The Story Behind Heart Rate Math

Heart Rate Math is one of our first TeachersPayTeachers products and continues to be our best seller. I think the popularity is due to the ease of incorporating into the classroom with minimal prep and supplies. Here is the story behind our first product--  

Picture a sunny afternoon in July. Blue skies and warm weather, perfect for a day in the park. Except you are stuck in a humid and cramp cubicle doing fraction word problems. This was the setting of a summer program I was running with 50 not-so-eager students and 10 excited volunteers. Parents enrolled their kids for extra math help, and we were not making much headway trying to review sixth grade math.

Students tapped on phones, stared into space, or just fell asleep as volunteers worked problems on the board and attempted to encourage working through word problems. Some volunteers, including myself, worked as engineers, and we attempted to connect to real-world scenarios. We discussed using algebra to design a ship radar, testing a jet engine, and launching weather balloons. But all the talk seemed to make no impact on these teenagers. 

So a couple weeks in, I ditched our methods and attempted a new strategy -- let's get moving! Many students played sports, and once we started talking basketball and football, suddenly phones were off and eyes were opened. We had the students run around and perform different exercises, all while measuring their heart rates and record results. We took it further with rate conversions, percentages, and graphing, and we connected this learning to real careers. This time they were listening, and this spawned further sports related projects! A couple of years later when we opened our TpT store, I went back to this original activity and created Heart Rate Math. 

Click to download  Heart Rate Math Activity 

Click to download Heart Rate Math Activity 

This activity centers on the simple act of measuring your heart rate after various exercises. Students get to jump and run, and instructors can add any fun exercise. They will then find the beats per minute, percentage increase, graph results, and calculate target heart rate. This lesson is a great way for students to work together and apply several math skills in an engaging activity that also works well as an independent math center.  

I strongly believe in connecting math to the real world. It may seem obvious to adults why fractions and graphing are crucial skills (or maybe it's not!), but I think we should not ignore the importance of giving students a why for learning. So we included two awesome STEM career connections related to heart rate: Biochemist and Sports Engineer. Students really love learning about the possibilities of working to design better basketball shoes or football helmets!