Yes, it is spring again. Go find your glove, dig out the balls
that rolled under the couch last October, say a prayer for the
hometown team - maybe this year a pennant or even the Series...because
it's baseball time again. Our
Little League sign-ups
are made and we are ready to play.
Now is the time for a short computer lab activity to get us in the
mood for some analytical ball game watching and playing. The computing
skills learned and used during this procedure are, of course, incidental
to the anticipation of real ball playing.
BATTING PRACTICE ... THE SET-UP
The full personnel line-up is:
The hitters, a class of students each sitting at a lab computer.
On each screen is the clear ball field pictured below. (The ball field
graphic is created and stored as a .bmp file so that each child can
mark it up using the PAINT program.),
One announcer (AKA computer resource person) who will introduce each
batter and comment on the action, and
One statistician (AKA teacher) to record each student's name
and the location of their hits.
Also available on each computer is a prepared spreadsheet in the Microsoft
WORKS program with formulas set but no data entered.
BATTING PRACTICE ... THE ACTION
To begin the action each student gets ready to play by selecting the line
drawing option in PAINT, choosing a color, gripping the mouse, and
positioning the cursor at home plate ready for play.
Then the first hitter is announced with suitable fanfare, the imaginary
pitch is made and that hitter describes for the class the location
and length of the imaginary "hit" he or she makes.
Immediately every student marks the track of that hit on the ball
field graphic, the statistician records the play, the announcer congratulates,
and we move on to the next hitter.
This process is repeated as often as everyone can stand it
or the announcer's repartee is used up.
At the end of "play" the resulting screens resemble the "AFTER" graphic
below with the trails of the hits marked in. This is a good time to
discuss the usefulness of "drawing" information rather than writing it
as numbers. Charts do give a quick impression of the data.
BATTING PRACTICE ... THE CHARTING
After closing or minimizing their ball field graphic the students open the
pre-designed spreadsheet and as the teacher/statistician reads the records,
students post hitter's name and the number of hits in the corresponding
position column(s) on the spreadsheet as shown below. Be ready at this
stage for spreadsheet novices to be intrigued by the automatic recalculation
of totals as each new number is entered.
With WORKS the next step of creating charts from the data is straightforward.
After highlighting the data box containing the last two lines of
the spreadsheet, click through the "Tools" and "Create New Chart"
commands to arrive at the screen showing a small chart of the highlighted
data alongside the charting options boxes. Clicking on any box will
immediately display the one of the various charts which can be
made from this same original data.
This is an effective demonstration of the different styles of "math
pictures" which can be created from the same numbers.
Discuss which graph or chart type would be most useful for the
demonstration at hand. The usual choices are the bar graph version
and the pie chart version shown here.
Notice that the bar chart shows distribution and
accurate value whereas the pie chart shows only distribution.
BATTING PRACTICE ... THE COACHES' DISCUSSION
Performance charts such as these are only as useful as the minds
of the people using them.
From the charts we have the following questions:
Where would the opposition place their fielders to use them
to best advantage?
Where would the opposite pitcher expect each better to hit?
THEN THERE ARE THOSE "WHAT IF?" QUESTIONS.
How would the chart look if Kim who hits to right is switched for
another hitter who usually goes to center?
Go ahead, go back to the spreadsheet and make the change in
the BATTER and position columns. Now re-highlight the box and create
a new chart which shows the graphical effect of the change.
Each student can now alter the data in different ways and try predicting
the outcome before recreating the chart and so on. This
free choice period can yield zany results but as long as the
student can explain them ... so be it.
BATTING PRACTICE ... THE CONCLUSION
The students who play baseball and those who watch it now have a "bar"
picture and a "pie" picture showing their own hitting characteristics,
together with a sampling of how mathematics are everywhere. All they
need to do now is make up the same information on their opponents, use
it properly to position their fielders and .... be ready to tally
up the wins.
Math, Baseball & The San Francisco Giants! shows the many, many math
awareness opportunities in an outing to see your favorite teams play.