Basketball and Math

At first glance, basketball and math seemingly have little in common. While basketball is hugely popular in American schools, math has a considerably smaller fan following. However, a closer look at the sport reveals that there is a considerable amount of math in basketball. Pointing out how math is used in basketball is a great way to get your kids more excited about angles and percentages, while helping them realize how important math is in everyday life.

Basketball and Math

The angle at which the ball is thrown is determined as the angle made by the extension of the player's arms and a perpendicular line starting from the player's hips.

The Mathematics in Basketball

The math in basketball involves a wide range of math topics. Kids can practice geometry, percentages and even basic mathematical operations while playing or watching a game of basketball.

  • Geometry in basketball

Whether they realize it or not, basketball players make use of many geometric concepts while playing a game. The most basic of these ideas is in the dimensions of the basketball court. The diameter of the hoop (18 in), the diameter of the ball (9.4 in), the width of the court (50 ft) and the length from the three point line to the hoop (19 ft) are all standard measures that must be adhered to in any basketball court. Knowing these measurements is useful for kids who would like to practice basketball at home without access to a full-fledged basketball court.

The path the basketball will take once it’s shot comes down to the angle at which it is shot, the force applied and the height of the player’s arms. When shooting from behind the free throw line, a smaller angle is necessary to get the ball through the hoop. However, when making a field throw, a larger angle is called for. When a defender is trying to block the shot, a higher shot is necessary. In this case, the elbows should be as close to the face as possible.

Understanding arcs will help determine how best to shoot the ball. Basketball players understand that throwing the ball right at the basket will not help it go into the hoop. On the other hand, shooting the ball in an arc will increase its chances of falling through the hoop. Getting the arc right is important to ensure that the ball does not fall in the wrong place.

The best height to dribble can also be determined mathematically. When standing in one place, dribble from a lower height to maintain better control of the ball. When running, dribbling from the height of your hips will allow you to move faster. To pass the ball while dribbling, use straighter angles to pass the ball along a greater distance.

Understanding geometry is also important for good defense. This will help predict the player’s moves, and also determine how to face the player. Facing the player directly will give the player greater space to move on either side. However, facing the player at an angle will curb his freedom. Mathematics can also be used to decide how to stand while going on defense. The more you bend your knees, the quicker you can move.  Utilizing geometry, math in basketball plays a crucial role in the actual playing of the sport.

  • Statistics in basketball

Statistics is essential for analyzing a game of basketball. For players, statistics can be used to determine individual strengths and weaknesses. For spectators, statistics is used to determine the value of players and analyze the performance of an individual or the entire team. Percentages are a common way of comparing players’ performances. It is used to get values like the rebound rate, which is the percentage of missed shots a player rebounds while on the court. Statistics is also used to rank a player based on the number of shots, steals and assists made during a game. Averages are used to get values like the points per game average, and ratios are used to get values like the turnover to assist ratio.

  • Addition and Subtraction in Basketball

For young basketball fans, math in basketball is a great opportunity to practice simple skills like counting, addition and subtraction. Young kids can add up the points made in every shot to get the team’s total score. Kids can also be asked to use subtraction to determine how many points a team will need to catch up with the leading team, or to win the game.

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