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  • Writer's pictureScoreboard Math

Ms Martinez: The Teacher Using Sports to Teach Math

How long have you been a fan of the Miami Dolphins?

I was born and raised in Miami, so I have been a Miami Dolphins fan since I was a little girl! Some of my favorite memories are Sunday afternoons, eating pub subs, and watching the game with my family.

How long have you been a teacher?

I am currently in my 9th year of teaching!

How did you first get the idea to use sports to teach math?

Well, it came from my mom. My mom taught 5th grade for 37 years. She incorporated the NFL in her teaching by having each of her students draft a team, and they would follow that team all season long. Her students would learn the history of their team, the city they play in, track the distances they are traveling for games, etc. I always wanted to be in my mom’s class. I thought what she was doing was so incredible. Growing up with 2 older brothers in a neighborhood full of boys, I was a MASSIVE sports fan. As an athlete myself, I learned most of my lessons from playing team sports. Many of my friends who had my mom as a teacher are still die-hard fans of the teams, they drafted in her 5th grade class.

So, when I started teaching, I taught primary. 1st Grade & Kindergarten. I would share that passion with them, but they were too little to know and understand the ins and outs. When I was moved to 3rd grade last year, I overheard a few boys talking about Patrick Mahomes. I joined in on their conversation (defending my QB Tua) and found myself enjoying talking sports with my students. One thing led to another, and I randomly put the Dolphins' schedule on my board. Last year it was strictly tracking wins and losses. The losses were my favorite. I loved how Coach Mike McDaniel approached his team and media when it came to learning from the losses and I thought my students could benefit from some of those lessons. When the 2022-2023 season ended, I saw how much my students loved what we were doing. I knew that next year, I wanted to continue this tradition.

Fast forward to the past season. My plan was to just keep it the same, track the wins and losses, LEARN from the losses (they really do hold on to the lessons they learn from this). By learning from the Dolphins' losses, we correlate that into our own lives and what they are going through on a day-to-day basis. In life, we are going to lose, but it’s how you respond to that loss that makes all the difference. So, I started this season off the same. I posted a little recap on X of me tracking the W & L's (I'm big on the Dolphins Twitter community), and it blew up. I was really shocked. I keep my notifications off on my phone so when I posted it, I thought nothing of it. When I reopened the app later that day, the video had hundreds of thousands of views and so many people chiming in with how much they love what I'm doing.

One comment stood out to me. Omar Kelly, a journalist that follows the Dolphins, suggested that I should track Tyreek Hill's receiving yards. He had been very vocal about hitting 2,000, and I thought it was such a cool thing to follow. From there it took off. My students were hooked, and with each passing week they became more and more invested in what we were doing. We added a Jalen Ramsey interception tracker, and we dove even deeper into the game. It blossomed into something so special.

Did you notice an improvement in your students’ understanding of the topics after incorporating sports?

100%. The before and after from doing this is insane. They have learned so much across the board. In August, many of them had no idea how football really works. Now? They can tell you about penalty flags, downs, interceptions, players, the whole shebang. Not only that, but their desire to learn has changed. They are excited to read. They WANT to go to the library and check out books. They read about different teams, players, etc. They are excited to come to school. We correlate this into our everyday curriculum. This is so much bigger than the game. It's wild how this thing has taken off! It even helped create such an incredible classroom community. Students who didn't normally hang out have now found common ground, or connected on some level. I can go on and on about how amazing this has been for them.

If so, is there anything in particular that allowed your students to understand it better?

I think it’s a culmination of everything. It's hard to put my finger on just one thing.

We heard that the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders paid your class a visit! How did they hear about your class?

Yes! The cheerleaders came back in October, and they were awesome. Once the videos on X started making waves, they wanted to come and show my class some love. So, shout out to social media for doing its thing.

Can you tell us more about Pirate Marty?

Good ol' Pirate Marty. He's really the OG. Honestly, my whole philosophy with teaching is that if I'm not having fun or enjoying what I'm doing, there's NO way my students are, right? So, back in 2020 when COVID hit, I was teaching Kindergarten. Shifting to online instruction was scary for a lot of us, especially having to connect with 5 and 6-year-olds. During this time, being ripped away from the place I love (my classroom), I was at a low point. I felt lost. Teaching via Zoom and computer was not something that I was familiar with. The unknown was scary, and I longed to be back in my classroom, face to face with the kids. But the show had to go on; I had to put my feelings aside and do whatever I could to make my students feel loved and valued, even through a computer screen.

In order to still cover all the things we needed to teach, my Kindergarten team decided to split up the subjects. Each of us would take a subject and create a video teaching that subject to the students. That way, the students would have something to watch and learn from while they were at home during the pandemic, and we would connect about the lessons when we were live on Zoom. Well, my subject was social studies. I vividly remember sitting at home, reading the lesson plans for social studies that week. The topic was coins and their value (yes, it was a SS standard). Immediately, my brain shifted to Pirates of the Caribbean and pirates. A spark ignited in my brain. Excitement was building. My mind was buzzing. In my head, I was like, "Okay, I am going to be a pirate. Pirates like treasures. The coins will be my treasures." I thought some more about pirates and was like, "Okay, we're going to throw a curveball; we are in Florida, (most) everyone has a pool. This pirate was going to be a POOL pirate. He was going to dive into the bottom of pools to find TREASURES."

This is usually what happens with me; I get an idea, and I start running with it. So I went on Amazon and ordered next day mustaches to my house. The rest was history. The first video was a hit. I loved doing it; I loved editing the video; everything about the process just lit a fire in me. You CAN have fun while you teach. Learning CAN and SHOULD be fun. When I sent it out to the kindergarten team and all the students, everyone was going wild. It was funny; the students really believed Pirate Marty was like my cousin. So, I knew that the following week, Pirate Marty had to return. I wanted him to return. It brought teaching to life. At a time when there was so much uncertainty in the world, Pirate Marty brought joy. Pirate Marty is still a living legend, and his lessons will live on forever. He was the start of this all. I will always throw passion into my teaching. With the little ones, it was Pirate Marty. With the big kids, it's the NFL. We like to go off script in Ms. Martinez's class. The best lessons come when you go off script.

Pirate Marty making his premiere in March of 2020

How did you feel when you got invited to the Super Bowl for your work?

Shocked. Disbelief. I still do, and the event already happened. It's hard to put into words what it meant to me. There are so many incredible teachers in the world. To know that what I am doing has not only inspired my students, but educators and people across the world is really mind boggling.

What is next for you?

What’s next? Hmmm. Well. My students listened to me ramble on about my passion (NFL), so I am going to throw a little Messi into our curriculum for the remainder of the year. They are big soccer fans and are obsessed with Messi. I want to compare Futbol to Football. We will also be diving into the NFL offseason, talking about the Combine, NFL Draft, etc. But next year? Well, I’m taking a page from my mom’s book. My students will draft their own NFL team. I will draft the Dolphins and still do what I do with them. But each of them will get a chance to track their team alongside me. When we talked about the postseason this year, they had such an interest in the other teams. I think it’s perfect. I am excited to see this take off and I can’t wait to start. I am going to take what my mom did and just run with it. Doing what I do best. You’ve got to love what you do. Sprinkling in the NFL to our daily curriculum has changed the game for me. There is so much to learn from the game. It’s bigger than football.


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