Bracketology in the Classroom

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It's that time of the year again: March Madness. Even if you aren't a basketball fan, you can't help but get caught up in the excitement and drama that is NCAA Basketball. For the last several days, all of your regular television programs have been preempted in order to bring you the coverage of the first three rounds of the tournament.
So what is all of the madness about? Well, every year, a whole slew of teams compete for the top college basketball NCAA championship. This year the field started out with 68 teams in four regions - South, East, West and MidWest. After several days of play and heartbreak all around, the field has been cut to 16. Then it will go down to 8 and finally the Final Four will play to decide a winner. It's all very exciting but it normally doesn't get a whole lot of attention outside of sports fans and colleges. However, this year was a little bit different.
This year, the bracketology moved into the classroom! Bracketology you ask? What is it? Bracketology is a slang term used for predicting the field of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. It incorporates some method of predicting what the NCAA Selection Committee will see as its rating percentage rating (RPI) in order to determine at larger teams to complete the field of 68 teams as well as determine their seed or rankings. From these 68 teams, an overall NCAA Championship winner will emerge.
Teachers are using bracketology to teach math In their classrooms. They have taken a subject that many kids are interested in - basketball- and have used it to teach fractions, percentages and other forms of math. You know how we always said, when we were sitting in our math classes - "Why do I have to learn this stuff? I will never use it in real life!" Well teachers (who probably said the same thing when they were students) have taken this phrase to heart and are using real life situations to show why you need to learn math and where it comes in handy.
For example, with percentages: what percentage of the time has a No. 15 seed beaten a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament? Or what percentage of the No. 1 seed fell in the first round of the tournament? There are so many statistics involved in determining the brackets and where the teams stand. Picking the brackets is almost impossible. The chances of picking a perfect bracket by flipping a coin are 1 in 100 million trillion! So what can you do?
A professor in West Michigan has created a special program which allows him to type in the teams who are facing each other and the program will spit out the statistical percentage of which team could win. That's a great idea - using a program to determine it. However, many other teachers are using math to determine the winners. They are using manual statistics for real life situations and the students are embracing it. The teachers are showing the students the real life applications math will have on their lives! Even those who could normally care less about NCAA and March Madness are getting into the spirit of it and looking for their teams to be the top team to enter into the Final Four.
Now that it is down to the Sweet Sixteen - how did you do on your brackets? Did you use mathematical statistics to determine the winners or did you focus on match-ups only - such as pitting Seeds against each other? I can't wait to find out if the math determined the final results or if it all boiled down to match-ups! Stay tuned for the results!

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