Math Tourist: NASCAR failure & the 8 practices

Essential Questions for students (objectives):  How are the 8 mathematical practices evident when studying the mathematics behind a NASCAR failure?

Time needed: 30-40+ minutes
Supplies:   video (length 1:00), article/assignment on NASCAR failure
CCSS:  All 8 mathematical practices
Instructional Format: Video, close reading, discussion


Lesson Description: There are many ways to use this video in your math class.  You can use it to introduce the 8 mathematical practices at the beginning of the year, or you can use it to check in with the practices at a later date.   You can also use it to discuss measurement and data, especially reading graphs and charts.  The upshot of this lesson is the connection between mathematics and NASCAR and how mistakes in simple calculations can be detrimental and quite embarrassing.  This lesson also introduces students to “close reads” in mathematics.

1) You can show this video (1:00 min) at the beginning of the year when you want to introduce the 8 practices.  It is an excellent hook to keep the discussion about the practices contextual and real. 

2) Students read the article through once, noting any interesting mathematical information.  Have them discuss with a partner or group.  What surprised them?  What connections did they find to math they are studying and NASCAR?

3) Students look over the 8 mathematical practices and quickly discuss with a partner where in the article the practice is discussed or addressed. 

4) Students read the article a second time, looking for exact evidence for where the 8 practices are addressed (or where they should have been addressed). 

5) Discuss as a class.  Students could help create an 8 mathematical practices bulletin board giving examples from the NASCAR article for each practice and putting the ideas with proof on sentence strips or large post-its.

Extensions:  1)  Have students research other times when cars have run out of gas at critical times and see if the reasons given are the same in the Harvick case.  2)  Have students research other mathematics involved with NASCAR and represent the 8 practices from any information that they find.

*Note:  I have provided the source of the article that I retyped for this lesson.  The original article on-line uses vocabulary in a few places that teachers & students may find objectionable.  

Related Texts:  For more information on the 8 mathematical practices, The 8 Mathematical Practices - Grades 6-12

Book Cover

Help Wanted on
Mont Vernon
This book combines history
and mathematics with
adorable characters to teach
kids about the many talents
of the first U.S. President.

Book Cover

The UnderAchievers:
Woven into a fun story, this
book provides excellent
math lessons for kids.  

Writing Across the Curriculum:
The NumberFix Project


Book Cover

 Wacky We-Search Reports:
A popular book on writing
across the curriculum.