Friday, April 15, 2011

Baseball in the Spring

Imagine that two different trains leave two cities at the same time, travelling in opposite directions along the same railroad track. The two trains leave at 11:00am. The train leaving from Chicago is travelling at 70 miles per hour. The train leaving from New York City is travelling at 55 miles per hour. The distance between New York City and Chicago is 711 miles. At what time will these two trains meet each other?

Most students would probably think, who cares. After all, couldn't they just look at train schedules?

The other day I was sitting at a baseball game with a friend and he started telling me about a book in which the author analyzed baseball statistics to determine who the best players at each position really were/are. (Interestingly, I just Googled baseball, statistics, and books and got a long list of books that relate to the topic.) My friend's comment prompted me to think, why don't more school exercises incorporate examples from subjects that are relevant to students? Wouldn't it be easier for many students to focus on math if they were asked to consider topics that they find interesting? Couldn't they learn the same math skills? Baseball is in the air, why isn't it in the classroom?

I recently read a blog post written by a Phillips Academy student who spent time in China. She visited a school and at one point was asked to teach a class to her age-mates. She writes, "Throughout my time there, several teachers had me introduce myself to the class, and one even had me teach a short lesson in English. I chose to go over the pronunciation and meaning of Justin Bieber’s song Baby because I knew that many of my classmates were big fans of his. My class was a hit with almost 100% active class participation!"

This high school student gets it. Students become engaged when they learn within relevant contexts. Her students were not really studying Justin Bieber's song; the lesson was on literary analysis. But, the context was interesting.

Why don't more teachers get this?

What do you think?

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