The Geometry of Field Day

Published On: May 15th, 2023 | Categories: Food for Thought |


A team of eighth grade students spent the morning on the athletic fields for a fun and engaging math challenge:

Students often ask; “how is the math they are learning in the classroom apply to real life?”

Real World Math Applications:

The eighth grade geometry class paints the giant oval track that is home to the premier competition of the annual POSTS & RAILS Field Day – the Relays. To do this, we set two 40 yard straightaways, and two semi circles each with a diameter of 38 yards long with a 19 yard radius. Students end up with a rectangle with semi circles at either end. But the center rectangle is so large, that to get a small error in measurement can really alter the lengths.

Like in real life, they will have errors, and have to make corrections, they will need to double check and revisit parts of the project that might not be accurate on the first try. “Even the smallest difference can throw off the measurements by huge amounts,” comments Mr. Funk, a retired Upper School math teacher who returned to campus to lead the activity this morning.

“Many students have difficulties making the connection between the real-world and the classroom with math. Take the Pythagorean Theorem for example. It is one thing to see the equation on a whiteboard in the classroom, but taking it and applying it to lining the track is a totally different level of mastery.”

~Mr. Funk, Retired Upper School Math Teacher

The students use right triangles made by the Pythagorean Theorem to set center rectangle, the formula for the circumference of a circle to find the radius, and try to measure as carefully as they can to lay out the track.

Check out the activity in the video below: