7 Ways to Connect Math to Current Events
Current events can be springboards for math questions. 
Was there a significant weather event? Was there an election? Who won a sports game? Did anyone set a record or win a prize? Students are more engaged with math when it is related to a real event or a specific person or group.
The ideas in this post can be adapted for almost any event. We'll take a look 7 general ways to connect an event to math, and look at specific examples and questions.
1. Date or Time of Event
2. Age of a Person Involved
3. Location or Distance
4. Travel Time
5. Attendance or Population
6. Additive Comparison to Related Data
7. Multiplicative Comparison to Related Data

 About the Event 

What was the event? It can be related to a person, a group, or a place. 

Example: In July of 2022, Filipino athlete Ryan Alonzo set a Guinness World Record in the high-intensity activity of jump rope.

Jump Rope
He completed 3,731 consecutive crossovers compared to the previous record of 2,405 crossovers. A crossover is done by crossing the arms in and out while skipping over the rope as it goes around the body.
 1. Date or Time of Event 
 What was the date and time of the event?
 • How long ago was that time in days, hours, minutes, and/or seconds?
 • How can you convert the total time to a different unit?
Counting or adding the days: Anothers news source gives the date of the world record event as July 24th, 2022. To find the number of days, you need to know the days in the months from July through October. You know that there are 31 days in July and August, and 30 days in September. Find the number of days between July 24th and now (August 28th), then add. 
Month 31 Days
From July 24th to July 31: 7 days
July 31 to August 31: 31 days
August 31 to September. 30: 30 days
September 30 to October 28: 28 days
7 + 31 + 30 + 28 = 96 days

Calculating the hours: You can write the factors with labels.
 96 days x 24 hours/day = 2,304 hours
Of course, the exact number of hours depends on the current time of day and the time that the rope jumping record was broken.
Calculating the minutes: Change 2,304 hours to minutes by multiplying by 60. 
2,304 hours x 60 minutes/hour = 138,240 minutes
If this event was VERY recent, students may want to find hours, minutes, and seconds instead of days, hours, and minutes.

 2. Age of Person Involved 

If the event was about a person, what is that person's age? 
• What year was the person born? 
• Is there more than one possible answer?

Finding the year: Ryan Alonzo's age was reported as 35, but his birthday is not given. Subtracting 35 from the current year, 2022, leads to a birth year of 1987. However, you need to consider that Ryan might turn 36 before the end of this year. If so, you would subtract 36 from 2022 and get 1986. Therefore the answer could be either 1987 (if his birthday is before today's date) or 1986 (if his birthday is later in 2022).

 3. Location or Distance 

Where did the event occur?
• What is the distance of the event location from this location? 
• What unit makes sense? blocks, miles, kiliometers, feet
• How can you convert the total distance from one unit to another?

What is the distance? The article does not give the location. Since the athlete is Filipino, consider using Manila, Philippines for the location. 
Globe Manila to Los Angeles
According to the site FREE MAP TOOLS (https://www.freemaptools.com/how-far-is-it-between.htm) the distance from Los Angeles, CA, to Manila, Philippines, is 11,745 kilometers. According to the same site, this is 7,298 miles. 
Check by using a conversion factor: 1 mile = 1.60934 kilometers. 
Multiply 7,298 by the conversion factor and round to a whole number.
7,298 x 1.60934 = 11,745
So, this show that the distances in kilometers and miles are equivalent. 
To convert miles to feet multiplying by 5,280.
7,298 miles x 5,280 feet/mile = 38,533,440 feet
To convert kilometers to meters, multiply by 1,000. 
11,745 kilometers x 1,000 meters/kilometer = 11,745,000 meters
If you are telling the distance to a friend, stating the distance as miles or kilometers is more understandable than stating it in feet or meters. 

Another way to express distance: In this case, it might make sense to compare the distance to the circumference of the Earth at the equator as a percent. The circumference is 40,075 kilometers or 24,901 miles. You can find the percent using either miles or kilometers.
In miles, 7,298 ÷ 24,901 is 0.293 or 29.3%
In kilometers, 11,745 ÷ 40,075 = 0.293 or 29.3%
So, the distance from Los Angeles to Manila, Philippines, is about 29% of the distance around the Earth. You many want to point out to students that the percent should be about the same whether you have calculated from miles or kilometers.
You can also think of fractions for this comparison. 29% is between 1/4 (25%) and 1/3 (33.3%). 

 4. Travel Time  

How long might it take to travel from your location to the event's location?
• What is a reasonable estimate for the travel time?
• How can you schedule your travel?
Travel time by plane: The most common way to travel between Los Angeles and Manila is by plane. 
Travel by Plane
If you look up the speed of commercial airplanes, most travel about 500 to 600 miles per hour. So, use the distance in miles to estimate the travel time. Divide the distance, 7,298 by 600 and then by 500. 
7,298 ÷ 600 = 12.16
7,298 ÷ 500 = 14.59
The travel time would be about 12 to 15 hours plus extra time for takeoff and landing. 

