Dickran's Blog

Just a few drops in the bucket

Hypothesis: Mathematics and Basketball exhibit Similitude (Part IIIa)

Given information about basketball (what we know):

In its simplest form, basketball is a sport that consists of one team trying to put a sphere through a ring to score more points than their opponent while they also attempt to keep their opponent from scoring.

(pardon me while I state a few passionate thoughts about basketball)

While it shares similarities with other sports, basketball combines the best attributes of other sports into one.  It is fast paced, high scoring, and dynamic.  It requires the most unique combination of strength, speed, quickness, jumping ability, finesse, and mental fortitude along with the precise execution of all of the fundamental skills by all 5 players in unison. Other sports can boast they they have parts of these, but no sports can say they have them all.

(ok now back to breaking down basketball)

Basketball is played at many levels and by various ages whether in some organized form or on playgrounds and driveways across the world. The game is played according to various rules that can change from playground to playground or country to country. There are countless variations on the standard 5 on 5 game from individual competitive shooting games to 1 on 1 and 21.  Regardless, the fundamentals of the sport remain consistent no matter which version of the game might be played at any given time.

The ability to dribble, pass, and shoot the basketball, as well as the ability to defend are fundamental to the success of any basketball player or team.  There are a variety of techniques used in attempts to successfully execute these fundamentals.  Some techniques are generally accepted to be more successful than other, but the technique becomes irrelevant if the desired outcome is achieved.

The game of basketball starts with the position and movement of the feet, even though the ball is manipulated with the player’s hands.  When an athlete can learn how to move his or her feet quickly and correctly in order to achieve proper body position, the other skills can be executed much more easily.  Clearly, it is not enough to only teach footwork. Proper use of the hands must also be taught in order for a player and team to be successful.

Then coaches get to teach players about body position.  Teaching a player how to be in the right place at all times and how to get from one place to another in the most effective way possible is crucial to a player’s success.

Not to mention, it is important for players to get to those correct positions with and without the basketball. As a result, all of the footwork, hand movements, and body positioning must happen quickly, efficiently, and in the proper sequence in order for the player to be most successful.

It should be apparent that the best basketball players are highly skilled athletes.  Years and years of practice go into developing and perfecting the skills necessary to perform at the highest level.  Young children have not yet developed the strength or coordination to be highly proficient at these skills.  As a result, being able to make one lay-up might be an amazing achievement for them.  On the other hand, a professional basketball player should rarely miss a lay-up.

March 7, 2010 at 8:41 PM Comments (0)

Hypothesis: Mathematics and Basketball exhibit Similitude (Part IIb)

Mathematics is built off of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. These four basic arithmetic operations have led to countless innovations and discoveries in all parts of our world from math and science to business and psychology.  Poets and artists use math as do doctors, lawyers, writers and singers.

The simplest forms of mathematics are fundamental to our daily lives whether or not we realize it, know it, or admit it. Determining our grocery bill, doing our taxes, or separating dark clothes from light ones all involve mathematics.

Mathematics can also be quite diverse and complex.  Many students cringe when they hear differential equations, abstract algebra, or noneuclidean geometry. Whether it is derivatives, matrices, permutations, or trigonometry, mathematics has numerous flavors. From the simplest counting and arithmetic to the most complex and abstract concepts, math comes in many flavors. Regardless of the type of mathematics, all forms of it are rooted in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.  Without a strong background in these fundamentals, success in mathematics cannot be achieved.

Mathematics has a diverse audience and widespread acceptance.  Math is practiced, studied, and researched all across the world.  Children and adults of all ages are involved with mathematics. Mathematics is done in solitude as well as in groups.  Researchers are racing to discover the next mathematical concepts that might explain certain phenomena or uncover other secrets.  As old as math is, it still works and it will always be a necessary part of human existence.

Mathematics is also very objective.  The answer to a math problem is either right or wrong.  A proof to a mathematical theorem is either valid or it is not.  There is little gray area in mathematics.  There may be multiple routes to achieving the correct answer, but there is only one correct answer.

July 25, 2009 at 3:44 PM Comments (0)

Hypothesis: Mathematics and Basketball exhibit Similitude (Part IIa)

Given Information about mathematics (What we know):

Mathematics is an academic subject.  The definition of success in mathematics is most generally defined as consistently finding the correct answer to any set of given problems. The complexity of math problems very greatly. A first grader might solve problems like sample problems 1 or 2.  A seventh grader might be expected to solve problems like number 3 or 4.  A tenth grade geometry student might have to solve problems like number sample problem 5.  A calculus student whether in high school or college must be able to solve problems like sample problem 6.

Sample Problem #1:  Is 3 < 5 ?

Sample Problem #2: 4 + 2 = ?

