MATH 302
Mathematics of (Mostly Olympic) Sport

Spring 2015

INSTRUCTOR: John Stockie
Office: K 10518
Phone: 778-782-3553
E-mail: stockie  at
CLASS TIMES: Monday     10:30-11:20, WMC 3210
Thursday   10:30-12:20, AQ 3005
MY OFFICE HOURS: Thursday 12:30-1:30 or by appointment
TUTORIAL: The tutorials will be run by John Kluesner (jkluesne [at] and are held at the following times:
Tuesday (D101)     9:30-10:20, WMC 2507
Tuesday (D102)     12:30-13:20, AQ 5008
PREREQUISITES: MATH 152 or 155 or 158; MATH 232 or MATH 240. MACM 202 or 203 or 204 is recommended (or equivalent computing experience).
TEXTBOOK: The Hidden Mathematics of Sport, by Rob Eastaway and John Haigh (Portico Books, London), 2011.
This book is "light reading" compared to the usual math textbook. It is divided into short chapters that each focus on a single sport and that describe in words the sort of mathematics that can be applied to understanding that sport. The book contains only a subset of the material that I will cover, and so I will provide additional material in lecture notes and other references that I will distribute throughout the term.
HOMEWORK: Homework assignments will be due roughly every two weeks on Thursdays at 10:30am. You must submit your homework assignment in the appropriate box on the 9000 level underneath the Mathematics Department. DO NOT hand your homework assignments to me in class. Late assignments will be assigned a mark of zero.
Applications of mathematics to the study of sport, with an emphasis on Olympic sporting events. The course will be organized roughly around weekly "modules", each of which focuses on a particular sport or a common underlying aspect of several sports. Examples of possible topics of study include:
  • Who really won the 2008 Summer (or 2010 Winter) Olympics?
  • What are the limits of human performance? And will women ever outperform men?
  • Who is the fastest (wo)man on the planet?
  • Is there an optimal technique for throwing a discus/javelin/shot?
  • Is the judging system in figure skating a fair one?
  • Does the Olympic triathlon penalize good swimmers?
  • Is there really a "home ice advantage" in a Stanley Cup playoff series?
  • What is the optimal rower configuration in the rowing fours and eights?
  • . . .

These and other questions will be tackled using a variety of mathematical techniques, including calculus, linear algebra, probability, statistics and game theory. Examples will be illustrated in class using software packages such as Microsoft Excel, Matlab and Maple, and the code will be distributed to students for their own experimentation.

   Assignments:   30% (bi-weekly)
Midterm Test:   30% (March 5, tentative)
Group Project:    40% (April ??, poster presentation)

Last modified: Mon Jan 5 2015