Gearing Up for the Summer Games

Article excerpt

The "Math by the Month" activities are designed to engage students to think like mathematicians. The activities allow for students to work individually or in small groups, or they may be used as problems of the week. No solutions are suggested so that students will look to themselves for mathematical justification and authority, thereby developing confidence to validate their work.


This month's activities are based on the exciting theme of the Olympic Games. Students use a variety of mathematical skills and processes such as measurement, data analysis, and problem solving while they investigate the events and symbols of the games. These engaging activities set the stage for the upcoming XXVIII Olympiad.



Ring around the pattern. The Olympic flag has five rings linked together on a white background. The flag's colors were chosen for a special reason: every country in the world has at least one of these six colors on its flag. Use the five ring colors in a pattern to make a flag to represent you. Will your flag have squares, triangles, or other shapes? Draw your pattern on a piece of white paper and color it using blue, black, red, yellow, and green crayons or markers. For more information on the flags of the world, visit

What's your favorite sport? Twenty-eight different sports are scheduled for the summer Olympic Games. Many of these sports are ones that you play at home or at school, such as swimming, baseball, football, cycling, and even table tennis. Find out which sport is the favorite of each person in your family. Share your results with your classmates. Find a way to represent the data that the class collected. Ask a grown-up to help you download the Olympic Games 2004 Activity Book for six- to nine-year-olds at

Do the long jump. The long jump is a track-and-field event. Find a partner to be your scorekeeper. Put a meterstick on the floor and stand at the 0 mark. With your feet together, jump forward as far as you can, landing on your feet. Have your scorekeeper mark the distance on the meterstick with a sticky note that has your name on it. Now, have your partner jump forward, feet together, and mark the meterstick with a sticky note with your partner's name. Take turns jumping three times each, and record each jump. Compare the length of your jumps. Which of you would win the class gold medal for the longest jump?

Four more years. The Olympic Summer Games are held every four years in different places around the world. Use snap cubes to make sets of four years. Make a set of four red snap cubes, four yellow snap cubes, and four blue snap cubes. Line up your snap-cube sets and count by fours. Use a hundred chart to record your count: 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, and so on. Use the interactive hundred chart and calculator on the NCTM Web site at On the calculator, press 4 + 4 = = = = ... and watch the numbers fill in. What pattern do you see?



History repeats. The Summer Olympic Games have occurred every four years since 1896, except 1940 and 1944. How many Olympic Summer Games have been held? How many Olympic Summer Games have occurred since you were born?

Roman numerals. The 2004 Summer Olympic Games are the games of the XXVIII Olympiad. What number does XXVIII represent? Since 1992, Olympic Games have been held every two years, alternating between the summer and winter games. The first Winter Olympic Games were held in 1924. What Roman numeral will represent the 2012 Olympics? …