Baseball season might be winding down, but your students aren't as the school year is just beginning.

How can you get them engaged and eager to learn?

Why not include a fun class or home activity that will have them thinking math while the baseball game’s on?

For the past decade, those living in the Northwest have caught baseball fever thanks to a half-dozen successful seasons by the Seattle Mariners. And while baseball can be a fun game to play or watch, it’s certainly a math intensive sport.

There’s no baseball without math – ie., earned run or batting averages, won-loss percentages or figuring out those September magic numbers.

Whether it’s for a student who loves math and wants to learn more about baseball, or for a student who’s struggled to find math interesting but is a sports fan, baseball math can provide an entertaining outlet for anyone – and you don’t have know much about baseball to learn it.

Sally Brownfield, a teacher who now works as a facilitator for the Center for the Improvement of Student Learning, taught baseball and math in her fifth-grade class for years at Hood Canal School, 20 miles north of Shelton. She encourages baseball math as way to bring real life into the subject.

“It kept the kids interest,” Sally said. “The kids liked baseball, so it was fun. And some of them did the activities together as a team, and I didn’t care they were helping each other (solve problems) because they were engaged and they were doing math.

“It was fun and high interest. You have to keep it real. And if you’re having fun (as a teacher), then the kids are having fun and they’ll really get into it.”

She incorporated baseball into her teaching in many different ways, including having each student follow their favorite player during the school year and report back on how they figured out his batting average or earned-run average.

One activity Sally said her students found particularly fun involved was “Bulletin Board Baseball,” where her students solved math problems on a baseball diamond pinned to a bulletin board. Each base contained 5 to 10 math problems inside an envelope. A student would solve one problem, and with a paper baseball with their name on it, would advance to the next base, until they scored a run by getting to home. You can keep a running total of runs scored for each student on the board.

“The kids would see how many times they could go around the diamond,” she said. “They’d do it by themselves or team up.”

There are many math activities you can incorporate with baseball. Even if you’re not a sports fan, you might find you’ll enjoy bringing baseball into your classroom or your home.

From figuring out batting averages to magic numbers, the level of knowledge is probably best suited for 4th to 8th grades, but you can probably tailor the math to any level.

Let’s break down how you figure out all those baseball statistics and then you can go from there, taking our examples, or making up your own games. Then, check out the other activities, including those on the Web, where students can use baseball and math.

Batting average (avg): Divide the number of base hits by the total number of at bats. Example: If Ichiro has 400 at bats and has 157 hits, his batting average would be .393. (157 hits/400 bats = .393)

Earned Run Average (ERA): Multiply the total number of earned runs by nine, and divide the results by the total innings pitched. Example: Felix Hernandez allows 3 earned runs in 8 innings for an ERA of 3.38. (3 runs x 9 innings=27, 27/8 innings = 3.38)
Note: If a pitcher pitches 1/3 or 2/3s of an inning, it’s calculated by .1 or .2, or if Felix pitched 6 2/3 innings, it would calculated as 6.2 innings.

Won-Loss Percentage: Divide the number of games won by the total number of games played. Example: If the Mariners win 20 out of their first 33 games, they would have a .606 winning percentage, meaning they won about 61 percent of their games. (20 wins/33 games = .606)

Slugging percentage: Divide the total number of bases of all base hits by the total number of times at bat. Example: Richie Sexson hit two home runs (8 total bases), a double (2 bases) and single (1 base) in his first 13 at bats for an .846 slugging percentage. (11 bases/13 at bats = .846)

On-base percentage: Divide the total number of hits plus walks plus hits by pitch BY at bats plus walks plus hit by pitch plus sacrifice flies. Example: In Adrian Beltre’s 334 at bats, he has 97 hits, 24 walks, he’s been hit by 4 pitches and has 7 sacrifice flies, his on-base percentage would be .339. (97 hits + 24 walks + 4 hit by pitches = 125; 334 at bats + 24 walks + 4 hit by pitches + 7 sacrifice flies = 369; 125/369 = .339)

Magic numbers: Determine the number of games yet to be played, add one, then subtract the number of games ahead in the loss column of the standings from the closest opponent. Example: If the Mariners have 14 games left to be played and are 4 games ahead of second-place Oakland in the loss column, their magic number would be 11. (14 games left + 1 – 4 games ahead in loss column = 11)

Now that you know how to solve some of baseball’s great math mysteries, let’s move on to other math problems/solutions that you could have your students solve. You just have to look up baseball facts and statistics.

Did you know it’s 90 feet between bases? Or, that it’s 60.8 feet from the pitcher’s mound to home plate? You can use these facts and others to come up with math problems, such as: If it takes a player 2.5 seconds to run to each base, how long would it take him to reach third base? (A: 7.5 seconds) Or, if a player bunts a ball a fourth of the way back to the pitcher’s mound, how many feet does the ball travel? (A: 15.2 feet)

No matter how you use baseball in the classroom, it can have a positive, fun and engaging affect on students' attitudes toward math. Now, play ball!

Did this story help you? Please send your comments and suggestions to the CISL office.

If you're looking for a fun, interactive math baseball game for your class or student, Dice Baseball is it. We've made it easy by providing a rules sheet and a
game board sheet for you to use in class or at home.

ALSO: See an example of how one Washington teacher is using baseball in his classroom.

Baseball Math Games

ON THE WEB

Baseball Geometry
This is interesting game that even adults could learn from. If your student has a concept of angles, they could probably play this game, which requires Macromedia Flash. You not only learn about geometry, but the actual playing of the game can be challenging as well.

Math Baseball
As far as interactivity goes, this game’s a dud. However, the learning aspect is a big hit with four different skills levels of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It even gives the option to solve problems in algebra style.

Batter’s Up Baseball
This game is pretty simple, but it’ll entertain for a short while. It’s for ages 6-12 and requires Macromedia Flash.

BOOKS

Baseball Math
We can't vouch for the book (because we don’t have a copy), but the concept of kids grades 4-8 learning basic math to geometry sounds interesting. According to the publisher, the book is “filled with realistic activities involving baseball -- score keeping, team travel budgets, schedules and player salaries.” Give it try. Buy the book at www.teachervision.com.