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…
Can computer games be used to educate? Pick a game that incorporates educational material. There are a variety of educational computer games on the market in the areas of math, history, science, and language, as well as many simpler versions free on the Internet. Make up a test based on the subject area covered by the computer game. Have your volunteers take the test before and after playing the game. Does playing the computer game improve people's score on the test?
We've all heard that "practice makes perfect," but what is the best way to practice? For example, does "mental practice" do any good? You'll need at least 9 volunteers for this project. Pick a well-defined sports activity, with a measurable outcome, such as shooting basketball free-throws (measure number of shots taken and number of shots made), or balancing on one foot on a slightly raised beam (measure how long you can do it; if it's too easy, try closing your eyes). Test all volunteers…
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,…
You've probably heard the phrase, "practice makes perfect" more times than you care to remember, but is it actually true when you use a music game as your practice for real-life singing, strumming, or drumming? You can design a science fair project to discover the answer! First, you'll need to think about how to measure how well someone is playing or singing a song in real life. Using the test you design, measure several musicians' ability to play or sing a few different songs. Then have your…
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You'll need access to a game console and a music video game like Guitar Hero or Rock Band.
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.)
What makes a winning team? Getting all the best players? Good coaches? Good chemistry? This project will show you how you can use math to help you test your hypothesis about what makes a winning team.
The Pythagorean relationship is a fundamental one in sports: it correctly predicts the records of 98% of all teams. But in 2% of cases, it fails. Why does it fail? Find teams that deviated substantially from their expected Pythagorean record (this information is available for baseball teams…
Can an authority figure make someone question their own memory? How reliable is eyewitness information? This project looks into these questions. You'll need a poster-sized image that includes many faces, and a volunteers to act as "eyewitnesses." The volunteers are tested individually. The instructions are that they have one minute to examine the poster, and then a fixed amount of time (e.g., 5 minutes) to write down brief, accurate descriptions of all the faces they can remember. They'll…
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…
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