March Mathness

You can’t ignore it, basketball season is coming to an end in the NCAA. People around the country (and world) are putting together their brackets for the tournament. Competing to see who can fill it out the closest to what actually happens. Students sitting together in the morning discussing how they will fill theirs out. Heck, I’m sitting here watching the two games that are on tonight.

(First, I want to say that I do NOT understand the point of going from 65 to 68 teams this year. I also don’t understand how two of the regions have one play-in game each, one region has two play-in games, and the fourth region does not have a play-in game at all.)

So, with so many people setting up their brackets, let’s look at making one based on math. YES! MATH! Is this how we should be setting it up anyway? We know some people use math when filling out their bracket, but their biases do show through. Well, here are the lessons that we will be doing tomorrow in class.

Our younger students (grades 5-7) will be working on these questions that stem off of the bracket. Each child will have a bracket to look at and work in groups to complete the assignment.


  1. If the names of all the teams in the NCAA Basketball Tournament were put into a bag, what would be the probability of drawing the winning team out of the bag?  Explain how you arrived at your answer.
  2. How many states are represented in this year’s tournament?
  3. If you were to draw a team out of a bag, which state has the largest probability to be chosen? Explain your answer.
  4. What percentage of all 50 states is represented?  Show your work below.
  5. What percentage of the teams are classified in the correct region according to geographical region of the United States?

What’s even better about this assignment? It includes writing and geography. YES! Cross-curricular!!! It can be done.

The other lesson that will be going on is for grades 6-8. This group will actually be filling out their bracket.

  1. For the first (play-in games) and second (old first) rounds of the tournament, calculate each team’s winning percentage. (use the win-loss records shown on the chart to perform this calculation) The team with the highest percent moves to the next round.
  2. For the third round, research each coach’s win/loss record for the team they are coaching. Find the percentage of games won in their career with this school. The coach with the highest percentage moves their team to the next round.
  3. To determine the sweet sixteen, flip a coin. The top of the bracket is heads, the bottom is tails. After all 8 winners have been chosen, what was the theoretical probability and what is experimental probability. How did they compare? Was this an appropriate way to choose the winners? Why or why not?
  4. Fill in the rest of the bracket. Explain why you chose the teams that you did for the Final Four and the Championship game? How did the first three rounds influence your decisions?
  5. (Optional) Did you fill out a bracket already for a contest? How different is this bracket? Why?

Again, this is including writing into their math class. Also, can they explain why they are choosing the teams that they are at the end? I also will be allowing them to turn in their bracket since the final four, championship game, and champion will be their own decisions.

I’m excited to see how things go tomorrow. It should be fun. Taking what is going on in their lives and placing values to it. Good luck to everyone as they build their own brackets.

About Anthony Purcell

I am Anthony Purcell and I am currently teaching math in Oklahoma.
This entry was posted in Basketball, Brackets, Education, Geography, Math, NCAA, Project Based Learning, Teaching, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to March Mathness

  1. Molly says:

    I think it would be a probability of 1:68 because there are 68 teams???? 😀

Leave a Reply to Molly Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s