Math IS Real Life: May 2016 Edition – Roller Derby

It’s the first Wednesday of May which means it’s time for our monthly linky – Math IS Real Life!! If you want to see how the linky works, or just want other real world math ideas, check out our Pinterest Board of all the posts so that you can look back and find some great ideas and REAL pictures to use in your classroom!

If you are linking up, please include the below picture to link back to this blog post


 A monthly REAL WORLD math blog link-up hosted by MissMathDork,



For as long as I can remember, my dad has always offered his advise to me.  The words of wisdom I hear ringing in my head most often are “be aware of your surroundings”.  I’m always amazed when I hear those words in my head… usually in the most unassuming place.  This past Saturday night I heard my dad’s voice uttering those words in a roller rink.  No, nothing sketchy was happening, I was surrounded by tons of joyful people, ready for a night of roller derby fun, it wasn’t a typical situation to hear these words in my head…. but, I still couldn’t help but think of dad’s words AND how those words related to the mathematics of roller derby.   *insert befuddled face here*  More on that later….


 My SIL, Meg, is member of the Charm City Roller Girls.  This past Saturday night was their last bout of the season so we all jumped in the car and drove to Baltimore for the event.  Meg recently moved back to the area so we’ve been able to see a few of her bouts.  The more I watch the more I’m intrigued by Roller Derby.  Although I haven’t been to a ton of bouts yet, the gist of scoring is pretty simple… (full disclosure… there are a TON of “what if” rules in derby just like all sports.  I am NOT getting into those rules.  If you are interested in all the technical stuff you can check out the Woman’s Flat Track Derby Association Official Website here).


Basically at any given point there are 5 women from one team on the track – usually 4 blockers and 1 jammer (designated by the star on their helmet).  It’s the jammer’s job to lap the other team.  The more they lap the other team, the more points they score.  The jammer earns one point for each blocker they pass – and an extra point if they lap the other jammer.

Each jammer also has an official that is designated solely for counting their points.  Above, a jammer lapped the other team and earned 4 points.


Jammers get a 2-minute time period, called a jam, when they can score points.  Whichever jammer breaks away from the pack first is considered the “lead jammer”.  This jammer has a huge advantage – at any point they can place their hands on their hips and “call off the jam”.    And the hands-on-the-hip-calling-off-the-jam move is EXACTLY why my head instantly went back to my dad’s words “be aware of your surroundings”.

Derby is intense…. super intense.  And the jammer totally needs to be aware of what is happening around them, and with the score, at all times.  As the jammer is lapping the track they need to be keeping a mental tally of how many points they’ve earned, how many points they are up or down overall, and where the other jammer is.  Some jams last less than 30 seconds – this is a defensive move to keep the other team from scoring.  Other times, the lead jammer is speeding around the track while the other team has players in the penalty box (which by the way, they still get to score a point for lapping those players too!).  In this case the jammer wants to stay on the floor for as many of the 120 seconds of the jam as possible – this is the offensive move.

The amount of awareness, and mental math that is happening at any given moment is amazing to watch.  Quite a few times Saturday night, I found myself keeping track of the points in my head and trying to make the decision as to “call off the jam” or keep lapping.  I even made the same call as the jammer a few times 🙂

I never expected to spend a night watching my SIL, “Norma Rocks-Well” (#53) skate and end up thinking about all the math behind the sport.  Pretty much a win-win in my book!


Photo credit JPaden Photography


  Don’t forget to check out the other MIRL posts below!  Check back over the next few days – more will be added!!

Categories: #mirl, computation and estimation, math is real life, and mental math.

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