Jewish Day School Teacher Brings Math Lesson to Life With Tricycle Race

In the Emery/Weiner School in Houston, TX, students expanded their learning on linear functions, mixing theory with practical application in a tricycle race. Students graphed a linear function using a point and the slope by measuring distance over time to calculate speed.

The teacher, Elle Bray, who came up with the idea, believes that the tricycle race is a great real-life challenge and began to make it a reality. “This is a great example of how you can use math in everyday situations and how it can be really fun if you make it engaging for kids,” Bray said.

More than 40 students from Bray’s math classes participated, with each of them using different variables to calculate the slopes, speed and distances. After the initial experiments, each class period voted on its best four racers. The best all came together for one final championship relay.

Students said that they timed out how long it took to go around the track and graphed the speed as the slope and possible y or x intercepts from their head starts/delays. They then figured out the equation of the line, as well as converting meters per second to miles/hour. The steepest line of all the groups would then be the winner.

“I feel like the kids really enjoyed it and saw the connection with math. I am really proud of what the kids were able to learn. They’ve done some very high-level work and have a deep understanding. “It’s also great to see that they trust and embrace their own thought process, and they are taking ownership of those abilities,” Bray said.

She also said that “In the end, I just loved how this simple exercise opened up this giant conversation for the kids. And, they may not realize it, but they are having mathematical conversations. It’s really fun to see how they connect with it and where they take it from here.”