How To Use The Olympics To Teach Math


Mesmerized by the American ice dancers’ gold-medal performance of “Sheherazade”? Secretly Googling facts about curling? It’s not too late to bring your Winter Olympics’ excitement into the classroom.

For at least another week, the 2014 Winter Olympics are still a fantastic opportunity for math teachers to connect with students on a fun, emotional level. (Even those of you on the East Coast who had probably hoped not to see another snowflake this stormy winter season.)

Math is a huge component of the winter games, whether it’s counting medals, comparing teams’ luge speeds or calculating figure skaters’ scores. To help fan students’ excitement for Olympic math, we’ve gathered these free middle-school math activities.


winterolympicsDecimal Olympic Math Games

(6th & 7th Grades): Wisconsin Wise Guys Brian and Eric have over 30 years teaching and experience in middle schools. They create classroom activities that are fun, aligned to the Common Core State Standards and usually free on the Teachers Pay Teachers website. Their Decimal Olympic Math Games satisfy CCSS standards Number and Operations in Base 10 and Mathematical Processes and include 4 activities such as solving winter sports-themed story problems, a decimal card “race” and score-keeping and medal award certificates for students. 

Olympic Math Metrics Mania

(6th Grade and up): Metrics play a big part in the Olympics, so having students practice their conversion skills is key. Silicon Valley nonprofit education foundation Lessonopoly has a nifty lesson plan and handout to help middle-schoolers. There’s even a neat teaching video from NBCLearn’s Mathletes page that explains the concept with sports footage and calculations!

Fun Figure Skater Scoring

(6th Grade and up): Figure skating is one of the most popular Winter Olympic events. As you know, skaters win after their performance scores are entered by judges and then averaged. This is a good opportunity to review mean, median, and mode or CCSS standards on Statistics & Probability, Summarizing and Describing Distribution. In class: Challenge your students to watch a figure-skating event for homework or just write a variety of skaters’ names and scores on the board. Then ask kids to calculate the winner by average as well as the mode and median scores. For an extra twist, one of our favorite math bloggers, Australian math guru Kerry Cue explains “Why the Best Figure Skater Doesn’t Always Win” on her blog. Randomly delete scores and recalculate winners using Kerry’s formula.

Have fun incorporating the Winter Olympics into your middle-school math classes and good luck to the athletes in the remaining days of the games!

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