I’ve Been Pigged!

by rahmoeller on February 22, 2017

Well, it’s tough to admit, but on Feb 21, 2017, I was pigged…or, rather, my office was pigged.

Why bring this up on a math blog post? Well, you may have heard about the game Pass the Pigs, which can be a very educational game in that it teaches people about probability. This game is very similar to Farkle; however, it involves rolling two rubber pigs instead of rolling dice.

Points are determined by the formation of the pigs once they’ve been rolled. For example, in the following configuration, the roller would win 10 points:

The pig on the left in the above picture is in the “razorback” position, and the pig on the right is in the “trotter” position. In the actual game Pass the Pigs, each pig has a dot on one side, and a certain formation of the rolled pigs (both on their sides, one dot up and one dot down) is called the “pig out” position, which results in a score of 0 for the roller’s turn.

The pigs that took over my office weren’t exactly Pass the Pigs pigs, since they were lacking dots, but they still have the same rolling behavior! Some of our Roanoke College math faculty have used these pigs in class to help students grasp ideas of probability. See, the issue is that the probability of rolling one configuration is not the same as rolling another configuration. It’s different from rolling dice. When you roll a die, the probability of getting a 3 is the same as the probability of getting a 5 (for a balanced die, at least). However, when you roll a pig, the probability of the pig ending up on its back is 22.4%, whereas the probability of the pig ending up on its feet is 8.8%. How do we know this? Well, one way to get a rough idea is to roll a pig 1000 times and record the rolled formations.

But, what’s the probability of rolling two pigs and having one end up on its feet and the other on its back? Well, the multiplication rule of probability says that if the two events (i.e. the two pigs) are independent, then the probability of both occurring is the product of the probabilities of the two events. What does independent mean here? Basically it means that the probability of event A (pig 1 ending up on its feet) is not affected by the probability of event B (pig 2 ending up on its back). These events are independent, and hence the probability of rolling two pigs and having one end up “razorback” and the other “trotter” is (.224) * (.088) = .01971 = 1.97%.

Note that the probability of rolling a “pig out” is P(on side, dot up)*P(on side, dot down) = (.302)*(.349) = .1054 = 10.54%. This is a huge difference!

If you’re interested in learning more, here’s a great article, written by Michael Gorman:
Analytics, Pedagogy, and the Pass the Pigs Game

But, just remember to Beware the Pigs!


Source: Michael F. Gorman, (2012) Analytics, Pedagogy and the Pass the Pigs Game. INFORMS Transactions on Education 13(1):57-64. http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/ited.1120.0088.




A Sign of Sports Math’s Popularity

by Roland Minton on February 8, 2017

J.K. Rowling would not be impressed, but Roland Minton was pleased with the throng clamoring for an autographed copy of his new book Sports Math. True, there was only one person in line, but he was very enthusiastic.

Sports Math is a textbook for a course in sports science or sports analytics, such as the May term course “The Science of Sports” at Roanoke College. Three chapters explore the physics of sports, two chapters introduce mathematical rating systems, and four chapters look at sports analytics and the emergence of Big Data in sports. The remaining chapter does some “mythbusting” on classic issues like keeping your eye on the ball, officials making bad calls, and the complicated motion of a tennis serve.

The autograph seeker in the picture above is Stan Rothman, a noted sports statistics author (his book Sandlot Stats on baseball statistics is excellent). As a teacher of sports science courses for 40+ years (!) he was interested in the new book in the field. Much to his surprise, the book popped open to a page featuring some of Rothman’s own work! So he got the book, started a nice conversation, and got a signature. The young bystander in the picture is Minton’s son, who seems amused by the spontaneous meeting of the society of old sports authors. This took place in Atlanta at a sports math session at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in January.

Sports Math has numerous pictures, most of which were taken by the author, including the cover picture of Roger Federer at Wimbledon. Many of the pictures feature Roanoke College students. Action shots of basketball players Joey Miller and Julian Ramirez and softball pitcher Kelly Higbie illustrate some of the stories told in the book. Get the book and find out why Kelly would have struck out Barry Bonds if he had batted against her!


Having A Ball

by rahmoeller on February 3, 2017

Bowling…what a great way to start off the semester!

The RC Math Club sponsored a bowling night tonight, and of course, it got a little crazy. It began normally – some students showed off their ability to bowl without getting the ball in the gutter, while others (myself included) just tried to alternate between the two gutters. But then the crazy bowl began…

We had the usual unusual tasks: sit and push the bowling ball with your feet, lie on your stomach and push the ball with your hands, and attempt to bowl under one leg.

But we also had a few new ones: Guide your Neighbor (whose eyes were shut) Bowling, T-Rex Bowling, and Tunnel Bowling. And my favorite? Interpretive Dance Bowling! See for yourself in the video below!



Stat Crew Goes Live

January 19, 2017

Everybody is getting interested in the Stat Crew! The Crew has been working home basketball games, recording locations of all shots and rebounds and creating reports that evaluate the performance of each player and each five-person lineup. Shown here are Crew members Maria Kuchenbuch, Cameron Eck, and David Moreau, with a guest analyst. At Wednesday […]

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Childers Victorious in Atlanta

January 12, 2017

Roanoke College had a strong presence at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Atlanta, with Adam Childers winning an award, four faculty and one student presenting talks, and two other faculty attending. The national meeting, held January 4-7, 2017, is the largest gathering of mathematicians in a year, with over 6000 attendees. David Moreau, a sophomore […]

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Math Lessons and Carols

November 28, 2016

One of the best ways to start the Christmas season is with Lessons and Carols of Christmas, presented by the Roanoke College Choir and Oriana Singers at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church. The soaring vocals and warm harmonies bring meaning back to a season cheapened by October decorations and Black Friday madness. Director Jeffrey Sandborg’s choirs […]

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Stat Crew Leads to Jobs

October 28, 2016

“How did you get your job offer from ESPN?” was one of the questions at last night’s MCSP Conversation Series talk. Taylor Ferebee, Sky Weber, Abby Hobby, and Connor Sampson talked about their summer work in sports analytics, the hot new field of statistical analysis of sports. Work with the Stat Crew has led to […]

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Time Flies When You’re Doing Math!

October 25, 2016

Wow, what a whirlwind of a semester so far! I just realized that November is just around the corner! Where did October go? I’m sure our students are wondering the same thing. We’ve had quite some fun with the Roanoke College Math Club this Fall. So far we’ve learned about the game Farkle and the […]

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CS Students Present Research in Italy

July 26, 2016

In the Spring of 2015, now graduated Seniors Thomas Lux, Randall Pittman, and Maya Shende took part in a course on Machine Learning taught by Dr. Anil Shende in the Computer Science department. As part of this course, these students explored how they could use their new found talents to aid the Roanoke College admissions […]

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C RC Publish

June 28, 2016

Karin Saoub is finalizing a deal with CRC Press to publish A Tour Through Graph Theory. This will be the first textbook to present graph theory to a general audience, such as students in Karin’s INQ 241 course. Graph theory is the mathematics of network connections, which can be applied in an increasingly large number […]

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