The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Penny Basketball

As has been mentioned several times now, this week has been a week of special guests and visitors for our classroom. One of the special guests we’ve had is a fellow participant in the Literacy Across Content Areas inquiry group who works at the University of Illinois as one of the Teacher Collaborators. (He is, incidentally, different from the other Teacher Collaborator who was with our class on Monday morning to check out what they were doing on Storybird.) He has worked with my students each day this week to introduce them to a game he created called Penny Basketball.

Penny Basketball is an easy game that allows students to explore fractions, ratios, and percents while interpreting data in a fun and engaging manner. We started on Monday with the introduction of the basic concepts behind the game and taught the students how to shoot free throws. We spent two days discussing how to determine who the best penny basketball free throw shooter in the class is by recording successful shots and comparing them to the number of shots taken. Students were randomly assigned a number of attempts they could take: 6, 8, 10, or 12. Then the students compared the fractions within groups and then across the class. After trying to compare fractions, we showed them how to convert fractions into percents and compared them again.

Yesterday was the introduction of the full game of Penny Basketball and we asked the students to consider the question of who is the best penny basketball player in the class. We then had the class play the full game for several rounds today and record data.

It has been a lot of fun watching the students learn how to manipulate numbers, record data, and realise that there are multiple ways to interpret the same information. We are going to spend one more day on Penny Basketball tomorrow. I am going to set a new challenge for the class: instead of trying to determine who is the best, I want them to figure out how to arrange the game so that everyone does really well. In other words, instead of competing against each other, I want them to learn how to work with each other.


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