Almost all of the games we play are based on math in some way or another. Card games, board games, and computer games are designed using statistics, probabilities, and algorithms. Begin by reading about games and game theory. Then you can choose your favorite game and investigate the mathematical principles behind how it works. Can combinatorial game theory help you to win two-player games of perfect knowledge such as go, chess, or checkers? (Weisstein, 2006; Watkins, 2004) In a multi-player…
Read more

You may know Lewis Carroll as the author of Alice in Wonderland, but did you know that in real life he was a mathematician who studied symbolic logic and logical reasoning? How can math help you solve Lewis Carroll's Logic Game? (Bogomolny, 2006) How are algorithms for solving the game Sudoku similar to solving a logic problem? (Hayes, 2006) For the super-advanced mathematical genius, try to evaluate currently available, logic-based computational tools, or design a better one!…
Read more

Here's a project that will teach you about math as you follow some of your favorite players or teams. You'll be comparing day-to-day performance with long-term averages, and trying to determine if the "streaks" and "slumps" over shorter time periods are due to random chance or something else. When you've finished, you'll have a better understanding of some important concepts in statistical analysis and baseball.
If a player goes 0-for-20, does that mean anything? Using probability theory,…
Read more

Math can make you money! If you understand some basic math, you can make good decisions about how to keep, spend, and use your hard earned dollars. Try an experiment comparing the same balance in different types of bank accounts. How much better is a savings account than a checking account? What difference does the interest rate make? Which is better, an account that earns compound or simple interest? Can you compare the short and long term costs of borrowing money compared to saving the cash…
Read more

Here's a project that combines sports and math. You'll learn how to use correlation analysis to choose the best team batting statistic for predicting run-scoring ability (Albert, 2003). You'll also learn how to use a spreadsheet to measure correlations between two variables. The project description provides the details.
Read more

The rebound rating is the ratio of the height the ball bounces to, divided by the height the ball was dropped from. Use the rebound rating to measure the bounciness of new tennis balls vs. balls that have been used for 10, 20, 50, and 100 games. Another idea to explore: does it matter what type of court the ball is used on? (See: Goodstein, 1999, 63-64.)
Read more

Is winning correlated with fun? Pick a video game which has different difficulty settings, for example easy versus hard mode. Ask volunteers who have never played the game before to try it out. Some of them should use the easy mode and others should use the hard mode, this will ensure that you have a range in the amount of winning and losing among your volunteers. Keep track of how much each player is winning. Survey the volunteers to find out if they like the game. Do people who win more like…
Read more

The Game of Life is the invention of the mathematician John Conway. It is a cellular automaton, consisting of a grid of squares that turn "on" or "off" depending on simple mathematical rules that involve neighboring squares. Depending on how the grid is first set up (i.e., the initial conditions), various interesting patterns appear. Can you write a Game of Life program (in JavaScript or any other computer language of your choice)? Can you think of ways to alter the rules that result in…
Read more

A magic square is an arrangement of numbers from 1 to n2 in an n x n matrix. In a magic square each number occurs exactly once such that the sum of the entries of any row, column, or main diagonal is the same. You can make several magic squares and investigate the different properties of the square. Can you make an algorithm for constructing a Magic Square? Can you show that the sum of the entries of any row, column, or main diagonal must be n(n2+1)/2? Are there any other hidden properties of a…
Read more

Did you know that commercial airline pilots use high-tech flight simulators to learn how to fly big jumbo jets? Before they ever step behind the controls of a real jet they've already logged thousands of virtual air miles. It might not qualify you to fly a real jumbo jet, but you, too, can learn the logistics of aviation by experimenting with the types of flight simulators sold at computer game retailers. Use a flight simulator to investigate the relationship between flap settings and the stall…
Read more