The Basketball Area Inquiry

Our measurement learning led us to a large inquiry. What is the area of the shooting zone on the basketball court? This particular zone is a rectangle so we were curious about the area. How many of our 1 meter squared newspaper units would fit into this zone?

The students started their inquiry by creating 1 meter squared units with newspaper. This in itself was not an easy task as newspaper pieces do not come in perfect meters!

Once the newspaper units were made, the collaborative work continued.

Some groups joined forces to work out the length and width of the basketball shooting zone. Partners were essential on the windy days as the newspapers tended to get caught by the wind.

The interesting part of the inquiry came when the students grappled with how to use, measure, or ignore the “extra bits” of the measurements, for each of the sides of the rectangle did not come out to be perfect square meters.

Some of the groups rounded down to the nearest square meter. Others rounded up. Some rounded up one side and rounded down the other side. A few groups decided to use calculators and go to the nearest 100th of a meter.

When the reflection time came, the groups shared a variety of measuring methods and answers:

20 meter squared: Rounding down, 4 m by 5 m.

25 meters squared: Rounding up one side and down on the other, 5 m by 5 m.

30 meters squared: Rounding up, 5m by 6m.

27.47 meters squared: Measuring to the nearest 100th of a meter, 4.77 by 5. 76

27.21 meters squared: Measuring to the nearest 100th of a meter, 4.74 by 5.74

Despite the varied answers, the take away learning was about area, and what it meant to measure area.

And what is area?

“It’s a space.”

“It’s measuring the space.”

“It’s the inside space of something.”

“You could jump on the meters to find the space. I counted 20 squares, plus the extras.”

No matter what method the students chose, the basketball area inquiry engaged everyone in measuring, thinking, working together, and learning. And that is what mathematics is all about: thinking, learning, and inquiring so that we can understand and describe our world as best as we can.