Experiencing Statistics Through Sports - Mid-Pacific Institute

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Experiencing Statistics Through Sports

Statistics are most relevant when students collect their own data.

Posted on February 22, 2018 by Scot Allen


Math teacher Christine Toguchi and her three statistics classes visited Mills Gymnasium recently for a fun, project-based activity designed to vividly bring the concepts of statistics to life. Statistics is a branch of mathematics dealing with the collection, analysis, interpretation, presentation, and organization of data. The statistics process teaches students to think critically, even while having some fun.

Statistics are most relevant when students collect their own data. This can prepare them for professions in finance, marketing, and investment banking; perhaps more importantly, once a student understands the concepts and knows where the data comes from, they are less likely to be misled by the statistics.

The point of the activity was to design a controlled, statistical experiment and then use the data to perform a hypothesis test.

Three of Toguchi's statistics classes met in the gym for the activity. The class was assisted by three campus experts on basketball: three varsity basketball players who shot free throws, 50 of them without distraction and 50 of them with a distraction (yelling and/or flag waving). Using principles of experimental design as discussed in class, they gathered data on their basketball player, determining whether there is a significant difference in a player's ability to make free throws with or without distractions.

After performing a hypothesis test about whether each basketball player had a better ability to make free throws with or without distractions, all three classes found there was no difference!

"They lacked the convincing evidence that there was a difference in the ability to make free throws," said Toguchi. "There was also a moment of reflection because all the classes said there was a lack of consistency in the type of distraction and in their energy. 100 free throws is a long time to keep up your energy in razzing the shooter! So this may have played a part in affecting the data."

"This content is not easy and not all classes have the time to design and perform an experiment (like this), but this class does," said Toguchi. "They also worked on partnered investigations using observed data from professional athletes and teams to conduct their own hypotheses tests in class, in much in the same manner that we did after coming back from the gym. Hopefully, students found this activity fun -- different from their other classes -- and that the content was 'sticky!'"