How mathematicians are trying to make NFL schedules fairer

ESPN had a nice article about applied mathematicians at the University of Buffalo who are working with the NFL to create fairer schedules. A few quotes:

“This is a field I’ve worked in for 46 years, including 43 as a professor,” Karwan said by phone last week. “I’ve worked on very difficult problems that take more than 12 hours on the supercomputer to solve. And this is by far the hardest any of us have ever seen.”

And:

In developing the schedule, NFL assigns “penalty points” to outcomes such as three-game road trips, games between teams with disparate rest, and road trips following a Monday night road game. In their final proof of concept in 2017 before receiving the grant, Karwan and Steever took the 2016 schedule and lowered the penalty total by 20 percent…

The first step is based in both math and reality. Before creating the schedule, the NFL identifies a small number of games — usually between 40 and 50 — to lock in. The league refers to this as “seeding.” It helps accommodate expectations from television partners for key games in certain time slots, as well as about 200 annual requests from owners who prefer their stadiums not be used in a given week because of concerts, baseball games, marathons and other potential complications…

At that point, the NFL asks its computers to run schedule simulations until it finds one that has an acceptable penalty total. Usually that means juggling the 40 to 50 pre-seeded games. Karwan and Steever believe the key to improving the schedule is to better choose those pre-seeded games, allowing the computer to see stronger schedules that would otherwise be blocked by the initial choices through a process known as integer programming.

Not surprisingly, this research was publicized by the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, an annual conference dedicated to the integration (insert rim shot) of mathematics and sports.

Predicate Logic and Popular Culture (Part 206): Jack Johnson

Let H be the set of all things, let T be the set of all times, let G(x) be the proposition “x is good,” and let R(x,t) be the proposition “x remains at time t.” Translate the logical statement

\forall x \in H(G(x) Longrightarrow \forall t \in T(R(x,t))).

This matches a line from “Mudfootball” by Jack Johnson.

Context: Part of the discrete mathematics course includes an introduction to predicate and propositional logic for our math majors. As you can probably guess from their names, students tend to think these concepts are dry and uninteresting even though they’re very important for their development as math majors.

In an effort to making these topics more appealing, I spent a few days mining the depths of popular culture in a (likely futile) attempt to make these ideas more interesting to my students. In this series, I’d like to share what I found. Naturally, the sources that I found have varying levels of complexity, which is appropriate for students who are first learning prepositional and predicate logic.

When I actually presented these in class, I either presented the logical statement and had my class guess the statement in actual English, or I gave my students the famous quote and them translate it into predicate logic. However, for the purposes of this series, I’ll just present the statement in predicate logic first.

Predicate Logic and Popular Culture (Part 205): Bob Marley

Let T be the set of all things, let L(x) be the proposition “x is a little thing,” and let A(x) be the proposition “x is going to be all right.” Translate the logical statement

\forall x \in T(L(x) \Longrightarrow A(x)).

This matches a line from “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley.

Context: Part of the discrete mathematics course includes an introduction to predicate and propositional logic for our math majors. As you can probably guess from their names, students tend to think these concepts are dry and uninteresting even though they’re very important for their development as math majors.

In an effort to making these topics more appealing, I spent a few days mining the depths of popular culture in a (likely futile) attempt to make these ideas more interesting to my students. In this series, I’d like to share what I found. Naturally, the sources that I found have varying levels of complexity, which is appropriate for students who are first learning prepositional and predicate logic.

When I actually presented these in class, I either presented the logical statement and had my class guess the statement in actual English, or I gave my students the famous quote and them translate it into predicate logic. However, for the purposes of this series, I’ll just present the statement in predicate logic first.

Predicate Logic and Popular Culture (Part 204): Billy Joel

Let T be the set of all times, and let W(t) be the proposition “She is a woman to me at time t.” Translate the logical statement

\forall t \in T( W(t)).

This matches a line from “She’s Always a Woman” by Billy Joel.

Context: Part of the discrete mathematics course includes an introduction to predicate and propositional logic for our math majors. As you can probably guess from their names, students tend to think these concepts are dry and uninteresting even though they’re very important for their development as math majors.

In an effort to making these topics more appealing, I spent a few days mining the depths of popular culture in a (likely futile) attempt to make these ideas more interesting to my students. In this series, I’d like to share what I found. Naturally, the sources that I found have varying levels of complexity, which is appropriate for students who are first learning prepositional and predicate logic.

When I actually presented these in class, I either presented the logical statement and had my class guess the statement in actual English, or I gave my students the famous quote and them translate it into predicate logic. However, for the purposes of this series, I’ll just present the statement in predicate logic first.

Predicate Logic and Popular Culture (Part 203): Bill Withers

Let P be the set of all people, let T be the set of all times, let P(x,t) be the proposition “x has pain at time t,” and let S(x,t) be the proposition “x has sorrow at time t.” Translate the logical statement

\forall x \in P( \exists t_1 \in T(P(x,t)) \land \exists t_2 \in T(S(x,t)).

This matches a line from “Lean on Me.” Note: while I think the translation above matches the intent of the song, a case could be made that, literally rendered, the “there exists” symbols should come first — that there’s a single time that everyone has pain at that one time.

Context: Part of the discrete mathematics course includes an introduction to predicate and propositional logic for our math majors. As you can probably guess from their names, students tend to think these concepts are dry and uninteresting even though they’re very important for their development as math majors.

