Soccermatics: Mathematical Adventures in the Beautiful Game
Pro sports has been inundated with statistics of all sorts – some relevant, and others less so. Bookies have turned understanding statistics well enough to make their living from it. This book uses soccer as a starting point to explain mathematics – specifically statistics and game theory. While the book does delve into “proofs” or sorts, these are more like explanations that try to elucidate underlying mathematical concepts, rather than provide rigorous mathematical proofs.
Chapters are divided into three parts. Part I (consisting of five chapters) focuses on the game itself. In the process, readers learn about probability distributions, tessellations, field lines and projectile motion. Part II (consisting of four chapters) explores game strategy. Here, readers are introduced to game theory and an introduction to binomial probability. Part III (consisting of four chapters) uses the fans and bookies to introduce readers to geometric progressions, crowd behavior, calculating expected outcomes (from probabilities). While the discussion starts with soccer, the same mathematical underpinnings are explored in other relevant topics (such as economics, social and applied sciences).
The tone is conversational, the test easy to read, and the concepts are fairly well explained for the most part. The narrative moves easily from soccer to mathematics and through other areas where the same mathematical concepts are used. Readers more seasoned in applied mathematics may question some of the book’s assumptions (such as the rational for fitting a Poisson distribution without discussing other competing distributions), but we do have to start somewhere. Those who enjoy reading about applied mathematics are more likely to enjoy this book than those who like soccer but not applied mathematics. Overall an informative and easy read.