Baseball and Math
The World Series recently concluded, crowning the Boston Red Sox as champions, but that doesn’t mean that we need to stop thinking about baseball until opening day of the 2014 season. Baseball is a game of numbers, and math has become an extremely important part of the game, as evidenced by the book (and Hollywood film), Moneyball, as well as the increasing use of statistical analysis by Major League Baseball teams. Since math is also an extremely important part of education, using baseball to introduce concepts seems to be a great idea. Here are some books to help you do just that.
Score With Baseball Math by Stuart A.P. Murray. 9780766041745. 2013. Gr. 3-5.
Baseball provides a great opportunity to teach about decimals, percentage calculation, averages, and so much more. Examples for all of these are covered here, in a Q&A format that gives context, then allows kids to test their calculation skills and get immediate feedback. Here is an example from the book, featuring a fictitious Sluggers vs. Cannons game:
The first Cannon strikes out. Then Bobby Downs doubles. Next, he steals third. Bobby has 4 stolen bases in 7 attempts in the series.
Q: What’s Bobby’s stealing percentage?
A: Divide 4 stolen bases by 7 attempts. 4 ÷ 7 = .5714
Baseball: Math at the Ballpark by Tom Robinson. 9781614734079. 2013. Gr. 2-5.
For a slightly more sophisticated look at baseball and math, Math at the Ballpark stands out. This book is more visually-pleasing then Score With Baseball Math, featuring sharp photography, graphs, and tables featuring players and teams from professional and college teams alike. Concepts are introduced, calculation steps are shown, then readers get a short quiz at the end of the book to test their knowledge.
The Major League Baseball Ultimate Book of Records. 9780771057342. 2013. Gr. 8-Adult.
Lastly, I give you this large format book, The Major League Baseball Ultimate Book of Records. This isn’t a math book by nature, but after students have ingested the mathematical knowledge from the above books, they will be able to enjoy the statistics and data of these records even more! This is a fun book for MLB fans; there are tons of modern, full-color photos of current stars, as well as beautiful black and white photos of past greats. The numbers tell the story here, though, as they reveal the minutae of the game. For example, wondering who holds the record for consecutive errorless games at second base? (Placido Polanco, 186). What team scored the most runs in a game since 1900? (Texas Rangers, 30 runs). Plus, there are fun, nontraditional stats as well…who used the biggest glove? (Gary Sheffield, 12 inches). The smallest? (Joe Morgan, 9.5 inches). The most gloves in a game? (Bert Campaneris, 10 gloves).
If you like the idea of using sports to reach out to math-averse students, or just to reinforce math skills in a sports-minded student, why stop at baseball? The first two titles above are part of series that feature math in other sports, including basketball, football, soccer, and more. I invite you to check them out as well.