- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - If Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker cuts across the field looking to score on a deep pass during Super Bowl XLVIII, Taylor High School students in Jessica Breedlove’s class will know how to stop him.

Playbooks for the four NFL teams in the divisional playoffs are in her algebra I students’ hands, as they come up with routes to run parallel to a player, block him and follow him. Disguised in football, the project teaches students about line equations and writing systems of equations - which is a big component of the statewide algebra End of Course Assessment.

“They’re going to pretend they’re at the Denver Broncos complex, and they’ll say, ‘This is my play, and this is how I know it will work,’” said Breedlove, who has been at Taylor for five of her seven years of teaching. “Whenever I’ve explained substitution, it’s always during the football playoffs. I’m a football fan . so I’ve always used that analogy.”

Breedlove’s creative approach to incorporating real-life scenarios into her math lessons has made a difference to students. The task of writing systems of equations, where two equations work together to provide an answer that works in both scenarios, holds students’ interest better when it’s related to football.

“This is different because you don’t just get the equation. You actually have to solve and find your own answer for the equation to make it all work together,” ninth-grader Katie Husband told the Kokomo Tribune (https://bit.ly/1dKPGPB ). “I like this project because it’s more realistic. Just like in everyday life, you don’t just get the problem; you have to solve for them.”

THS Principal Eric Hartman has noted the positive impact Breedlove has on her students, and he wishes he’d had such an engaging math teacher.

“I never took a math class in my whole life where an instructor was able to bring in the Super Bowl and other entertainment people are interested in,” Hartman said. “The students respond to (Breedlove) in a very positive way because she’s nontraditional. With algebra, a lot of times students are looking for ‘when am I going to use this?’ She’s able to innovate and help them see that.”

Breedlove has been a good role model for students as well as faculty, Hartman said, getting involved with students outside her classroom by acting as sponsor of the Key Club and helping coach track and field in the past.

Jessica is very representative of the type of teacher we have here at Taylor,” he added. “She’s not only concerned with her discipline, but with developing the whole child.”

Students work in pairs on their NFL playbook and they can ask for help from peers at the tables they’re grouped around, too. A constant murmur of conversation fills the classroom as students plan their equations, with the occasional hand popping up to get Breedlove’s attention when they have a question.

Most often, she responds with questions of her own, prompting students to think about what they’ve already done and come to their own conclusions about the next step.

“Some of the kids really get bogged down in the process (of solving systems of equations), so I try to get away from that,” Breedlove said. “It’s using concepts like writing equations for lines that they learned last year and applying the new stuff.”

This is her second year assigning the Super Bowl project. Another project she does is a corn hole tournament to teach quadratics, with students charting the trajectory of their bean bags on the oversized graphing grid Breedlove has painted on one wall of her classroom.

The assignments are demanding, she acknowledges, but students seem to gain a better understanding of the concepts than if they had simply completed worksheets on the topics. Breedlove assigns the NFL project on the first day of the chapter so students can see the connections as she explains the mathematical principles.

“At first they hated it, because it’s a lot of work,” Breedlove said. “But they were able to communicate with me more what they were struggling with because they had it broken down into individual topics.”

Freshman Rebekah Miller is more of a math fan than a football fan, but she still was invested in her playbook.

“I think it’s going to be fun,” she said. “It’s different than anything we’ve ever done. I actually don’t like football, but I love math class. It’s like a big puzzle.”


Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com

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