summer Olympics start on July 27 and end on August 12, how many days do the Olympic Games span? (Reminder: July has 31 days.) Bonus: There are 53 countries from Africa competing, 44 countries from Asia, 49 countries from Europe, 17 from the Oceania countries, and 41 from the Americas…so how many total countries are competing? Super bonus: What continent does your country represent?
Wee ones: 2008.
Little kids: 18 rounds of sports, including some repeats. Bonus:24 medals.
Big kids: 17 days (5 in July, 12 in August). Bonus: 204 countries. Super bonus: Different for everyone.
Overdeck, who studied astrophysics at Princeton, founded Bedtime Math to help parents inspire a love of math in young kids. Bedtime Math helps parents find exciting opportunities for math learning in everyday activities, and gives them a nightly math problem they can do with their children. Each problem is adapted for various age levels (Wee Ones, Little Kids, Big Kids) and draws on real-life, kid-friendly examples.