May 2023

"We Don't Use Math In Everyday Life" False. Athletes Do.

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When we think of sports, we often associate them with physical prowess, agility, and strategy. However, what we may overlook is the significant role that mathematics plays in various athletic activities. From simple addition to complex calculations, math is intertwined with sports in ways that are crucial for understanding, analyzing, and excelling in athletic performance.

At its most basic level, math is involved in sports through simple addition when keeping score. Whether it's counting the number of points in basketball, runs in baseball, or goals in soccer, basic arithmetic skills are essential. Furthermore, math is integral to calculating the down and distance in football or the number of players on the field, ensuring that teams adhere to the rules and regulations. But this is the easy stuff, the next time you're calculating where to place your PK or tracking a fly ball, your mind is calculating complex math in real time. The next time you believe you're not good at math, you may be very wrong.

Moving beyond elementary calculations, mathematics becomes increasingly complex in sports. Let's delve into just a few examples where advanced calculations are crucial:

Golf: When it comes to golf, precise calculations are necessary to determine the distance of a drive. Golfers need to consider factors such as wind speed, slope, and elevation to calculate the optimal angle and force required to hit the ball accurately. Understanding mathematical concepts like geometry and trigonometry helps golfers assess the distance and plan their shots accordingly.

Track and Field: Sprinters, long jumpers, and pole vaulters rely on intricate calculations to optimize their performances. For sprinters, knowing their average speed, stride length, and step frequency helps them gauge their progress and set realistic targets. Long jumpers must calculate the trajectory, speed, and distance covered during their approach to achieve the optimal launch point. Similarly, pole vaulters need to understand the physics behind the bending of the pole and calculate the forces involved to clear the bar successfully.

Baseball: Baseball is filled with statistical analysis and complex mathematical calculations. From determining batting averages and earned run averages (ERA) to analyzing on-base percentage and slugging percentage, mathematics plays a crucial role in evaluating player performance. Coaches and statisticians use advanced mathematical models to assess player strategies, make informed decisions, and gain a competitive edge.

While math is present across various sports, some disciplines require more extensive calculations and mathematical understanding than others. Sports such as gymnastics, diving, figure skating, and synchronized swimming rely on precise calculations related to angles, rotation, velocity, and timing. Athletes in these disciplines must have a solid grasp of trigonometry and physics to execute their routines flawlessly.

In contrast, sports like basketball and soccer involve complex spatial reasoning, as players need to anticipate their opponents' movements, create passing lanes, and execute precise shots. Calculating trajectories, angles, and distances in real-time becomes crucial for success in these sports.

Although the level of mathematical complexity may vary across different sports, it is clear that math is an integral part of athletic performance. From fundamental addition to advanced calculations rooted in geometry, trigonometry, and physics, athletes rely on math to enhance their understanding, strategize effectively, and maximize their performance.

The way our minds process mathematical equations that apply to our everyday lives, such as speed, time and distance when we're playing sports, differs significantly from how we typically learn them in a classroom setting. In real-life scenarios, mathematical concepts are encountered in practical contexts, involving tangible objects and experiences. We understand the relevance and applicability of these equations in our daily routines, which enhances our comprehension and ability to solve problems efficiently.

Mastering mathematical concepts in real-life situations can also positively impact our classroom learning. It provides a concrete foundation and practical understanding that can deepen our comprehension and engagement with abstract mathematical concepts. Conversely, mastering mathematical concepts in the classroom can equip us with problem-solving skills and analytical thinking that we can readily apply to real-life situations. The synergy between mastering both aspects—everyday mathematics and classroom learning—can greatly enhance our mathematical proficiency and adaptability in various contexts.

So, the next time you're engaged in a sporting activity or watching your favorite athletes in action, remember the significant role that math plays behind the scenes, contributing to their success. And maybe consider sports an educational hands on learning experience and extension of the classroom.

Putting a relevant, sports context behind some of our favorite activities could potentially increase interest and engagement in these subjects by actually showing and explaining them in a practical context, that even allows disinterested students to challenge their perspective when they've suddenly realized they actually are good at math and use it all the time in real life.

Issa Hall, Esq

Issa has founded multiple ventures, is an author, and founding partner of Hall & Dixon law firm, with over a decade of experience in tech and law.

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