In an effort to making these topics more appealing, I spent a few days mining the depths of popular culture in a (likely futile) attempt to make these ideas more interesting to my students. In this series, I’d like to share what I found. Naturally, the sources that I found have varying levels of complexity, which is appropriate for students who are first learning prepositional and predicate logic.

When I actually presented these in class, I either presented the logical statement and had my class guess the statement in actual English, or I gave my students the famous quote and them translate it into predicate logic. However, for the purposes of this series, I’ll just present the statement in predicate logic first.

My Stanford Story: Madeleine Gates

In honor of her team winning the national championship on Saturday night, I’m reposting this video about Madeleine Gates, who is both a middle blocker for the Stanford women’s volleyball team and also a graduate student in statistics. There aren’t a whole lot of graduate students who play NCAA sports (which would necessarily mean finishing their undergraduate degrees in three years or less), let alone play at an exceptionally high level while also pursuing an advanced degree in a field as demanding as statistics. I really enjoyed watching this.

Here’s the video of championship point from Saturday night. Gates had the final swing.

Predicate Logic and Popular Culture (Part 202): The LEGO Movie

Let T be the set of all things, let p be the proposition “You’re part of a team,” let A(x) be the proposition “x is awesome,” and let C(x) be the proposition “x is cool.” Translate the logical statement

p \Longrightarrow \forall x in T(A(x) \land C(x)).

This matches the opening line of “Everything is Awesome!!!” from The LEGO Movie.

Context: Part of the discrete mathematics course includes an introduction to predicate and propositional logic for our math majors. As you can probably guess from their names, students tend to think these concepts are dry and uninteresting even though they’re very important for their development as math majors.

In an effort to making these topics more appealing, I spent a few days mining the depths of popular culture in a (likely futile) attempt to make these ideas more interesting to my students. In this series, I’d like to share what I found. Naturally, the sources that I found have varying levels of complexity, which is appropriate for students who are first learning prepositional and predicate logic.

When I actually presented these in class, I either presented the logical statement and had my class guess the statement in actual English, or I gave my students the famous quote and them translate it into predicate logic. However, for the purposes of this series, I’ll just present the statement in predicate logic first.

Predicate Logic and Popular Culture (Part 201): Hamilton

Let T be the set of all times, let time 0 be now, and let L(t) be the proposition “I like the quiet at time t.” Translate the logical statement

\forall t \in T(t < 0 \longrightarrow \lnot L(t)).

This matches a line from “It’s Quiet Uptown” from the hit musical Hamilton.

Context: Part of the discrete mathematics course includes an introduction to predicate and propositional logic for our math majors. As you can probably guess from their names, students tend to think these concepts are dry and uninteresting even though they’re very important for their development as math majors.

In an effort to making these topics more appealing, I spent a few days mining the depths of popular culture in a (likely futile) attempt to make these ideas more interesting to my students. In this series, I’d like to share what I found. Naturally, the sources that I found have varying levels of complexity, which is appropriate for students who are first learning prepositional and predicate logic.

When I actually presented these in class, I either presented the logical statement and had my class guess the statement in actual English, or I gave my students the famous quote and them translate it into predicate logic. However, for the purposes of this series, I’ll just present the statement in predicate logic first.

Predicate Logic and Popular Culture (Part 200): Spider-Man

Let T be the set of all times, and let R(t) be the proposition “I will rest at time t,” and let M(t) be the proposition “You are unmasked and eliminated at time t.” Translate the logical statement

\forall t \in T(\lnot M(t) \Longrightarrow \lnot R(t)).

This matches a line by J. Jonas Jameson in the 1990s Spider-Man cartoons.

Context: Part of the discrete mathematics course includes an introduction to predicate and propositional logic for our math majors. As you can probably guess from their names, students tend to think these concepts are dry and uninteresting even though they’re very important for their development as math majors.

In an effort to making these topics more appealing, I spent a few days mining the depths of popular culture in a (likely futile) attempt to make these ideas more interesting to my students. In this series, I’d like to share what I found. Naturally, the sources that I found have varying levels of complexity, which is appropriate for students who are first learning prepositional and predicate logic.

When I actually presented these in class, I either presented the logical statement and had my class guess the statement in actual English, or I gave my students the famous quote and them translate it into predicate logic. However, for the purposes of this series, I’ll just present the statement in predicate logic first.

Predicate Logic and Popular Culture (Part 199): Justin Bieber

Let T be the set of all times, let K(t) be the proposition “You knock me down at time t,” and let G(t) be the proposition “I am on the ground at time t.” Translate the logical statement

\forall t \in T(K(t) \longrightarrow \lnot (\forall s \ge t (G(s)))).

This matches part of the chorus of “Never Say Never” by Justin Bieber.

Context: Part of the discrete mathematics course includes an introduction to predicate and propositional logic for our math majors. As you can probably guess from their names, students tend to think these concepts are dry and uninteresting even though they’re very important for their development as math majors.

In an effort to making these topics more appealing, I spent a few days mining the depths of popular culture in a (likely futile) attempt to make these ideas more interesting to my students. In this series, I’d like to share what I found. Naturally, the sources that I found have varying levels of complexity, which is appropriate for students who are first learning prepositional and predicate logic.

When I actually presented these in class, I either presented the logical statement and had my class guess the statement in actual English, or I gave my students the famous quote and them translate it into predicate logic. However, for the purposes of this series, I’ll just present the statement in predicate logic first.