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March madness spreads to the classroom
Sue Scott

Some teachers are harnessing the excitement of the NCAA basketball tournament to create lessons that challenge students in math, biology and other subjects.

At Southwestern Middle School, sixth grade students Kieya Feeney and Deegan Handy are rooting for their team, the Dinosaurs, in the Southwestern Middle School March Mathness.

Teacher Kelsie Arnold is hosting the mathematical competition, complete with “Eye of the Tiger” theme music, mascots, hoops and brackets: “After a team is chosen for each class, I will maintain class involvement by having the entire class help work through the problems their team needs to answer correctly in order to shoot. This will be done using a website called ‘Quizizz.’ If they maintain 90% accuracy on a question, their team will be able to shoot.”

Kieya and Deegan say March Mathness is a way to learn new math concepts while having fun. Students can get bonus points by shooting a paper ball into a trash can. “You really need to focus and aim to get the basket,” says Deegan. “Three point shots will be the key to making it to the championship.”  

“I am really proud of our team,” says Kieya. “It’s fun. I think we can win it all.”

At McCutcheon High School, some biology students are taking part in an activity called March Mammal Madness. Instead of college basketball teams, students are researching the mountain tapir, harpy eagle, maroon langur and red hartebeest. 

“It involves 65 very unique animal species who compete in simulated combat within the bracket format,” explains science teacher Jennifer Peters. “The matches are based on scientific literature, and winners are determined based upon unique animal characteristics as well as habitat.”

Based on their research, students fill out a bracket to predict the winners. Student Jaquan Simes chose the red wolf. “I feel like it dominates in the way it attacks its prey with its sharp teeth and stealth,” says Jaquan. “I like this activity because it is fun and it helps you understand how environments affect animals and their ability to survive.” 

A team of scientists provide the play-by-play for the online hypothetical bouts. Outcomes take into account an animal's running speed, weaponry, armor and body mass. “This activity also allows students to participate in something that is bigger than just our classroom,” adds Peters. “We are participating with thousands of others all around the world. Everyone is excited to see who will be this year’s champion!”

MHS students research to fill out their brackets
march mammal bracket
SMS students work on math questions
SMS student tries to make a basket for bonus points