The ups and downs of March Madness are slipping into memory, but we have one final postscript to write. Who won the March Mathness challenge put forth by Tim Chartier to his students at Davidson College?
We are delighted to announce that Robin Malloch, a history major who is graduating this month, picked the best brackets out of Dr. Chartier’s class. She has joined Teach for America and will be teaching Middle School math in Charlotte, North Carolina this fall. Thankfully, before she heads off to do the good work of teaching algebra and geometry to eager (or truthfully, not so eager, we’re guessing) 7th and 8th graders, she has provided us with some insight into her bracket strategy during March Mathness:
I will describe my method as best I can. I made several brackets with different methodologies–one based on basketball gut, one on pure math, and others with a combination. My purely mathematical bracket did not fair that well. My two combination brackets which were a bit more arbitrary fared the best (89th and 92nd percentile). For those, I used the math to inform my basketball knowledge. Any time my basketball bracket contradicted the math ranking or if the rankings were nearly tied, I would look into the game further to see if either team had key players injured, how player matchups, what experience/track record the coaches had, etc.
As for my actual math rankings, I used Colley. I tried to account for strength of schedule, so I broke the season into three parts. The last couple games of the season are the conference tournament, which I gave more value to than any other games of the season. Then I broke the rest of the season in half: the first half being primarily out-of-conference games and the second half being primarily in-conference ones. For teams in a competitive conference (more than 3 teams from the conference in the tournament), I weighted the second half more heavily. For teams in weaker conferences, I weighted the first half more heavily when teams would likely face tougher competition. This method actually made my rankings closely resemble the 1-16 rankings produced by the NCAA selection committee. I enjoyed applying math brackets and looking at basketball with a new lens.
For more on the various bracketology methods Tim Chartier teaches his students, please check out our March Mathness page.