March Mathness

There are more than nine quintillion (9 x 1018) ways to fill out a 64-team March Madness bracket — and almost 150 quintillion permutations for the 68 college basketball teams in this year’s men’s tournament of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The Princeton University Press March Mathness blog includes interviews of sports rankings experts, coaches, and mathematicians. Their predictions take the power of mathematical methods of rating and ranking, and bring them to bear on the NCAA hoops tournaments. The blog will also provide updates on the group’s collective performance, and the best method for picking the winner.

Blog posts, which date back to March, 2011, have described how math is used during tournaments, as detailed in Princeton University Press books such as Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball, and Football by Wayne Winston and Amy Langville and Carl Meyer’s Who’s #1? [Thanks to the Math Forum for putting this information in their weekly newsletter!]

There are all sorts of ways people fill out their brackets. Google has filled out a bracket based on search volume http://www.google.com/insidesearch/collegebasketball.html. Check back often to see how they’re doing.

We’ve blogged about the integration of math and sports in the past, too – check them out at http://msms.ehe.osu.edu/category/sports/.


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We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org.

Probability in Real Life

Your students may find it difficult to believe that the concepts of probability really have anything to do with everyday life. If they did, would they still grow up to buy all those lottery tickets? In the Powerball Lottery, the largest in the Unites States, the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 195,200,000!

So says the Book of Odds, which offers blogs, articles, and thousands of thoroughly researched odds on accidents and death, daily life and activities, health and illness, relationships and society. Its carefully calculated probabilities range from the odds of being the only one to survive a plane crash, to the odds of having a heart attack, to the odds of having ever eaten cold pizza for breakfast.

Once your students are immersed in these odds, you might like to introduce the Game of Skunk. Playing and analyzing the game engages students in real-world applications of probabilistic thinking as they examine choice versus chance and practice decision-making.

On the purely theoretical level, your class would enjoy meeting the Smithville Families. This lesson explores the probabilities for the births of boys and girls in a large family. The outcome of a coin toss is used to indicate the birth of a boy or girl. And then you might compare the conclusions reached with those found in the Book of Odds.

My prediction is high on your enjoying these resources!


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 11/21/2011.

Making a Prediction

Middle school students need opportunities to examine how probability can be used to make predictions and sound decisions. These resources will engage students in real-world applications of probabilistic thinking.

Game of SKUNK
With this lesson, students examine choice versus chance and practice decision-making skills using the outcome probabilities when playing the game of SKUNK.

She Always Wins, It’s Not Fair!
This is the perfect activity to use when introducing the concept of fair and unfair games.

Lotto or Life: What Are the Chances?
Teachers interested in astronomy or in working with a science class will find this lesson offers an out-of-the-ordinary way to investigate outcomes based on probability.

A Statistical Study on the Letters of the Alphabet (CEC)
Students examine letter usage and make decisions based on data. This lesson can be developed as an interesting language arts connection.

Sticks and Stones
Students gather data when playing Sticks and Stones, an Apache game, to determine the average number of moves necessary to win the game.

Tree Diagrams and Probability
A tree diagram is a perfect way to make probability visual. In this lesson, students use tree diagrams and explore fair and unfair games based on the outcomes of car race trials.

What Are the Odds?
Use the navigation column to find background information, lesson plans, and student activities focused on the use of probability.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What
would you like to know more about? What questions have your
students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers
by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest
posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what
you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate
your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2
publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post
updated 11/29/2011.