Travel schedule: Suppose the airport the plane is scheduled to leave at 1:00 p.m. and you need to arrive 3 hours ahead of time. Also, suppose the Los Angeles airport is 2 hours away. What time should you leave home and what will be the approximate schedule between leaving and your arrival?
Travel Schedule
Work backwards. Three hours before 1:00 p.m. is 10:00 a.m. So you need to be at the airport at 10:00 a.m. You need to leave home 2 hours earlier, or 8:00 a.m.
If the plane departs on time, it will arrive at Manila 13 hours after 1:00 p.m. One way to find the answer is to first add 12 hours and then another hour. 
So 1:00 p.m. plus 12 hours is 1:00 a.m. 
And one hour later than 1:00 a.m. is 2:00 a.m. 
So, the plane would arrive in Manila at about 2:00 a.m. Los Angeles time. The actual time will be based by the time zone.

Travel by ship: Before planes became the main way to travel to other continents, people may have traveled on passenger ships. 
 Travel by Ship
This would take MUCH longer. For example, cruise ships typically travel at about 30 miles per hour. So, divide 7,298 miles by 30 miles per hour.
7,298 ÷ 30 = 243 hours 
243 hours ÷ 24 hours/day = 10.125 days
At 30 mph, traveling by ship across the Pacific ocean could take 10 days! There are very few passenger ships crossing the Pacific Ocean now, other than cruise ships. Because cruise ships only travel between major ports, don't count on taking this trip by ship anytime soon!

 5. Attendance or Population  
What is the population related to the event?
• If it was a sports event, what was the attendance?
• What is the population of the region, such as the city or state?

Ways to express the population: The article did not mention how many people were at the event. So, you can take a look at the population of the largest city in the Philippines. According to Wikipedia, the largest city is Manila. The population of Manila is about 1.8 million. You may want students to write 1.8 million in standard form or in words. 
1.8 million = 1,800,000
one million, eight hundred thousand

 6. Additive Comparison to Related Data 

Compare to a related quantity by adding or subtracting.
• How much more (greater) or less is one number compared to the other?
 Add or Subtract
Comparing the population of Manila to the population of Los Angeles:
According to Wikipedia, Los Angeles has about 3.9 million. Manila has 1.8 million people. You can compare these populations by subtraction.
3.9 million – 1.8 million = 2.1 million. This is equal to 2,100,000.
Thus, the population of Los Angeles is about 2,100,000 more than Manila.

Comparing the metro areas: The population within each city is just a small part of the metro area. The metro area for Manila has 13.5 million people, while Los Angeles metro has 13.2 million people. Find the difference between the two metro area populations.
13.5 million – 13.2 million = 0.3 million or 300,000
So, Manila's metro area has 300,000 greater population than Los Angeles.

Comparing to an earlier event: You can also compare the recording-breaking record to the previous record. Ryan Alonzo completed 3,731 consecutive crossovers. The previous record was 2,405 consecutive crossovers. 
3,731 – 2,405 = 1,326
So, Ryan Alonzo beat the previous record by 1,326 crossovers.

 7.  Multiplicative Comparison to Related Data 

Compare to a related quantity by multiplication.
• How many times greater or less is one quantity compared to another? 
• How can you give the answer as a fraction, decimal, percent?
• How can this be expressed as a percent increase or percent decrease?

Comparing the two cities: To find how many times greater one number is than another, you need to divide the larger population by the smaller population.
3.9 million ÷ 1.8 million = 2.17
So, the population of Los Angeles is about 2.17 times the population of Manila. As a percent, this is 217%. You can say that the population of Los Angeles is 217% of the population of Manila.

Comparing the two cities another way: Divide the smaller population by the larger population. 
1.8 million ÷ 3.9 million = 0.46
So, the population of Manila is about 0.46 times the population of Los Angeles. As a percent, this is 46%. You can say that the population of Los Angeles is 46% of the population of Manila.

Multiplicative comparison of the crossover record: Ryan Alonzo completed 3,731 consecutive crossovers. The previous record was 2,405 consecutive crossovers.
3,731 ÷ 2,405 = 1.55
So, the new record is 1.55 times the prior record. This mean that 3,731 crossovers is 155% of the previous record of 2,405 crossovers. 

Converting to percent increase: You can also convert the percent of a number to a percent increase by comparing to 100%. Consider the increase in consecutive crossovers.
155% – 100% = 55%
So, 155% of the prior number is a 55% increase compared to the previous record.


As you can tell, there are many ways to connect math to current events! By doing this, you can help your students 
  • become more alert to numbers mentioned in the news, 
  • learn about various people and places, and 
  • compare quantities by addition or multiplication.

Also, to find activities that relate math to events in history, try the Math History-Mystery Puzzles in this store. These PDF activities, including many freebies, are mystery-year puzzles that focus on inspirational people and events. Each engaging puzzle includes review of several middle school math concepts. You may want to download the free catalog and an overview of math topics. Click below to view the PDF or download to your own device. In the file,  click the logo below any date to view the complete puzzle description.

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