Super Bowl, Super Football Math

Football Math

Football MathHere are a few examples of how you can use the Super Bowl to show your students that math really does apply outside of a textbook.

We learn math, not just to pass a test, but to be equipped to use it to help us in tasks God’s given us here on earth (and to behold His glory and faithfulness in holding all things together—see God and Math?).

Believe it or not, the Super Bowl was replete with examples of math in action.

  • The Super Bowl Name – Notice the Roman numeral in Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl name (along with the first quarter, second quarter, first down, second down, etc.) is an example of ordinal numbers.
  • The Team Jerseys – Perhaps the most obvious numbers on the field are those on the team jerseys. There’s an example of how we can use numbers like names—in this case, to identify different players.
  • The Field – Yep, there are numbers on the field itself (50-yard line, etc.), and distance is constantly measured throughout the game. How far of a field goal needs kicked? How much distance left to go to get to the next first down? In a more background way, laying out the football field itself required measurements. And how much grass is needed? Or paint? Again, measuring (think geometry) in action!
  • Confetti (and Other Costs and Profits) – So how much confetti was needed to fire off at the end of the game? And how much would it cost? How much did everything at the Super Bowl cost altogether? How much was brought in through ticket sales? Math can help us answer these behind-the-scenes questions.
  • The Ads – A lot of math goes on behind the scenes when it comes to ads. Below are a few examples.
    • How much money did NBC receive in advertising? If you knew the price of the ads sold, that could be calculated using addition. (In 2017, one source said it was around 385 million.)
    • When deciding if they should buy an ad, companies use math to help them compare different options. One useful measurement often used to compare options and develop an overall advertising plan is Gross Rating Points (GRPs), which is found by multiplying two different measurements together.[1] One can also look at how much the ad costs per thousand people it reaches, which is found by dividing the cost of the ad by the total people reached (in thousands).[2]
    • How much does an ad cost altogether? That would take adding up the cost of making the ad, the actual cost of buying the ad space, etc.
    • Is the ad a good ad to run? There’s no perfect way to tell this, but there are a lot of ways to try…and math can help. For example, one could test the ad before paying millions to air it in the Super Bowl. One testing method called the MSW* ARS shows ads (inside programs) to a sample group of people. Ads are given a score based on subtracting the percent that was for the target brand after the ad with the percent that was for the target brand before the ad (in other words, seeing the difference the ad made).[3]
    • Was the ad effective? Again, there’s no perfect way to measure this, but there are a lot of ways to try. Marketers use numerous formulas when evaluating sales and advertising to try to make sure that their advertising is really making a difference in sales.
  • The Graphics – Numerous graphics were introduced throughout the game. While we don’t often think of math and graphic design in the same sentence, graphic design often does use math. Not only does the computer program(s) used in designing use a lot of math behind the scenes, but graphic designers often use math to help position items, scale them, determine proportions, etc. Oh, and colors are specified using—you guessed it—numbers.
  • Statistics – What was the average cost of a 30-second Super Bowl ad? What is the football player’s percent complete? How many yards has the quarterback thrown so far (this would require adding)? And a host of other stats that use numbers (and addition to find those numbers)!
  • The Special Effects – Think of all the work that went in behind the scenes into coordinating various special effects. Math likely had a part in a lot of it: the angles of the lights, the levels of the various microphones (yes, math helps us measure audio levels too!), etc.

A lot goes in to an event like the Super Bowl—including a lot of math. The list above is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it will get you (and your students) thinking.

Math’s much more than a textbook exercise—it’s a real-life tool we can use while praising the Creator.

Reminder: We’ve got a lot of math resources (and even curriculum) to help you teach math from this perspective.


[1] J. Craig Andrews and Terence A. Shimp, Advertising, Promotion, and Other Aspects of Integrated Marketing Communications, 10th ed. (Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2018), p. 348.[2] Ibid., p. 356.

[3] Ibid., p. 386-388.

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Math and the Presidential Primaries

Math and the Presidential PrimariesOne of the things I stress a lot in my math resources is that math isn’t confined to a textbook. As I’ve been following the presidential elections this year, it occurred to me that it provides a great opportunity to show students math in action. Math is used quite a bit behind the scenes in determining each party’s candidate. Consider these applications:

  • Probably the most obvious math concept the elections show in action is percents. What percent of the vote went for each candidate? What percent of a specific area went to each candidate? What percent of the total delegates to a convention does each candidate have pledged to them? How many votes would a candidate have to receive in order to earn a specific percent if 40% of a specific population end up voting?
  • More percents and other math concepts are used in determining how many delegates are actually assigned to each candidate after an election. This article by the Washington Times gives an overview.
  • Addition (along with more percents, as well as formulas) are used behind the scenes in deciding how many delegates each state gets to send to the national conventions in the first place. See The Green Papers: Republican Detailed Delegate Allocation – 2016 for more details about the republican side; and The Green Papers: Democratic Detailed Delegate Allocation – 2016 for the democrat side.
  • Statistics show up extensively throughout the election process. Polls are based on surveying a random sample of the population and trying to determine the views of the whole off of it. It’s a great time to look at how statistics work (and how easily they can be twisted). See Chapter 11 in Principles of Mathematics for an overview and example.

As you follow the elections, consider looking into your particular state’s primary or caucus system and examining the math behind it. Point out the use of percents, addition, etc. Look at the statistics behind a couple of presidential polls and at what they truly tell us.

Then sit back and remember that math only proves useful because this universe is consistent, and because God gave man the ability to subdue the earth. We’re made uniquely in God’s image, created to worship Him. Remind your students that math is far from meaningless bookwork—it’s a real-life tool that helps us in the tasks God has given us to do.