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The Super Bowl is one of the year’s biggest events in sports. It’s also one of the biggest events in gambling. Every January, fans around the world bet millions (billions) on the game. What are bettors betting on, and how have they historically been the most successful?

In this lesson, students add and subtract positive and negative numbers to explore two popular types of bet: the over-under and the spread. Students analyze the results from every Super Bowl to determine which bets have been the most effective and consider the best ways to win big on the big game.

Students will

  • Find absolute differences between the actual total of both teams’ scores from Super Bowl games and bookies’ predictions of the total, and use them to rank the quality of bookies’ past predictions
  • Interpret positive and negative numbers on a graph and understand what they represent in the context of Super Bowl betting
  • Estimate the probability of winning certain types of bets based on an analysis of past betting results
  • For the difference between the expected winner’s and expected loser’s scores, interpret what a positive or negative sign or a large or small magnitude imply about the predicted or actual outcome of a game

Before you begin

Students should be prepared to calculate with positive and negative numbers and to think about the sign and the magnitude of real numbers in a meaningful context. They will need to be able to read and interpret a graph that includes negative coordinate values. Students should have a very basic understanding of probability in order to compare the likelihood of two different events, although no formal notation is required. Knowledge of absolute values is helpful in making some connections and could lead to richer discussions, but it is not strictly necessary.

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices