AIMS Center

Modeling Math Using the Olympics

From arithmetic to calculus, I see mathematics everywhere around Pyeongchang during the winter Olympic games. I’m also thinking about all of the math through the lens of CCSSM’s Mathematical Practice 4: Model with Mathematics. It says, “Mathematically proficient students can apply the mathematics they know to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace. They can analyze those relationships mathematically to draw conclusions. They routinely interpret their mathematical results in the context of the situation and reflect on whether the results make sense, possibly improving the model if it has not served its purpose.”

Math matters in this year’s Winter Olympics. There are over 3800 athletes looking to win 306 medals to be awarded in 102 events in 15 sport disciplines. But these are only the base numbers of the games. Math is also found in all the scores, measurements, motions, and quantities. It can be as easy as how many hockey players are on the ice, or how many times the puck has gone into the net. Events that are timed, like the slaloms, bobsled, and speed skating are all math in motion. Rate is just the mathematical term for speed. Rate equals distance divided by time. In the 1,000-meter speed skating race, the meters are the distance and the time is how long it takes the skater to finish. Divide the distance (1,000 meters) by the time of each athlete and you get their rate.

Calculus is also used to understand the changing acceleration and velocities. The skaters all start at zero, but how is the winner determined? Is it the skater that goes the fastest or is it the skater that starts fast then tapers off near the end? Or is it the skater that starts slow and then ramps up at the end? By using calculus skaters can determine the best strategy to cross the finish line first.

What about geometry in the Olympics? Think about the lines. Finish lines, start lines, sight lines, race lines. Geometry is evident in many sports, but especially in hockey. Players use angles of reflection, measuring angles, and angles of incidence.

Whether it is algebra, calculus, geometry or arithmetic, math is all around the athletes in Pyeongchang. The possibilities are endless. Explore the mathematics of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games with your students.

Share

Experts Are Made, Not Born

Teachers are incredibly busy. They need to be the experts on a variety of curricular topics, especially in the elementary years, and for a variety of learners. Most teachers have earned a bachelor’s degree and spent additional time studying pedagogy and curriculum to earn their teaching credential. Further, they have all the wisdom gained from… Continue Reading

In Their Voices (Part 3)

As I walk into Mrs. Martinez’s preschool classroom, I am immediately taken in by a sense of warmth and sunshine instead of the cold, foggy January day outside. Inside the classroom, I see children working in small groups, huddled around adults, playing with objects, building towers, and reading books. I hear laughter, questions, and the… Continue Reading

Math is NOT Beautiful

People who are seen as mathematicians are famous for uttering this line all the time, “mathematics is beautiful.” Whenever someone says this, some people nod in agreement, while still others nearby are probably wishing they saw the same beauty in math. I would like to take a moment to analyze this statement and, ultimately, refute… Continue Reading

In Their Voices (Part 2)

This is the first in the series of blog posts that was written in conjunction with an early learning professional employed at one of our partnering Head Start preschool programs. Corin Villagomez has been a Head Start teacher for three years and she works with three and four-year-olds in a full-day program. She will be… Continue Reading

Systems Thinking

The members of the Research Division here at AIMS have been reading Humberto Maturana and Fracisco Varela’s book, The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. These biologists describe how cognition and understanding emerge and are constructed out of single cellular organisms, and as they are coupled together in multi-cellular entities like humans.… Continue Reading