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Examining the Percentages in Basketball

It is winter...thanksgiving is over and school is back in session...and for some, all recreational thoughts drift to basketball. Yet, as math teachers, there must be a way to make some connections of mathematics to basketball.

The obvious connections are...wait, what are they? A good place to start is Dean Oliver's book Basketball On Paper. Dean certainly can be considered an expert in this field, having been a statistical consultant for the Seattle Supersonics (2000-2006) and is currently working with the Denver Nuggets.

Though the book's focus is on establishing new measures for examining basketball team and player performances, the book is a wealth of statistical data and ideas mathematics teachers can use in classrooms.

Consider these mathematical ideas covered in this fascinating book:

  • The statistical side of watching a basketball game...using Offensive Score Sheets
  • Using statistics to determine the best and worst offenses
  • The mathematics of a winning streak
  • Using mathematics to explore rebounding myths and roles
  • Basketball's bell curve
  • Individual floor percentages and offensive ratings
  • The "Holy Grail" of rating basketball players during a draft
  • Using mathematics to construct individual defensive formulas
Now, when used with students (along with the suggested web sites), the book will have more success if the students are able to explore the mathematic connections by gathering their own basketball data. You might even get a coach or two involved!