Thursday, September 3, 2015

Out-of-the-Box Baseball Gets an Upgrade and Inspires My First Project-Based Math Experience

 Replica of Musial’s disk created in Geometer’s Sketchpad
In his 8/4/15 blog Dan Meyer summarizes everything he has learned about modeling. Here's a paragraph from that blog:

"Modeling asks students a) to take the world and turn it into mathematical structures, then b) to operate on those mathematical structures, and then c) to take the results of those operations and turn them back into the world. That entire cycle is some of the most challenging, exhilarating, democratic work your students will ever do in mathematics, requiring the best from all of your students, even the ones who dislike mathematics. If traditional textbooks have failed modeling in any one way, it’s that they perform the first and last acts for students, leaving only the most mathematical, most abstract act behind."

When I was 13 I learned about using mathematics to model something I was very interested in. I was making a disk to represent the production in a typical game of my favorite baseball player Stan Musial. Missing from the image is the spinner that would determine the outcome of an at-bat. Notice that the K slice is bigger than the HR slice. That's because Musial - a Hall of Famer - struck out more often than he hit home runs. Also his 1B is huge because he had a career (22 years) batting average of .331.

I think you can see that having a collection of these disks unique for each player allows you to play a relatively realistic game of baseball. This was the essence of the board game All-Star Baseball which was very popular in pre-computer days. I wrote about my math experience with these disks in Chapter 1 of my book The Wannado Curriculum. (Link)