Would your child rather spend time on the football field than sit down to study equations?
This is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to your child’s learning. In fact, not only have recent studies explored the link between physical activity and academic achievement, playing sports can be a fun and easy way to teach your child important mathematical concepts.
The following activities will let you help your child make connections between mathematics and other disciplines such as sports, to help them appreciate mathematics and find it more accessible and enjoyable to learn (while staying fit and active at the same time!).
1. Keeping Score. Many children enjoy keeping score during a sporting game. Encourage your child to add together scores while playing or watching competitive sports such as basketball or football. You can set up a scoreboard in your backyard or use simple pen and paper to keep a tally during a game. If your child is feeling confident, they can even keep score of other factors, such as strikes and fouls, or the number of innings in a baseball or cricket match.
2. Heads or tails. Kick off your game with a coin toss and introduce your child to the concept of chance and probability. Probability tells us that for a single coin toss, there are two possible outcomes – heads or tails – so the chance of getting either one is 1 in 2, or 50%. You can also record the result of each coin toss over the course of a few weeks and experiment with probability and chance together.
3. Geometry. Many sporting games involve a lot of geometry, which provides a great opportunity to talk to your child about geometrical concepts. Observe the different shapes of the fields, as well as different lines and markings. At what angle should a player kick or hit the ball? Why are different sporting fields shaped differently? Measure the distance of important field placements, like the distance between goals or the circumference of a basketball or netball rim.
4. Performance graphs. Whether it’s your child’s own sporting team or one they love to watch on the television, you can help them compare a team’s final stats versus other games in the year by creating a performance graph. This can be a fun ongoing activity that you and your child look forward to doing together. Older children may also attempt to average each player’s contribution, like scores, yards and hits, and calculate the probability of each player’s scoring potential using past scoring numbers.
5. Multiplication. Several sporting games such as rugby, cricket and basketball include a levelled scoring system, which provides a great opportunity to build your child’s multiplication skills. If your child loves basketball, encourage them to count how many one, two or three point scores they make and to record them on a chart. At the end of the game, help them add up their overall score using multiplication. For a more challenging activity, you can create your own point system which includes double digits.
Most importantly, remember to keep things fun and flexible. Over time, your little athlete will become a natural mathlete by continuing to apply their mathematical skills on the sporting field!
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