maths lessons from the Olympics

English: Usain Bolt at the World Championship ...

English: Usain Bolt at the World Championship Athletics 2009 in Berlin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have just come across a really good blog about practical mathematical inquiries written by a teacher from Canberra, Australia, Bruce The blog is called “Authentic Inquiry Maths”.

I have recently been followed and am following Bruce on Twitter… I loved his short biographical paragraph on the site which stated: “Interested in authentic inquiry maths – make the kids do the thinking”.

This statement was the reason that I wanted to explore his blog and I was very pleased that I did. Like so many others I have been avidly following the 2012 Olympics here in Britain. The first post that I came across was the following:

Sally Pearson and the 100m Hurdles Gold Medal

What are those numbers?

To celebrate Sally Pearson’s great win in the 100m hurdles today, the teachers planned a special welcome. When the kids came in to the building this morning we had the following numbers written on the white board:
100
 85
105
1235
868
13
10
The rest of the post explains just what the numbers stood for, but, true to his belief in child inquiry in mathematics, Bruce let the children explore the numbers and they not only discovered them but it led to a lot of other ideas and calculations.
A recent post investigated Usain Bolt’s brilliant 100 metre victory at the games. The children compared their own 100 metres pace with Bolt’s and then came across these ideas:
“I got 64m before 9.63 seconds was up. I ran 6.6 m/sec. Usain Bolt ran 10.38 m/sec.”
and
“I ran approximately 55m while Usain Bolt would have run 100m. 100m divided by 9.63 seconds is about 10.38.  So Usain Bolt ran 10.38 metres every second. If I divide the metres by 1000 you get 0.01038 km. Then you multiply by 3600 seconds to get km per hour – that is about 37 km per hour. That was his average speed.”
Now this is what I call real maths.. it is about something happening right now, it is about real inquiry rather than some false one like buying pears and oranges at a ridiculous price.
We need more teachers like Bruce Ferrington. I hope that this post might encourage others to follow his blog and also his lead in taking a practical inquiry based approach to mathematics. I am sure that his pupils will greatly benefit from having him as a teacher.
We may be beating the Australians in the Gold Medal Table at the Olympics but in the Inquiry-Based stakes they are well on their way to Gold!
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