Sample Problem #3: x – 7 = 9

Sample Problem #4: 12x = -72

Sample Problem #5: Prove that Line AB and Line CD are parallel, given that Line AB is parallel to Line EF and Line CD is parallel to Line EF.

Sample Problem #6: f(x) = sin(cos x)  f'(x) = ?

Each of these problems has a differing level of complexity and requires progressively higher levels of understandings of mathematics.  A calculus student should be able to solve each of the other problems with ease.  A first grader would not be expected to solve any problem above his or her grade level.  Expectations for each of these different students is very different, but performance is still measured by the ability to consistently solve problems that students at a similar level should be able to solve.  A calculus student who is able to solve problems at a first grade level consistently would not be considered successful.  At the same time a first grader who could solve problems at a higher grade level would be considered advanced or a prodigy.

Now that we have generally defined success for a student, it is important to define how success is achieved. Being a successful math student at one level requires having a solid if not proficient understanding of the levels of mathematics that preceded the current one.  A student will experience difficulty finding a least common denominator if the student is not comfortable with his or her multiplication tables.  How can a student add and subtract terms of a polynomial if they cannot add or subtract integers.  Mastery of the most fundamental skills of mathematics are necessary for the mastery and understanding of more advanced concepts.

How does a math student build these fundamental skills? The best method I know for the mastery of mathematics skills at any level is sufficient proper repetition. Notice repetition is preceded by two very important adjectives.  Repetition for the sake of repetition is not enough.  The repetition must be conducted properly and sufficently.

Solving math problems of any level of complexity must be done properly. Not only will improper mathematics lead to incorrect answers, a false confidence is created and bad habits are formed. When mathematical skills are assessed, the student may have the confidence that they are able to perform the skills sufficiently. However, if their confidence is not well grounded and they perform poorly, they can end up becoming more frustrated because they may have practiced sufficiently, but not properly. Then these bad habits can take even longer to break once they have been established.  Not to mention, the motivation of the student can drop significantly making it difficult to convince them to want to practice more.

Now let’s assume that a student is practicing and the problems are being done properly. This is clearly a necessity to being successful.  However, many times a student will do a couple problems properly and consider themselves proficient.  While this may be the case, many times the student will completely forget how to do the problems a day or two later.  There is no set number of the amount of proper repetitions required for a student to master a certain concept or type of problem. However, the proper repetition must be sufficient enough for good habits to form and mastery to be achieved.  The pressure of an assessment can lead to doubt and confusion if the student hasn’t practiced sufficiently to truly master the mathematical skill regardless of the circumstances.

This concept of sufficient proper repetition is the key to being successful in mathematics.  However, it must start when a student is first learning mathematics and continue as they progress.  A student who does not build a proper fundamental base in the most basic mathematical skills and concepts will struggle to grasp and learn any concepts or skills that are more advanced.  I have also worked with students who have good skills in a lot of areas but possess a significant gap that causes them to struggle.  This is a sign of successful sufficient proper repetition up to a certain point and then a drop off at some point along the line.  Maybe it was a poor teacher.  Maybe it was significant events in their lives that created a distraction for them and caused them not to be able to focus sufficiently or properly on mathematics. In any case, this gap in their skills is an obstacle to mastering higher level concepts that rely on one or more weak or missing skills.

June 18, 2009 at 10:59 AM Comments (0)

Hypothesis: Mathematics and Basketball exhibit Similitude (Part I)

Before I begin working on proving or disproving this hypothesis, I’d like to talk a little about why math and basketball are even in the same “coordinate plane”.  In other words, why am i even putting them in the same sentence?

This all started because much of my professional life revolves around both math and basketball. I spend hours each day working with young and middle aged adults in both topics.  My experiences tell me the similarities are more than astonishing.   Is it possible that two things that are usually considered diametrically opposed actually exhibit the Euclidean Geometric property of SIMILITUDE?  You don’t have to be sold on that fact yet.  In fact, I’m not completely sold yet either.  Hence evolves my quest to explore the hypothesis that they are “geometrically” similar.

Definition of similitude (similarity): In geometry, two polygons are similar if:
1.  They share the same number of sides.
2.  The corresponding angles are congruent.
3.  The corresponding sides are proportional to each other.

Another way of saying it is that the two figures can be scaled uniformly to be congruent to each other.

So can mathematics and basketball be scaled to be the same thing?  Can the parts be broken down in such a way that makes them proportional to each other?  Maybe other parts are congruent?  I know it seems odd.  Really odd in fact.  But I’m thinking it can be done.

Part II will outline the given information concerning mathematics.

Part III will outline the given information concerning basketball.

Part IV will evaluate the hypothesis and (attempt to) draw some sort of conculsion.

Or that’s at least how I’m planning things right now……

June 17, 2009 at 10:53 PM Comments (0)