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Sports Numbers

  • Lesson
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Number and Operations
Location: Unknown

Students are familiar with sports and sporting events. Whole numbers and fractions are used to represent the size of groups or collections and measurements involving lengths, weights, and times in many sporting and game situations. This knowledge can be used to give the students another picture of numbers.

Begin the class discussion by asking students how numbers are used in sports. Brainstorm ideas on the overhead or chalkboard.

Students may respond by suggesting some of the following uses of sports numbers:

  • baseball statistics
  • winning times for the Olympics
  • time needed to run a marathon
  • football scores
  • and so on

Distribute a copy of the Sports Numbers Activity Sheet to each student.

pdficonSports Numbers Activity Sheet

Ask students to tell what they see in each of the scenes on the sheet. Tell the students to look at the pictures and find examples of the use of numbers.


888 basketball888 track

888 swim888 games


Spend enough time talking about the picture and the students' knowledge of sports so that students describe as many different ways as possible of using numbers. In each instance ask the students to describe how the number is being used.

The following observations can be made for the sporting events identified by each picture:

a. Basketball

  • number of players
  • position in line-up
  • dimensions of the court
  • height of the basket
  • diameter and circumference of the ball
  • time remaining in game
  • fractions of play
  • team's statistics

b. Indoor track

  • lengths of races
  • runners' times
  • weights of objects thrown
  • lengths of objects thrown

c. Swimming

  • lengths of pool or races
  • swimmers' times
  • scoring of points
  • height of diving board

d. Board games

  • dimensions of spaces on various playing boards (Chinese checkers, etc.)
  • scoring of games

After students complete the activity sheet, they can pair up with a partner and compare their responses to each of the four pictures.

Next, students should (individually) pick one number (from one of the four pictures) and write a description of how that number is used. After students have written their descriptions, they may once again share them with a partner.

Bring the class back together. Ask students to identify each of the following types of numbers in the sports pictures:

  • whole numbers
  • decimals
  • fractions
  • percents

You may wish to record these examples on chart paper and post them around the classroom.

Note: If you prefer to print in black and white, you may access a printer-friendly version of the Sports Numbers activity sheet.

pdficon Sports Numbers Activity Sheet (B&W Version)


Calvin Irons and Rosemary Irons. "IDEAS: Numbers and Language." The Arithmetic Teacher. January, 1993, 40, 5. p 264 - 77.


  1. Describe the size of a basketball court, the length of the swimming pool, or the distances of some races in terms of the area or length of the classroom.  
  2. Have the students research local and world records for selected sports events, for example, the local and world records for the 100-meter race. Have them write a short report of their findings.
Number and Operations

Post-Office Numbers

A post office is a good example of a real-world environment in which numbers of different types can be found. Whole numbers and fractions are introduced. Numbers that occur in a greater variety of measurement situations can also be introduced. At this level, students should be encouraged to elaborate on the way numbers are used.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Discuss, describe, read, and write about whole numbers, decimals, common fractions, or percents.
  • Use sports and sporting events to identify and describe various uses of numbers.

NCTM Standards and Expectations

  • Recognize equivalent representations for the same number and generate them by decomposing and composing numbers.

Common Core State Standards – Mathematics

Grade 3, Num & Ops Fractions

  • CCSS.Math.Content.3.NF.A.1
    Understand a fraction 1/b as the quantity formed by 1 part when a whole is partitioned into b equal parts; understand a fraction a/b as the quantity formed by a parts of size 1/b.

Grade 3, Measurement & Data

  • CCSS.Math.Content.3.MD.A.2
    Measure and estimate liquid volumes and masses of objects using standard units of grams (g), kilograms (kg), and liters (l). Add, subtract, multiply, or divide to solve one-step word problems involving masses or volumes that are given in the same units, e.g., by using drawings (such as a beaker with a measurement scale) to represent the problem.

Grade 4, Num & Ops Base Ten

  • CCSS.Math.Content.4.NBT.A.2
    Read and write multi-digit whole numbers using base-ten numerals, number names, and expanded form. Compare two multi-digit numbers based on meanings of the digits in each place, using >, =, and <. symbols to record the results of comparisons.

Grade 4, Measurement & Data

  • CCSS.Math.Content.4.MD.A.2
    Use the four operations to solve word problems involving distances, intervals of time, liquid volumes, masses of objects, and money, including problems involving simple fractions or decimals, and problems that require expressing measurements given in a larger unit in terms of a smaller unit. Represent measurement quantities using diagrams such as number line diagrams that feature a measurement scale.

Grade 5, Num & Ops Fractions

  • CCSS.Math.Content.5.NF.B.3
    Interpret a fraction as division of the numerator by the denominator (a/b = a ÷ b). Solve word problems involving division of whole numbers leading to answers in the form of fractions or mixed numbers, e.g., by using visual fraction models or equations to represent the problem. For example, interpret 3/4 as the result of dividing 3 by 4, noting that 3/4 multiplied by 4 equals 3, and that when 3 wholes are shared equally among 4 people each person has a share of size 3/4. If 9 people want to share a 50-pound sack of rice equally by weight, how many pounds of rice should each person get? Between what two whole numbers does your answer lie?