Fractions in Action…Free-Throw Fractions!

I am used to teaching precalculus, not fractions.  I was not really looking forward to teaching fractions to my 6th graders this year.  In the high school setting, most students have severe adverse reactions to fractions.  So, I decided that I had to do something FUN to save everyone’s sanity.  I wanted an activity where they would want (or at least get) to practice tons of operations on fractions.  Luckily, I am at a project based school and they highly encourage “thinking outside of the box”.  So, I decided to take them “outside”!

We met outside on the basketball court, and each student could volunteer to shoot free-throws.  They drew to see if they would throw 6, 8, or 10 shots.  Then, we kept track of their shots on the “Free Throw Stats Sheet”.


After all of the kids had gone, we sat down at the picnic tables and …

  1. Wrote the fraction “shots made / shots attempted”.
  2. Simplified the fraction
  3. Wrote the simplified fraction as a decimal (dividing by hand)
  4. Found what our shot percentages were (decimal x 100).
  5. Found the LCM of all shots attempted.
  6. Wrote equivalent fractions using the LCM.
  7. Compared all players using the equivalent fractions.
  8. Compared ourselves to our local college basketball teams.

After the first 4 steps, I had them just look at the players and estimate the top five shooters.  Then, after we did the equivalent fractions, we actually ordered all of the players to see how close our estimates were.  With the number of shots that we took, the kids were pretty accurate in their estimates before making the fractions equivalent.  Ah, if I only had more class time in a day!

Back in the classroom the next day we compared ourselves to the local college team.  The GREAT thing was that the percentages were listed in decimal form!  That was such a bonus for me and really made them think about it more.  (ie – The highest women’s free throw percentage was 0.806 – what is this percentage?  Not 8.06 or 806 but 80.6 % – ahhh!!!)

Davidson College Women's Basketball

Davidson College Women’s Basketball Stats

Davidson College Men's Basketball Stats

Davidson College Men’s Basketball Stats

Instead of all around groans when we did fractions, the kids seemed to really enjoy it.  As we were shooting, the kids were doing much of the math in their heads and then saying things like, “I’m at 100%!” or  “Two out of four – I’m at 50%. Hey!  I’m as good as Shaq!!”  Plus, sometimes it is just great to get outside on a beautiful fall day!  : )

As always, suggestions welcome for improvement of this activity for next year!