Zombies and Tennis Balls: Real-World Math Applications

Students in Mr. Malone’s math classes at Fairmont Private Schools — Anaheim Hills Campus spent a week working on special projects involving real-world math applications for Fairmont’s upcoming Open House season.

Students in Malone’s Algebra II class wrote equations and drew the graph of the flight of a tennis ball they threw, while students in Malone’s Pre-Calculus class were split into two groups. One group was to determine how long it would take zombies to take over a certain county, and the other group was tasked with finding the decline of a country’s population due to a zombie outbreak.

The interactive tennis ball activity, which allowed students to solve a quadratic problem in a real-world situation, provided a little extra excitement for them because they were able to leave the classroom setting and venture outdoors. Students threw tennis balls from a predetermined height and recorded the average time it took for the ball to hit the ground. After they collected their data, they then wrote formulas (in both standard and vertex forms) to calculate the height of the ball over time and graphed their equations.

Mr. Malone said he enjoys the tennis ball project because of its practicality and its ability to engage the students.

“I thought it was pretty [interesting] to see how all of the math variables — release point, distance, height — affect the path the ball takes through the air,” he said.

Through the zombie outbreak assignment, students were able to understand how exponential growth and decay would impact the world in an extreme situation in which a disease was rapidly spreading. Students then created exponential equations and graphed those equations. Like the tennis ball activity, Malone’s students were able to see how significant math can be in solving problems outside of the classroom and also improve their own comprehensions of the concepts they’ve been practicing.

“I learned different ways to solve a problem, and it helped me better understand lessons that I struggled on,” 8th grader Alexa L. said.

Both activities have proven to be beneficial to Malone’s students, and they appreciate the value his assignments bring to their studies in math — both in his class and beyond.

“[Mr. Malone’s assignments have] taught me new skills that can help me in the future — new thought processes and approaches to equations and how to better solve as well as break down equations and word problems,” 8th grader Jordan S. said.

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Shelby Wagner - 1st Grade Teacher Fairmont Historic AnaheimTop Teacher & Skating Champion
Shelby “My favorite part of being a teacher is the children I get to teach.”
  • Is one of the head teachers for the Fountain Valley Artistic Skating Club, teaching regional and national champions. She also teaches beginner classes every Saturday morning.
  • Every year, her students are amazed to find that their teacher has a life outside of the classroom.
“I love feeling like I’m part of a family [at Fairmont].”
Keira Kamath - 5th Grade Fairmont Anaheim HillsScience & Tennis Superstar
keira “I like how there are so many different specialty classes at Fairmont Anaheim Hills, like art, music, PE, science lab, computer lab, and Spanish.”
  • She would like to be a professional tennis player when she grows up, or maybe a doctor.
  • Loves dance and plays the piano
  • Her favorite class is science “because you get to figure out stuff, and I like to do experiments.”
Nicholas Aghaian - 7th Grade Fairmont Historic AnaheimKicking His Way to Med School
nicolas“The teachers and the amount of support they provide to not only me, but to the whole entire community here at Fairmont is probably what I like most about attending Fairmont Historic Anaheim.”
  • He would like to be a professional soccer player, or a doctor specializing in the field of sports medicine.
  • Enjoys basketball, piano, and soccer pitch.
  • His favorite subject is math “because I like to be challenged, and math is full of challenges.”
Gianluca De Gregoris – 2nd Grade Fairmont North TustinDancing Toward Greatness
dancing"What I like most about Fairmont is that I get to learn and meet new friends.”
  • He wants to be a professional dancer when he grows up.
  • Is trained in ballet and ballroom dancing.
  • Loves writing and creating new stories.
Nicole Heyman - Kindergarten Teacher Fairmont Anaheim HillsLaying a Foundation for Lifelong Learning
Nicole "The best part about teaching at Fairmont is being able to work with a diverse group of students who are all incredibly talented. It is amazing to be able to challenge students at such a young age and watch these children grow throughout the year.”
  • Loves camping, reading, and traveling
  • Her students love learning random things about her – like the fact that when she was in kindergarten she wanted to be Spiderman when she grew up.
  • Her proudest moments are the times when a student on campus is excited to see her, oftentimes telling her that she’s “the best teacher in the world.” “I live for those moments.”
“I choose to teach at Fairmont because of the sense of community, as well as the drive for our students to succeed.”
DJ Clovis - Music Teacher Fairmont North TustinRunning to the Rhythm
DJ Clovis “I get to work with amazing staff, faculty, parents, and most importantly, students!”
  • Teaches music to all grades — from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade
  • Coaches (or has coached) football, basketball, and Run Club
  • Plays bass trombone
  • NJHS Conflict Resolution Coach
  • He has run 15 marathons and 4 ultra marathons.
“The best part of teaching at Fairmont is the autonomy — being able to create a program that fits all of my students. At Fairmont North Tustin, I get to help with a lot of different activities.”