March Madness. The Big Dance. The annual NCAA basketball tournament goes by many names, and has millions of devoted fans. Every year, basketball prognosticators try to predict the outcome of the tournament. But how likely is it for someone to produce a perfect prediction?

In this lesson, students use probability to discover that it’s basically impossible to correctly predict every game in the tournament. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop people from trying. Students close out the lesson by analyzing geometric and arithmetic sequences commonly used to score March Madness predictions, and discuss what makes a prediction the “best.”

Students will

Calculate the probability of randomly predicting every result in the NCAA tournament correctly

Estimate the probability of creating a perfect bracket given the probability of correctly predicting a single game

In the event that no prediction is perfect, analyze different ways to score predictions to find the “best” one

Discuss the pros and cons of different scoring systems

Before you begin

Students should have some previous exposure to probability concepts. In particular, if A and B are independent events, students should know that P(A and B) = P(A)P(B).

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Conditional Probability and the Rules of Probability (CP)

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Building Functions (BF), Creating Equations (CED), Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models (LE)

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Building Functions (BF), Creating Equations (CED), Interpreting Functions (IF)

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Building Functions (BF), Creating Equations (CED), Interpreting Functions (IF), Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities (REI)

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Building Functions (BF), Interpreting Functions (IF), Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models (LE)

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Topic:
Conditional Probability and the Rules of Probability (CP), Interpreting Categorical and Quantitative Data (ID), Making Inferences and Justifying Conclusions (IC)

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Topic:
Creating Equations (CED), Interpreting Functions (IF), Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities (REI), Seeing Structure in Expressions (SSE)

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Topic:
Conditional Probability and the Rules of Probability (CP), Creating Equations (CED), Using Probability to Make Decisions (MD)

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Mathalicious lessons provide teachers with an opportunity to teach standards-based math through real-world topics that students care about.

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