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Pi Mu Epsilon speaker discusses mathematics behind sports rankings

Elon's chapter of Pi Mu Epsilon, the national math honor society, hosted mathematician Dr. Mike Mossinghoff (Davidson College) for a guest lecture on the mathematics involved in ranking sports teams on Wednesday, November 18, 2015.

‚ÄčTo a crowd of 43 Elon students and faculty, Mossinghoff delivered his fun talk, "Fifa Foe Fun".  In it, he discussed two mathematical methods used to rank sports teams, and then applied those methods to the setting of Fifa's World Cup tournament.

One method was developed by Wes Colley (Ph.D. in astrophysics from Princeton) and the other by Kenneth Massey (M.S. in mathematics from Virginia Tech).  One major difference in the two methods is that Colley's method is based on the won-loss record of each team while Massey's uses the scores of matches (i.e., beating a team by 1 point is not as impressive as beating a team by 5 points).

Along with his collaborators, Mossinghoff has developed an online, interactive website that lets users choose their preferred method (either Colley or Massey) to rank soccer teams.  The user has also some flexibility within each method, to account for more refined rankings.  Their website is located here

Left to right: Carey Bina '17, Mike Mossinghoff, Andrew Levy '19

The event also saw two lucky Elon students win door prizes.  These students were Carey Bina '17 and Andrew Levy '19.  

Pi Mu Epsilon faculty advisor Dr. Chad Awtrey concluded the event by announcing speakers for spring 2016.  These are:

  • Greg Mader '11, graduate student at NC State -- 3:30pm on 2/24/16, location TBD
  • Sat Gupta, professor of statistics at UNC-Greensboro -- 4:15pm on 4/5/16, location TBD *** this event is co-sponsored with Elon's Statistics Club
  • Roland Minton, professor of mathematics at Roanoke College (VA) -- 5/4/16, location TBD 

All three events are free and open to the public.

Chad Awtrey,
12/7/2015 2:45 PM