Math in Basketball Lesson Plan


Download the full instructions for this lesson plan with all handouts.

Using video segments and web interactives from Get the Math, students engage in an exploration of mathematics, specifically reasoning and sense making, to solve real world problems. In this lesson, students focus on understanding the Big Ideas of Algebra: patterns, relationships, equivalence, and linearity; learn to use a variety of representations, including modeling with variables; build connections between numeric and algebraic expressions; and use what they have learned previously about number and operations, measurement, proportionality, and discrete mathematics as applications of algebra.  Methodology includes guided instruction, student-partner investigations, and communication of problem-solving strategies and solutions.

In the Introductory Activity, students view a video segment in which they learn how Elton Brand, an accomplished basketball player, uses math in his work and are presented with a mathematical basketball challenge.  In Learning Activity 1, students solve the challenge that Elton posed in the video, which involves using algebraic concepts and reasoning to figure out the maximum height the basketball reaches on its way into the basket by using three key variables and Elton Brand’s stats.) As students solve the problem, they have an opportunity to use an online simulation to find a solution.  Students summarize how they solved the problem, followed by a viewing of the strategies and solutions used by the Get the Math teams.  In Learning Activity 2, students try to solve additional interactive basketball (projectile motion) challenges. In the Culminating Activity, students reflect upon and discuss their strategies and talk about the ways in which algebra can be applied in the world of sports and beyond.


Students will be able to:

  • Describe scenarios that require basketball players to use mathematics and algebraic reasoning in sports.
  • Identify a strategy and create a model for problem solving.
  • Recognize, describe, and represent quadratic relationships using words, tables, numerical patterns, graphs, and/or equations.
  • Understand the concept of a function and use function notation.
  • Learn to recognize and interpret quadratic functions that arise in applications in terms of a context, such as projectile motion.
  • Solve quadratic equations by inspection, taking square roots, completing the square, the quadratic formula, and factoring, as appropriate to the initial form of the equation.