I enjoy teaching stats through sports. Kids enjoy learning even the most menial subjects if you pose the lesson in a form they can understand and relate to.

Teaching Statistics Through SportsWhen I teach the topic of probability in my Statistics class, I often explain that a probability distribution exists for an experiment if certain criteria are met. In particular, if the sum of the probabilities of the possible outcomes of that experiment adds up to one, and none of those probabilities are less than zero, no matter how unlikely those proposed probabilities are, they represent a real probability distribution.

To explain this, I often point to one of our local teams that is having a rough time at that point in the season and say that if we propose that the probability of that team winning a national championship is equal to 0.98, as long as we say that the probability of them losing is equal to 0.02, that is a legitimate probability distribution, even if the values do not make sense given the reality that we know at the moment.

I found myself thinking of this recently as our local baseball team found itself in a position of having a chance of entering the playoffs, a chance that was soon taken from us, before we could truly savor the moment.

The “postseason” weeks of October in Cleveland can be an interesting time. Like the towns from Connecticut from which it derives its roots, the season is one of colorful trees and progressively chilly weather. However, unlike the towns from which it derives its roots,

Cleveland often spends the fall season wishing for a sports championship of some kind. It has accomplished this in the past, with 1948 being the last time the Cleveland Indians won the World Series. Since then, my adopted town has been unsuccessfully trying to repeat that event, or at least something similar.

There was a season in 1996 when it seemed that the baseball team would most certainly reclaim its title, but that year came and went without the necessary wins. And so the town did what it does best and set its hopes on “next year,” making plans for the more successful season that would most certainly come.

It did not. Nor did our football team make it to the Super Bowl. Despite building a new stadium that not only sold tickets, but also sold die-hard fans the right to purchase tickets (through “seat licenses”) that made the cost of tickets to games played by the Browns go up, the team took too long to rebuild from the insult of having the original Browns team relocated to Baltimore to become the championship Ravens.

Even the basketball team struggled, when our star player decided to move to Florida and play for another team, leaving the town feeling like jilted lovers but still wishing for that elusive championship.

Continue reading Geek Mom: October in Cleveland on Inside Higher Ed.

Read more on math. 

Teaching Statistics Through Sports