I learned about Penny Basketball my first year at Wiley through Dr. Brad Thompson, one of the Teacher Collaborators with the Center for Education in Small Urban Communities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Crazy long name, I know! And since CESUCUIUC is way too complex, it is usually just called “The Center.” Dr. Thompson visited my classroom that year and helped facilitate the lessons and activities to help the students learn about fractions, decimals, percents, and data. As we are approaching both our final run to the end of the year and the end of our unit on fractions and decimals, I thought this would be a good week to use Penny Basketball with my class.
I first modeled it for my students and then allowed them to pair up and practice. They did a five-minute round and then I recorded all of their scores as a fraction of shots made over shots taken. While in past years we have assigned the number of shots to take, I decided to let them do as many as they could in the five minutes given. Some did just one, others did as many as six or seven. After the first round ended and scores were recorded, I asked the students to decide who won and why they thought so. Some felt that the students who scored three out of three won because that is a fraction that is equivalent to one. Others said the student with five out of six won because they scored more overall.
They played a second round and then we recorded scores as before. Nearly everyone had a higher number of both shots taken and shots made, showing that increased practice usually leads to improvement. The scores were widely varied, but before identifying who won, I asked the class to think about their criteria for winning: is it highest number of shots made, highest accuracy, or a combination of both? The class decided to do a combination of both, which meant that while several students made every shot they took, only one student made eight out of eight, meaning he had the highest total and accuracy.
We are going to continue Penny Basketball tomorrow, recording data, determining percentages, and charting growth through practice over several rounds. The students were really engaged in the activity and were demonstrating understanding of a variety of fraction concepts, including comparison and equivalency!