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Minutes from ME



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.

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.


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.


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.

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?
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.

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.

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