Saturday, May 11, 2013

Math in the News: The Pythagorean Theorem in Football

I mentioned last week that I wanted to focus this month on the famous Pythagorean Theorem. Since I usually reserve the second week for a "Math in the News" segment, I was looking for an example of the Pythagorean Theorem in the news.

Though I couldn't find a controversial article about it, I did find a fantastic video that showed its applications to football. And it was done by the National Science Foundation in their news section, so I think it counts. Click here to see the video.

My friends were just joking with me a few weeks ago about how in a sports game, players wouldn't actually be thinking about the math behind what they are doing. It's true that they probably aren't solving for the hypotenuse of a triangle in this dynamic moment. However, they actually do need to take an educated guess as to what angle and speed they should be running at. This does require number sense, which is definitely mathematics. The actual math might not be applied directly, but it is definitely present.

When I talked about connecting game theory with penalty kicks in soccer, this example actually uses the mathematics. Teams do hire statisticians to analyze the skills of the players on both sides, and will give their players advice on what to do. I'm sure coaches of football and other sports do this as well. Why else would they watch the opposing team's previous games to prepare themselves?

I had never thought the Pythagorean Theorem could be applied that way, and it is another reminder of the influence that mathematics has on our lives.

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