I am used to teaching precalculus, not fractions. I was not really looking forward to teaching fractions to my 6th graders this year. In the high school setting, most students have severe adverse reactions to fractions. So, I decided that I had to do something FUN to save everyone’s sanity. I wanted an activity where they would want (or at least get) to practice tons of operations on fractions. Luckily, I am at a project based school and they highly encourage “thinking outside of the box”. So, I decided to take them “outside”!

We met outside on the basketball court, and each student could volunteer to shoot free-throws. They drew to see if they would throw 6, 8, or 10 shots. Then, we kept track of their shots on the “Free Throw Stats Sheet”.

After all of the kids had gone, we sat down at the picnic tables and …

- Wrote the fraction “shots made / shots attempted”.
- Simplified the fraction
- Wrote the simplified fraction as a decimal (dividing by hand)
- Found what our shot percentages were (decimal x 100).
- Found the LCM of all shots attempted.
- Wrote equivalent fractions using the LCM.
- Compared all players using the equivalent fractions.
- Compared ourselves to our local college basketball teams.

After the first 4 steps, I had them just look at the players and estimate the top five shooters. Then, after we did the equivalent fractions, we actually ordered all of the players to see how close our estimates were. With the number of shots that we took, the kids were pretty accurate in their estimates before making the fractions equivalent. Ah, if I only had more class time in a day!

Back in the classroom the next day we compared ourselves to the local college team. The GREAT thing was that the percentages were listed in decimal form! That was such a bonus for me and really made them think about it more. (ie – The highest women’s free throw percentage was 0.806 – what is this percentage? Not 8.06 or 806 but 80.6 % – ahhh!!!)

Cool. This is random but I’ve been thinking about fractions because of this math circle thing I went to where we used free throws as an example. I feel like the upshot was that free throws could be used kind of like fractions, but not quite. You can add them directly to each other, without using a common denominator. It also doesn’t really make sense to simplify free throws as fractions because making 1 of 2 free throws is incredibly different from making 500/1000. We also used it to get into Simpson’s paradox. No real point here. Just food for thought.

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I’m glad that I came across this activity today. This activity looks great,fun, and an engaging lesson for 6th grade students to learn about fractions, and percentages in the real world. I like that you pick sports as a theme in the activity, especially basketball. This allows the students be familiar the topic. We always hear about free-throw percentages of players in College Basketball and NBA. I think the students will be engaged in this lesson since they will be outside, shooting the basketball and they are find their free throw percentage by calculating how man they made out of the total amount of shots. I would love to use this lesson as I become as educator. I will share this lesson with my teaching in middle school class at my university. I wonder what other sports we could use this lesson, like penalty kicks in soccer, field goals in football. Should the activity be based off this idea: Have the students play a 15 minute game and have half of the class record individual shooting stats of each person, which will allow them to add the total shots made and miss for each team. Would this be a good variation of this lesson? the After completing this activity, would you add or change any part of the activity? What suggestions would you give other teachers who use this lesson as an idea for there’s?

Mr. B,

FABULOUS ideas! I especially love the soccer suggestion as I have a full-sized soccer field directly outside of my classroom. I would like to change this next time, as there was a lot of down time for students not shooting. They were “doing the math” but I would really like for them to be up and active for part and then down and calculating for the majority of the time. Also, it took too much time for everyone to shoot. Kids were embarrassed when they missed – free throws are difficult for 6th graders, especially when the whole class is sitting there watching you. 😉

I love the 15 minute game that you mentioned. We could have students who do not want to participate be the “stat keepers”. Then, we could go inside to analyze the stats more in depth. We would need to come up with what we want to analyze and then develop a “stat sheet”. They could record attempts, steals, throw-ins and such per player. That would be so fun to hear about afterwards!

If you come up with any improvements I would love to see them! I’ll work on it too.

I think this is a really cool activity and feel as though this would be something that I could do with my classroom. I was wondering if you thought this activity would be improved by changing the number of shots to odd numbers such as 9 or if you picked the numbers you chose for a certain reason.