Teaching challenging concepts by using high-interest and timely topics helps students to make connections and increase comprehension. World and national events like a presidential inauguration, the soccer World Cup, the Olympics, shuttle launches, and large sporting events can be used in teaching lessons including math, science, social studies, and language arts.
One event coming up that many students will follow is March Madness. March Madness refers to the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament of the top 64 Division 1 teams. March Madness is also called “The Big Dance.” It is a single elimination tournament. The winner of each game moves on to the next round until the top team emerges as the winner.
The Bracket: Conducting Research & Making Predictions
One of the most popular activities associated with March Madness is the filling out of “the bracket.” The bracket is a tree-graph that is filled-in with predictions of game face-offs based on university regions and expected winners. This is an activity that students can do that actually has connections in the classroom. Students can fill out the bracket with the teams that they think will win each game, which teams will face-off against each other, and end with their guess for the final two teams and the ultimate winner. Students should develop their predictions by researching team statistics, ranks, standings, and divisions using online websites or by reading sports journals or newspapers. University websites, along with ESPN, are also appropriate student resources for conducting this research.
Getting other teachers, classes, and even the administrators involved in creating and sharing their bracket predictions make the lesson even more meaningful.
The Bracket: Math & Geography Connections
Teachers can tie in connections with math and geography using this bracket. Students can be asked questions that involve percentages and fractions. For example, what is the likelihood that a certain team will make it into the finals? What percentage of teams a student chose won during a certain bracket? What is the reduced fraction of number of teams that are in the final 16? As the games progress, students should make updates to their brackets. Additional lessons based on this can also include who had the most winning teams.
As students follow the games and find the winners and losers, geography connections can be made by having students take the teams in the bracket and locate the universities on a map. An extension can be made where students would have to conduct research about one of the universities or the cities in which schools are located.
Incorporating topics that students love while teaching the curriculum is a great way to motivate students. Highly engaging activities ‘trick’ students into mastering the learning outcomes that are desired. March Madness is a great way to make math and geography connections based on a high-interest subject.
More lessons based on March Madness:
Article By Laura Ketcham
Picture By Erik Charlton