Math Strand

Calculate Carefully!

Lesson Overview: 
This lesson combines physical activities and math skills. As a result, it is an excellent opportunity for a PE instructor to work closely with a math instructor. Students will draw cards out of a bag/hat that tell them which activities to complete and which measurements to take. Working in pairs, students get active while at the same time, they record their results and calculate averages. The lesson concludes with students graphing their results and making comparisons between the intensity levels of different exercises. Because math skills can vary significantly in this age range, the lesson can be adapted to meet those variations in skill level.
Connection to Core Lesson: 
This lesson is much like the core lesson (It's in the Bag) in that it emphasizes many different physical activities. It also draws on students' positive experiences from the core lesson by encouraging them to repeat activities they enjoyed participating in during the core lesson. This lesson differs from the core lesson by bringing mathematical equations front and center.

Content Standards Addressed:

Common Core State Standards

National Standards


Learning Objectives:
By completing this lesson, students should:
  • Increase their heart rates with exercise.
  • Participate in physical activity and realize it can be fun.
  • Reinforce their math skills.
  • Interpret results into a bar graph.
Materials Needed:
  • Grab bag/hat.
  • Activity cards.
  • Pencils.
  • Graph paper.
  • Copies of the worksheet.
  • Stopwatches, heart rate monitors (optional).


Background/Set Up:
Write out a set of activity cards - enough so there is one card for every two students. Choose activities that can be easily measured by distance, time, number of repetitions or some other quantitative variable, and include both the activity and type of measurement on the card. Possible activities/measurements could include:
- Jumping rope: Measure the number of jumps in one minute OR the distance traveled in 30 forward jumps.
- Twirling hula hoops: Measure the time the hoop stays in the air before falling.
- Sit-ups: Measure the number of sit-ups in one minute.
- Sprinting: Measure the time it takes to sprint from one designated spot to another OR measure the change in heartbeat from before the sprint to after the sprint.
- Basketball shots: Measure the number of shots in one minute OR the furthest distance from which you can make a basket.
- Soccer ball toe touches (tap the top of the soccer ball, alternating feet): Measure the number of taps in 30 seconds.
- Three-legged walk (walk with one leg tied to a partner's leg): Measure the time it takes to get to a designated spot OR measure the distance traveled in two minutes.
You can make the measurements more challenging by incorporating more than one measurement into each activity or creating additional calculations from the activity's measured results. (For example: Jumping rope: Measure the distance traveled in 30 forward jumps and calculate how many jumps it would take to jump one mile.) 

Suggested Lesson Steps:

1. Divide students into pairs and hand out a copy of the activity worksheet to each pair. Explain they will use the worksheet to record their measurements for different activities.

2. Have each pair draw a card out of the bag/hat that identifies an activity and the type of measurement that applies to it. Instruct the pairs to select three additional physical activities that can be measured with the same type of calculation. Provide the following example:

  • If your card says: "Running: Measure the distance traveled in 30 seconds," think of three other activities that could measure distance traveled in the course of that activity. For example, you could add skipping, jumping rope forward, and running backward as your three additional activities.

As much as possible, students should draw on their experiences from the core lesson and select physical activities they enjoyed participating in. If possible, encourage them to include activities from several exercise categories. (Have them refer to the Exercise: Important Terms worksheet from the core lesson for a refresher on the different types of exercise.)

3. Instruct students to fill out their worksheets with their names, activities, types of exercise and type of measurement.
4. Then, students should choose an area (on the playground, in the gym, or even in the classroom, if space permits) where they will complete their activities and measure their results. In most cases, the activities will be completed one partner at a time, with the other partner measuring the results. If time permits, allow each partner to complete the activities several times, keeping their best "scores." Students should record each other's results on the worksheet and then return to the classroom.
5. Have partners calculate the average of their combined measurements for each activity. (If your students are not at that math level, have them write down the higher/better score of the two under the column marked Average on the worksheet.) Encourage students to double-check their math - they wouldn't want to do a lot more than what was required!
6. Next, instruct students to create a bar graph that compares the average measurements of each of their activities. They can present these to the class and even discuss what these results tell them about the intensity or difficulty of each activity.
Academic Extensions/Modifications:
  • For an added challenge, have students come up with different ways of graphing their results.
  • To encourage continued physical activity, have students track their performance in each activity over time - several weeks or months. This will show them how their performance improved over time, and thus how continued practice of a physical activity can be beneficial.
Assessment Criteria:
  1. Class participation.
  2. Worksheet completion and accuracy.