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Lying with Statistics in Football

In the aftermath of the Super Bowl, some of you fans may be dreading the next six months. To kick off this football drought, I’d like to highlight this article, which was featured on Yahoo yesterday. The article says that Saints quarterback Drew Brees should hope to lose the coin toss at the start of the game, because in the past 43 Super Bowls, the team that won the coin toss had only won 20 times.

An unlucky coin? Unlikely.

Um…what? Who cares? While 20/43 is slightly less than the expected 50%, this difference is not even close to being statistically significant. Actually, the fact that this ratio is only 1 1/2 games shy of the mean is pretty good. Matt Springer has posted an article that discusses why we shouldn’t really care about this difference.

Of course, the sample size is naturally restricted by the small number of . . . → Read More: Lying with Statistics in Football

Football Pools, Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts about pools used for betting on the outcome of football games (part one can be found here, and part two here). Let me briefly recall the setting, which is probably familiar to anyone who has been to a Super Bowl party. Typically, one bets on the outcome of a football game using a 10 x 10 grid. People can buy any number of the 100 squares on the grid, and when all the squares have been purchased, each row and each column is assigned a random digit from 0 to 9.

Suppose, for example, that you buy four squares, and after the rows and columns have been labeled, you find that you own square 3-7, square 2-5, square 9-0, and square 6-6. You will win money if, at the end of any one of the four quarters, the last digit . . . → Read More: Football Pools, Part 3

Restructuring the Math Pyramid?

A friend recently shared with me the following video from TED (see below). In it, mathematician (or, in this case, mathemagician) Arthur Benjamin gives a brief argument for eliminating calculus as the top of the “mathematical pyramid” in high school education, and replacing it probability and statistics. The main reason for this shift is that unless you are planning to have a career in a technical field, it’s unlikely you’ll find a use for calculus in your everyday life, but an understanding of statistics can benefit you no matter what you do. For example, it can help you to build an intuition about day to day decision making when risk and uncertainty are involved. Here’s the video (it’s short, only a couple of minutes):

A noble goal, to be sure, and it’s certainly a solution that wouldn’t cost a whole lot. There is an argument to be made for such . . . → Read More: Restructuring the Math Pyramid?