M.A.T.H. Tips: Vol. 26

The Odds of March Madness

Want to win a million dollars a year for life? Simple! Just fill out a perfect March Madness bracket. The odds of getting a perfect bracket are so astronomically high that last year billionaire Warren Buffet offered $1 million dollars a year for life to any Berkshire Hathaway employee who managed to fill out a perfect bracket. How high is astronomically high? You have better odds playing the lottery. The odds of winning either the Mega Millions or PowerBall drawings are roughly 1 in 300 million.

Why are the odds so high? There are 64 teams that play 63 games: 32 in the first round, 16 in the second, 8 in the third, 4 in the regional championships, 2 in the Final Four, and then finally the championship game. The basic back-of-the-envelope calculation is 2^63 = 9.2 x 10^18, or roughly odds of 1 in 9 quintillion. Slightly better odds have been calculated when taking into account seeding and other factors, leaving you with a chance of filling out a perfect March Madness bracket (depending on the method used for calculation) somewhere between 1 in 128 billion and 1 in 2.4 trillion.

Still not daunted and want to maximize your chance of winning your local bracket pool? Then you need to delve into the realm of bracketology. While you can use various home-grown methods—ranking by jersey colors, gut feelings, picking out of a hat—bracketologists use a host of information to help predict who will win. 538’s March Madness predictor takes into account several factors for each team that can influence bracket choices such as preseason ratings, player injuries and how much a team travels. CNN offers a mini course in bracketology by relying on historic trends such as “It’s inevitable that a No. 12, 13 or 14 seed will win in the first two days.” You can also read up on current and historical methods of bracket prediction by reading one of the 17,000 papers available on Google Scholar covering March Madness and presenting different statistical methods, such as BOSS, to predict the winner of the tournament. And if all of that seems overwhelming, never fear, Bracketodds, a bracket builder from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign can fill out your bracket for you.

Let’s Talk Jobs: Where’s the Growth?

Looking for a new approach when discussing career paths with students? Use this breakdown of the fastest-growing jobs in each U.S. state to guide your conversations!

Sharing information on fast-growing job areas encourages students to think futuristically rather than focusing solely on job areas that are currently in high demand. By learning which jobs in each state are growing at the fastest rate, students can be exposed to up-and-coming career areas they may not have considered. Construction jobs are among the highest-growing jobs. As an example, the solar-panel installer is the fastest-growing job in eight different states, including California and Florida. Mathematical and technology-focused jobs are also prevalent; statisticians are the fastest-growing occupation in several states.

A Note from Barry Monk: Join Our Professional Development Webinar!

“I’d like to invite you to our professional development event on Friday, March 8. My coauthor, Bill Navidi, and I will discuss the state of statistics education, what drove us to write an Elementary Statistics textbook, and why we’ve decided to be so involved in all aspects of it from print supplements to digital experiences. As teachers, Bill and I use our own classroom experiences, as well as vast feedback from other instructors, to create what we believe to be a model solution to statistics. We’d love to share it with you.”

– Barry Monk, Professor of Mathematics at Middle Georgia State University

Register Now!
A Model Solution to Statistics
Friday, March 8th 2:00-4:00 PM ET

Can’t join us at this time? Complete the registration form in the link above, and even if you miss the event you will be able to view a recording after the event closes!

Easy as Pi

Easy as Pi

March 14th, affectionately known as “Pi Day” (with 3/14 representing 3.14), is the biggest unofficial math holiday on the calendar. Here are some fun classroom activities to get your students engaged with the amazing constant!

Memorizing the Digits of Pi

One of the most popular competitive activities is memorizing the digits of pi. There are many mnemonics out there to remember the first several digits. For instance the phrase, “Can I find a trick recalling pi easily?” By taking the number of letters in each word of this phrase, you get the first eight digits of Pi. Up for a tougher challenge? Here is a video for remembering the first 100 digits! For the ultimate Pi Day competitor, this article from the Washington Post addresses how to memorize many thousands of digits.

Making Pi themed Pies

This great tradition involves making Pi themed Pies. (Please read in the voice of Bubba from Forrest Gump). There’s pizza pi, apple pi, Eskimo pi, Boston Crème pi, cherry pi, key lime pi, sweet potato pi, … Students can be judged on the creativity of their toppings and/or crusts.

Creating a Pi Play-on-words

Another idea is to have students develop a logo or art rendering of a pi play-on-words such as pi-rate, pi a la mode, American pi, pumpkin pi, sweetie pi, or chicken pot pi to name a few.

Explore the Ratio of Circumference to Diameter

For a more academic activity, a class can explore the ratio of circumference to diameter.

  1. Have your students bring in circular objects (e.g. Coffee can lid, frisbee, plates of different sizes, measuring cup, etc.)
  2. Use yarn to wrap around the circumference of a circular object (measure it with a ruler)
  3. Stretch yarn across the diameter of the object (measure it with a ruler)
  4. Find the ratio of the Circumference to the Diameter for each object
  5. Find the average of all of the results

Average =

How close to 3.14 did you get?

More to Celebrate!

Since Albert Einstein’s birthday and Stephen Hawking’s death day occurred on March 14th, a celebration of either man is also a great Pi Day tie-in!