Thursday, March 21, 2013

American Idol Math

 Yes, I did just say math....I usually only blog about science, but today is an exception.  I've got to share with you my favorite way to teach probability, fractions and decimal connections.  My good friend, Sherrie Roland, came up with this idea many years ago and shared it with me. I have done it for the past three years and each year I believe it is one of the best ways my kids make sense of probability and fractions....through the events that happen on American Idol!

I must admit, this year has had me on my toes!  Usually we have some time to explore with 18 contestants and watch them dwindle down to the top 12.  But this year we went from the top 20 to the top 10 in one week!

Here's how we start....I created a bulletin board that shows the top 20 contestants with their official photo shoot pictures. 

 After they were eliminated, and we went from 20 to 10 we noticed that we had lost 10/20 contestants which is the same as 1/2 which is the same as 50%.  We also noticed that of the 10 contestants who were voted off, 5/10 were girls and 5/10 were boys.  So 10/20 = 5/10 = 1/2 = 50%.

Some of the ways that we keep track of the data each week is by comparing the fractions of girls vs. boys, subtracting fractions with like denominators and searching for equivalent fractions. 

We also practice probability by plotting the likelihood of a boy or girl winning each week on the likelihood line.  The B and G are on index cards that we can manipulate and move along the line - describing the data using percentages, fractions and vocabulary.

Next up, I create a journal for them. It's a simple white covered journal with about 7 pieces of notebook paper in it.  They get to decorate the cover with the title American Idol Math.

Inside I give them a copy of the top ten contestants with their names on it. For the next 10 weeks, we will count down the contestants that get voted off.  As we do we write in our journals to keep track of what is going on.  Last year I predicted Phillip Phillips early on and I have it in print to prove it!

Here is the general format:

Last night ______ got voted off.

9/10 - 1/10 = 8/10

5/10 Girls and 3/10 Boys.  There is a greater likelihood of a girl winning this year than a boy. 

(Draw a likelihood line on the notebook - plot the fractions on the line)

Sometimes we write our favorite part from the night before depending on the night or the time.

Hope you can use this!



  1. LOVE it! And I might be teaching 6th grade math next year for the first time ever! :)