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The Summer Olympic Games aren’t just about sports. They’re about math, too. Hold your own Olympic contests and get your kids going in measuring, comparing, and graphing their results. Here’s how.

Track and field events don’t require much equipment and even can be done in a limited space – even indoors if the weather is bad. Hold foot races, distance races, running long jumps, triple jumps, and standing broad jumps. All you need is something to mark the starting point, a watch with a second hand (or your cell phone’s stopwatch) to time events, and a measuring tape. Choose a flat space and clear the area of toys and other tripping hazards and fill in any holes with a little dirt. You’ll also need paper and a pencil to write things down.

Now, let the games begin! Let your child try each event and measure her results and write them down. Then try each event again and see if the results are the same or different. Let your child calculate the difference – this can be tricky when there are fractions to contend with. Help your child figure out the math but don’t do the figuring for her. Any method that works is fine, including just counting from one result to another.

Let your child predict his next set of results. Estimating is a good math skill. Or have him set a target time or target distance and see how close he can come to his goal. There are many different ways to do each event, providing many days of different sorts of fun.

Once your child has a series of results for each event, show him how to create a graph of the data from, say, the running long jump or a graph of his results from a series of 20-yard dashes. You can use graph paper for this or create a bar graph using strips of colored paper. See what story the graph tells: steady progress, uneven progress, or maybe a leveling off at a ceiling of performance.

Your older child can then calculate her average time or average distance by adding up all her scores for a particular event and then dividing the total by the number of scores.

All these data and calculations can be stapled together into a book. Add pictures, if you like. Kids can create their own gold medals and award them to themselves when they reach a target result.

For most children, Kid Olympics works best when each child competes against himself, instead of against others. This is especially important when children are of different ages and abilities and keeps things fun for everyone.

But no matter how you do it, Kid Olympics is fun and adds to math skills too. If you dare, even you can participate too!

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.