Think about it! Snowboarding is an Olympic sport and has been since 1998 when it was added as a totally new sport. I have a nephew who regularly headed up to the mountains to snowboard every winter. If I asked him what math is involved with snowboarding, he'd either shrug or give me one of those looks. You know the one where he thinks I'm crazy because we are not in the classroom and everyone knows you don't do any math outside of the instructional period.
Well, guess what. There is quite a bit of math involved from angle of approach, to drop, to rate/time/distance to slope. A nice introduction to the whole topic is this Prezi. In addition to listing the math, it gives example problems to illustrate their point. I enjoyed watching it myself especially as I do not snowboard or ski.
This little problem from Bed Time Math has a lovely video showing a crow snowboarding using a lid. There is a question to go with it that you could use or you could make your own
Did you know there is an actual formula for finding the right length of a snowboard to go with your height? I certainly didn't. Based on this entry, the formula is basically 88% of your height in centimeters. The 88% is actually an average based on the recommendation of 85 to 92% of your body height. In essence, that makes it a real life application of a proportions and averages. This formula is used to find the starting point because there are other factors involved.
According to The House site, weight is actually much more accurate than the height and they rely on a chart but they also have a wonderful page that talks about bindings, types of snowboards, etc. It is a very comprehensive site. I'd like to thank Kate from here for answering my questions.
Now on to bicycles! How about starting with this Power Point Presentation that introduces students to the math of cycling. It covers speed, gear ratio, angles of the frame, and wheels. The information is detailed with explanations and examples. If you want to take this a step further by focusing on BMX bikes, this site explains specific gears, cadence, wheel size, and angles involved in the actual sport. The two together provide a good introduction to the topic.
Now how about some hands on math using bicycles in two different ways? First this activity has students investigating and analyzing bike tracks at a crime scene? You set things up and they have to do the work. The lesson is arranged to take them through the process step by step.
From PBS comes two different activities focusing on upper elementary and middle/high school levels. These activities investigate a variety of bicycles to answer the questions. This is great if you have access to all the types of bikes but if you don't, you could adjust the activity to change it into a research project so students have to search for the answers. They gain researching skills.
I wanted to look at the math associated with bike tricks but I could only find a pdf on the mathematics of bicycle tricks but it is a heavy duty paper with more variables than I've seen since I was in college! It has computer models to show the steps involved in a variety of tricks otherwise, I can't find anything. It gives students the idea that the math is not simple.
Finally, if you want to create a full unit, check this one out. It takes the students through tangents, circles, motion, rate of change, simple machines, in addition to four weeks of experiments to add the hands on component to the unit. Its put out by Yale and has everything needed to make it your own.
So here are two sports that students love to do and using it to teach math might grab their attention and help them see the value of math.