Knight Foundation Summer Institute

Jennifer Fisher, Bryn Mawr College

With parts from The Best of WonderScience


Why would students want to learn different geometric shapes? Shapes are relevant to almost everything we do and sports are one example to prove this to the students. Geometry is important in sports and determines whether or not a sport will succeed. The shape of the ball and the field are not arbitrary, but very important for every sport. For example, imagine trying to play basketball with a football. Once put into this context, the students will know more about geometry than they originally thought.

The activities below will help the students understand geometry while enjoying some of their favorite pastimes.


  1. Knowledge of some sports
  2. Names of the shapes of sports balls


  1. To prove to the students that geometry is relevant to issues that they like
  2. To have the students think about geometry at a higher level then just knowing the shapes and their names
  3. To have the students be able to reason why one shape is better in a particular situation
  4. To get the students active





Class Activities

Exercise #1 Balls as Geometry


e.g.; tennis ball, baseball, beach ball, football, softball, basketball, hockey puck, discus, soccer ball, etc.

Procedure: '

  1. Hold up each ball and ask the students to name the ball and what the shape of it is
  2. Ask the students why each ball is appropriate for the sport that it is used for, e.g.; shape, size, material, etc.
  3. Have each students pick one ball and one sport that will not work and have them explain to another students why that particular combination would not work e,; A tennis ball could not be used in basketball because it is too small and it bounces very high
  4. The students could now be shown pictures of famous fields or photographs or fields from around the neighborhood. Each students should be encouraged to demonstrate their knowledge of shapes from explaining the different fields


Exercise #2 A Sports Spectacular

From The Best Of WonderScience

The students could also write essays about their new sports. On another day, the class could try out some of the new sports that were invented and then talk about whether they worked or not and why. Is geometry pertinent to whether the sports succeeded?


The students should be graded on their use of geometry in the new game that they have invented and their understanding of how geometry can relate to sports.

Philadelphia Mathematics Content

Mathematics Content Standard 3- Geometry

Benchmark 1 is satisfied because different sports are part of every culture and geometry is important to every sport. In benchmark 2, each students must 'identify, describe, compare, classify, and construct various two- and three- dimensional objects including squares, triangles, other polygons, circles, cubes, rectangular prisms, pyramids, spheres, cones, and cylinders.' While discussing the importance of different shapes, these topics are touched upon. Benchmark 4 speaks of visualizing geometric shapes and 'developing spatial sense' which will be done in a hands-on way while examining different balls used in sports.

Mathematics Content Standard 6- Problem Solving and Reasoning

Benchmark 6 says that students must 'invent a variety of approaches to solve a problem and understand and evaluate approaches described by others,' which is accomplished while creating new sports and explaining why they might or might not realistically work.

Mathematics Content Standard 8- Mathematical Communication

Benchmark 1 reads that students will learn to 'use the skills of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing to communicate, interpret, and evaluate mathematical ideas.' This is accomplished through creating the new game and then reading them to other classmates.

Cross References:

Writing is clearly involved while creating a new game and then recording what the rules are. There are also many thinking and reasoning skills involved in this activity.