Measuring & Estimating with the Summer Olympics 2012

Have your kids been watching the summer Olympics? Are they itching to
see how far they can jump or throw objects? In honor of the 2012
Summer Olympics, we’re going to give our kids a chance to compete in their own track and field
events…and sneak in a little math while we’re at it!

For each of the events below, use masking tape to indicate the starting line. Give kids an opportunity to
practice each of the events before the competition. Then show them how to use the tape measure. For
young kids, measuring in inches is fine; you may need to help them read the numbers. Older kids can
convert the inches to feet.

You will need:

  • Masking tape for the starting line.
  • A tape measure or yard stick.
  • Plastic straws for the Javelin Throw. Option: older kids can use chop sticks.
  • Small soft balls for the Shot Put. Koosh balls and water balls* work well as they don’t roll too far
  • after the throw.
  • Paper plates for the Discus Throw.

Long Jump: With their feet on the starting line, kids perform a standing jump. Use a small piece of
masking tape to mark the back of the closest heel to the start line then help them measure the distance.

Javelin Throw: With their feet on the starting line, kids throw the straw. Measure from the start line to
the end of the straw closest to the line.

Shot Put: With their feet on the starting line, kids throw the ball. Measure from the start line to the
edge of the ball closest to the line.

Discus Throw: With their feet on the starting line, kids toss the paper plate. Measure from the start line
to the edge of the plate closest to the line.

At the end of the friendly competition, hand out medals to each competitor. The Dollar Store is a good
place to find cheap, but nice, medals.

Variation for older kids: If there is more than one “competitor”, have them predict their results in feet/
inches before each “competition”. To give them a benchmark, show them how long one foot (12 inches)
is. The winner is the one whose estimate is closest to the actual result.

*These soft, cloth balls are usually used to soak up water for water play activities.

Karyn Hodgens, Elementary Mathematics Specialist

Kids Money & Math

Karyn is co-founder of Math Unity LLC, an educational company specializing in elementary mathematics. She has a BA in Child Development, a Masters of Arts in Education with a Specialization in Elementary Mathematics and a multiple subjects teaching credential. Her passion is designing real-world lessons that resonate with kids and their interests. Karyn is the creator of Nifty Numbers, Math Medley, Gellin' with Geometry and Play and Take Family Math Night kits. These kits were designed to build strong family-school partnerships and get parents involved in fun and engaging math activities with their children. To find out more, visit