With the push toward STEM learning across the United States it’s important to make learning math and science fun! One school, the Center for Academic Success, is using baseball to teach concepts like the geometry and the Pythagorean theorem.
The Center for Academic Success is a charter school for pre-K through 12th grade. What a fun way to get kids excited about learning math and science!
They began by learning the distances between the bases on a Major League Baseball field and mapping its geometry.
They found isosceles and right triangles, talked about the Pythagorean theorem and how it’s applied to the triangle formed by home plate, first base and second.
After the classroom portion of the lesson, the students went outside and took the field with Pythagoras to check the diagram they had just created.
Learning Math and Science
As eighth-grader Ethan O’Dell and sixth-grader Mark Anthony Guerrero measured the distance between home plate and third, they realized the base path was shorter than on a major league field. Their teacher, Jarad Young, told them to compare the two and calculate the differences.
The exercise was part of the Science of Baseball Program, which was recently added to the school’s curriculum.
The program was created by Ricardo Valerdi, an associate professor of systems and industrial engineering at the University of Arizona.
Valerdi designed the program to get middle school students interested in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math by teaching various concepts through the lens of baseball.
“The idea,” Valerdi said, “is if you interact with the math, you begin to understand it much better.”
The program has reached about 2,000 kids and gained the attention of major league teams including the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Since creating the program last fall, Valerdi has developed a curriculum of eight lessons, all of which focus on the common core standards that middle school students must master for standardized tests.
It covers subjects such as geometry, measurement and data, ratios and proportional relationships, and statistics and probability.
The standards are taught in the classroom and in an outdoor, hands-on fashion.
Activities include measuring their strike zones and calculating the overall area, as well as calculating their reaction time and how it changes when they get into a batter’s stance.
Students launch baseballs at different angles with a water balloon launcher and calculate how far each travels to determine the optimal trajectory of a home run.
Last year the program was offered to students at Mansfeld Middle School on Saturdays as the Arizona Science of Baseball Program.
Thanks to a partnership with the Diamondbacks that started six months ago, it now includes a day camp at Salt River Field, the Diamondbacks’ spring training facility. It’s also got a new name — the Diamondbacks Science of Baseball Program.
Valerdi and the Diamondbacks have introduced a teacher-training program — a one-day course for middle school teachers on how to implement the lessons in their school’s curriculum.
Valerdi said the teachers “get motivated and they come away with excitement and hopefully they communicate that to their students.”
The program has now been implemented in more than 100 schools, Valerdi said.
Valerdi said he plans to expand the program. He’s in conversations with the Boston Red Sox, the San Diego Padres and the St. Louis Cardinals, he said.
He even has a friend in Australia who is interested in starting a Science of Cricket Program.
Valerdi enlists experts who work in fields related to the science of baseball. And loves using new concepts to get kids excited about learning math and science.