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What could be more exciting than NASCAR and math?




3, 4, 5  


Title – Let’s Go Racing!
By – Deborah Thompson
Primary Subject – Math
Grade Level – 3-5

Standards Addressed: problem solving, gathering data, summarizing data with statistics, number patterns, numeration and graphing

Goals: to improve student’s ability to problem solve, gather data, summarize data with statistics, complete a line graph, round, read, and compare whole numbers

Teacher’s Note: When I first created this lesson, I was looking for a way to get my LD children excited about math and improve the children’s understanding of applying math concepts to real world situations. Being a race fan, I also wanted to share my love of racing. “Let’s Go Racing” worked! Monday morning the students come in eager to find out where their driver finished in the race (if they don’t already know) and where they stand in points. When race season ends in November, the children often ask when they can do the “racing math” again. At the beginning of the school year, children want to go back and graph the races that we missed over the summer. Not only have test scores improved, but also my children are excited about math!

Required Materials:

  • Weekly finishing positions and points from the NEXTEL Cup Race. (The season lasts from February to November.) I use as a resource and print this out on an overhead. You could have the children collect the data individually via Internet.
  • Grid paper for graph. The size of the squares should be based on the needs of your children.
  • Math questions that reflect the standards you wish to address in the lesson. I type my questions on a PowerPoint presentation on my computer that projects on the television. You could use an overhead, worksheet or read the questions to the children.
  • Math journal or paper to track points and write answers to questions.


  1. At the beginning of the race season, children select a driver they would like to follow for the season. For those students who are not familiar with the drivers, I put a driver’s name and number on a piece of paper and children select from a basket. I try to select drivers that typically do well on a consistent basis in order to get the children excited about each weekly lesson.
  2. After the first race of the season children create their line graph. Discussion typically involves what to title their graph (for example: #88’s Race for the Championship) and each axis (Finishing Position and Racetrack). The students then decide a scale to use for the vertical axis. Using the finishing positions from the race, students then fill-in the name of the racetrack on the x-axis and graph their driver. The first day you create the graph takes the longest. Following weeks are much easier as the graph has already been labeled.
    1. Each Monday of a race weekend, we reflect on the elements of a graph (labels, scale, etc.), what kind of a graph we are making, etc. Children then add the track and plot where their driver finished. In their math journals, students write statements comparing finishes and patterns observed (this is modeled in the beginning lessons).
  3. Students keep a running tally of the points their driver earns in the race. Again, using the race information provided on the overhead, students add the points earned to the previous points. If a driver is deducted points, students are also required to adjust their total as needed.
  4. Using the points, I create about 8-12 questions reflecting the standards I would like to address. During the beginning of the season, I do a lot of modeling on how to locate the data and solve for the answer. Once I feel the children have a pretty good understanding of the standard, I will continue to ask a question on that skill but have the children work independently to solve it. Then I will be able to introduce another standard. For example, in the beginning I might focus on place value including reading and writing large numbers, writing numbers in exponential form, comparing numbers, etc. After a few weeks, I may add variability of data beginning with mode, median, and range.

    Example questions are below:

    1. What digit is in the hundreds place in driver #6’s points?
    2. How many more points would driver #8 have to earn in order to be equivalent to driver #24’s points?
    3. What is the median of the first 7 drivers?
    4. Write driver #48’s points in exponential form.
    5. Estimate the total points of the last 5 drivers.

Extensions: The same format can be used with money drivers earn during the race. Typically, the money earned is not posted as quickly as points, but it could be a follow-up lesson the next day depending on the level of your children.

Closure: At the end of the race season, we have a celebration and recognize the students and where their drivers finished in the point’s race.

Assessment Based on Objectives: As the weeks pass and students work more independently on certain skills, I am able to see who has an understanding of what was taught. Children who show an understanding are able to help those who have a more difficult time. I find that throughout the season, everyone has the chance to help someone else, as there are a wide variety of skills being taught from week to week. I have given “mini-quizzes” and the state assessments include standards taught during “Let’s Go Racing” lessons.

Adaptions for students with Learning Differences:

      * I use larger grid paper as it helps some of my children keep their graphs neat.


      * I use colors on the overhead to differentiate between driver’s car number, name, finishing position, points and money earned. I also use the largest, boldest font that I can. For those students with poor visual processing skills, you could have an extra printout for them to use up close.


      * For some of my children it is helpful to have a template for them to use to track points.


      * Keeping the questions posted on the TV helps those with poor auditory memory skills.

Connections to Other Subjects:

      * Science — force, motion, and velocity, have children work in groups to build a “racecar”


      * Social Studies — locating tracks on a map


      * Writing — a day in the life of a race car driver


    * Art — designing their own race car, helmet

E-Mail Deborah Thompson !

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