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…
Learning to play an instrument can be a lot of fun, especially when you can pretend to be a rock star as you learn! In this science fair project, you will study how your score in a music video game changes as you play and practice. You'll need a video game where you use a controller shaped like a musical instrument. Two examples include Guitar Hero and Rock Band, but there may be more! In these games, playing requires nothing more than a sense of the music's beat, and ridiculously fast fingers,…
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Long (2-4 weeks)
You'll need access to a video game system on which you can play a music based video game.
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.
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!…
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…
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,…
Block off one-third of a soccer net with a cone, 5-gallon bucket or some other suitable object. Shoot into the smaller side from a set distance, but systematically varying the angle to the goal line. Take enough shots at each angle to get a reliable sample. How does success vary with angle? For a basic project: How do you think your success rate will vary with angle? Draw a conclusion from your experimental results. A bar graph showing success rate at different angles can help to…
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…
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…
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.)
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