Teach­ers us­ing foot­ball to de­ci­pher math

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - RAVENS - By Colin Camp­bell

Stephanie Ste­fanik’s fifth graders at Mays Chapel El­e­men­tary School had just learned the con­cept of ra­tio­nal num­bers, and she was work­ing on her next les­son plan — how to com­pare the num­bers and or­der them on a num­ber line — when she had an idea.

The 28 stu­dents in her class in Bal­ti­more County are Ravens fans and had been fol­low­ing the team’s elec­tric, fran­chis­ere­cord 14-win sea­son. Why not use a foot­ball ex­am­ple to teach?

“Dur­ing the Ravens first drive against the Browns, Mark In­gram ran the ball on one play, La­mar Jack­son ran the ball on an­other play, and Gus Ed­wards ran the ball on the third play,” the math prob­lem read. “The yards are shown below. Mark In­gram: 6.5 yards. La­mar Jack­son: 5.5 yards. Gus Ed­wards: -3.5 yards.

“Who had the largest gain? Who lost yardage? Plot the yards on a num­ber line. Cre­ate an in­equal­ity sen­tence list­ing the yards from great­est to least.”

The Mays Chapel class loved the re­al­world les­son — one of many ways teach­ers in the Bal­ti­more area have de­ployed the Su­per Bowl-fa­vorite home­town team as a learn­ing de­vice this school year to in­spire their stu­dents to learn math, writ­ing and other skills.

“They latched on re­ally quickly,” Ste­fanik said in an in­ter­view Thurs­day. “They were re­ally ex­cited about it.”

Ste­fanik tagged Jack­son, In­gram and Ed­wards in a tweet about the math les­son, prompt­ing a jok­ingly in­dig­nant re­ply from “Gus the Bus.”

“Love it !” Ed­wards tweeted. “Lol why I gotta lose yards tho”

Ste­fanik promised Ed­wards he would gain yards in the class’s next “warm up” prob­lem.

If the stu­dents were ex­cited at the chance to be­come am­a­teur foot­ball an­a­lysts in math class, Ste­fanik said, it was noth­ing com­pared with their hys­te­ria when the teacher showed them the Ravens play­ers’ tweets in re­sponse to the les­son. Ed­wards’ tweet was retweeted nearly 700 times and re­ceived nearly 9,000 likes.

“They were like, ‘Oh, my God! We’re fa­mous! Are they go­ing to come here?’” said Ste­fanik, 36, a Rosedale na­tive. “It was re­ally cool the play­ers were re­act­ing to them. … This team does a re­ally good job with that, bring­ing the com­mu­nity in.”

Ravens guard Bradley Boze­man said see­ing the team be­ing used to teach chil­dren has been a re­minder of how large of a plat­form the play­ers have.

“It’s so much more than foot­ball,” Boze­man said. “It goes be­yond re­ally any­thing we can imag­ine, and for kids and for even older peo­ple, no mat­ter what it is, we im­pact a lot of peo­ple. So we’ve got to re­al­ize what kind of plat­form we have, and just how amaz­ing that is, and to use it for good.”

The team has been col­lect­ing good-luck let­ters from fans and tap­ing them up in the Un­der Ar­mour Per­for­mance Cen­ter prac­tice fa­cil­ity in Owings Mills for play­ers and coaches to see dur­ing play­off prepa­ra­tions.

The good-luck note pro­gram has been used as a learn­ing de­vice in sev­eral class­rooms, said Laura Humphreys, who over­sees it as the Ravens’ se­nior man­ager of fan de­vel­op­ment and ac­ti­va­tion.

The younger stu­dents tend to stick to a sin­gle stan­dard mes­sage, prac­tic­ing their hand­writ­ing, spell­ing and gram­mar, she said, while the older ones of­ten write longer mes­sages, in­cor­po­rat­ing the team’s un­of­fi­cial mantra, “BIG TRUSS,” and send­ing en­cour­age­ment to their fa­vorite play­ers.

“The re­sponse has been over­whelm­ing, as you can prob­a­bly imag­ine,” Humphreys said. “It’s in­cred­i­ble. You don’t typ­i­cally think of sports fan­dom be­ing used in an ed­u­ca­tional way. To see how creative th­ese teach­ers have got­ten [and] to put an ed­u­ca­tional twist on it is awe­some. … En­gag­ing kids in the class­room in that way is pretty spe­cial.”

Jack­son, who has earned praise from fans for his hu­mil­ity and work ethic in ad­di­tion to his gen­er­a­tional tal­ent on the field, has also been the sub­ject of a “Virtue of the Week” project in Ste­fanik’s class, which teaches stu­dents what they might learn from the quar­ter­back about virtues such as en­thu­si­asm, loy­alty and tact.

For en­thu­si­asm, they pledged to “look for­ward to go­ing to class like he en­joys play­ing ev­ery game.” For loy­alty, they noted Jack­son “stay­ing true to him­self and his be­lief he is a QB not just a RB.” For tact, they watched the quar­ter­back’s postgame news con­fer­ence af­ter a Week 14 win against the Buf­falo Bills: “Told truth in kind way about his per­for­mance, he even com­pli­mented the Bills de­fense.”

“Be­fore you speak ask your­self…” Ste­fanik wrote on one of the slides, “Would La­mar Jack­son say it?”

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