Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Stats on the Sideline

Measures of Central Tendency

Morgan Myers, Brittany VanCleave, Alexandra Parsons, Teresa Lansford, Cacey Wells, Laura Young | Published: April 12th, 2023 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 6th, 7th
  • Subject Subject Mathematics
  • Course Course Middle School Mathematics
  • Time Frame Time Frame 100 minutes
  • Duration More 2-3 class periods


This lesson gives students a sneak peek inside how a sports statistician interprets team and player statistics. Students will analyze basketball player data from the OKC Thunder's 2021–22 season related to measures of central tendency. By the end of the lesson, students will be able to calculate measures of central tendency (mean, median, and mode) for a set of data, support which measure best represents the data, and describe how math is used in the work of sports professionals.

Essential Question(s)

What are measures of central tendency? How are they used by professionals in a sports organization?



Students apply previous knowledge to complete a Card Sort related to central tendency, including vocabulary, definitions, example data sets, and sports headlines.


Students watch a video where a sports statistician talks about the use of statistics and data analysis in his work. Students then reflect on the video using the “How Am I Feeling? What Am I Thinking?” strategy.


Students complete guided notes on measures of center and spread.


Students apply measures of center and spread to interpret basketball player data from the OKC Thunder’s 2021-22 regular season.


Students create a sports headline to represent what they believe is the “MVP” (Most Valuable Point of data) of central tendency for the OKC Thunder data.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Guided Notes (attached; one per student)

  • Guided Notes, Teacher Guide (attached)

  • Card Sort (attached; one per group of 3-4 students)

  • Practice, Version 1 (6th grade) or Practice, Version 2 (7th grade) (attached; one per student)

  • Sticky notes (optional; one per student)

  • Note cards (optional; one per student)

  • Student devices with internet access (optional)


20 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Begin with slide 3 and introduce the essential questions to students: What are measures of central tendency? How are they used by sports reporters? Consider also sharing the lesson objectives on slide 4

Show slide 5. Group students into groups of 3-4 and pass out one set of prepared Card Sort cards to each group. Ask each group to try their hands at the Card Sort. As the groups work, walk around the room to see what students remember about central tendency, but do not correct them. Give groups 5-7 minutes to complete this part of the activity.

Show slide 6. Using the strategy Three Stray, One Stays, have one person per group stay with their Card Sort to share their reasoning while the rest of the group circulates the room to hear other groups’ reasoning and see their Card Sorts. Give the students a few minutes to circulate to the other groups before returning to their original group and discussing what they noticed about how others sorted their cards. Allow students to change their cards if they need. Then ask each group to share out things they noticed while sorting or circulating the room.

Ask students to reflect on central tendencies, range, and outliers and how these concepts can be used in sports. Consider allowing a few students to share out with the class before moving on.


15 Minute(s)

Go to slide 7. Play the ICAP video on the slide: “K20 ICAP - Stats on the Sideline (Middle School).” This video illustrates how a sports statistician processes data to report on and analyze a game.

Have students reflect on the video using the How Am I Feeling? What Am I Thinking? strategy. Students should share their thoughts with the class or with an Elbow Partner.


25 Minute(s)

Go to slide 8. Pass out a Guided Notes handout to each student. Use the attached Guided Notes, Teacher Guide to guide the discussion in this phase.

Each method of central tendency uses the same dataset except for median. To show both approaches for finding median, the dataset is shown with both one and two middle numbers.

If you have an interactive whiteboard or similar technology in your classroom, unhide slides 9–14 and go through each slide on your interactive whiteboard, following the teacher’s guide. Otherwise, use a document camera to follow the teacher’s guide.


20 Minute(s)

Go to slide 15. Invite students to analyze the average points scored by OKC Thunder basketball players during the 2021-22 regular season.

Select the appropriate practice handout for your students: Practice, Version 1 (6th grade) or Practice, Version 2 (7th grade). Print and hand out one copy per student.

Ask students to act as sports statisticians and interpret these points of data. Allow students to either work in pairs or in small groups to complete their handouts. Remind students to use their Guided Notes to help them find each measure of center.


20 Minute(s)

Ask students to think back to the sports quotes from their Card Sort. What kind of story can they tell based on their analysis of the data? Have them decide, based on that analysis, which measure of center is their data MVP (or their Most Valuable Point of data). Have students create a headline showcasing which measure of center they have selected and record their MVP and headline on their practice handouts.

Show slide 16. Ask students to use the Tweet Up strategy to share their headlines, either by writing their headlines on note cards (option 1 below) or posting it on Padlet (option 2 below).