Sports Build Your Kids' Mathematics Skills | exSTEMsions

## Some kids just love sports

I have two children, and they are so similar, and so different, all at once. One of their big points of divergence is sports. My daughter enjoys sports, but is equally happy building, creating, or imagining, whereas my younger son is incredibly sports obsessed. His obsessions fill me with visions of the future, driving to fields in faraway places, and trying to entertain myself during endless practices, games, and tournaments. I’m sure many of you can relate to this, whether you are in this reality now, or can see it coming. My son seems tuned toward sports in a way that my daughter is not. Recently, in talking about this with another parent, he said to me, “Oh, yeah, I was totally like that at as a kid: really into sports, and not into school things, like math.” It took all that I had not to look at that other parent, who is a dear friend actually, and say “WHAT?!” because really, to me, if you are into sports, you are into math, and “school things”. Really. You are.

## There is math in sports!

Maybe you don’t agree. Well, then let me convince you. Pick your favorite sport. In my house, it’s baseball, but really, any sport will do. First, how do you know who wins? You keep score. What are you doing when you’re keeping score? Math. Next, where is your sport played? On a field? A diamond? A court? A course? No matter what it is, the size and shape are regulated. The length, width, and markings are carefully measured. The space inside the field or court is broken up into smaller sections, and those are done precisely. When players use the field, they have to consider distances, boundaries, angles, and trajectories to make decisions about what to do, where to go, and how fast to get there. Guess what? Math.

Now, let’s go beyond the basics and think about players. How do you know if you are improving as a player, or if a player on your team is actually playing well? You keep track of their statistics. Yup, math again. And in baseball, for example, the statistics are absolutely endless. There is nothing about what a baseball player or team does or doesn’t do that isn’t counted, averaged and analyzed. (The same applies in football, soccer, basketball, hockey, swimming… you name it, there are stats involved.) And these statistics are continually in flux, with every game, every at bat, every run, every pitch, and every strike. And the player stats are often combined with aspects of that very precise field we talked about earlier. There are greater odds (probability!), for example, of hitting a home run to a certain part of the field under certain weather conditions. And then we can talk about team rankings and the absolutely convoluted mess that most playoff systems are (be it for teams of 8-year-olds, or professionals) where the calculations for who is in which spot are sometimes so complicated that even the coaches and players are confused!