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Games Entertainment

Is Math A Sport? 496

Posted by timothy
from the that's-an-album dept.
theodp writes "The close of the International Mathematical Olympiad prompts Slate to question if math is a sport, wondering if mathletes might someday compete in the Olympics alongside track stars and basketball players."
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Is Math A Sport?

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  • No. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Vandemar (797798) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @03:41PM (#9726531) Homepage
    nt
  • Ridiculous. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chess_the_cat (653159) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @03:42PM (#9726541) Homepage
    Absolutely ridiculous. If math is a sport then what isn't a sport. Fuck. The world has gone nuts.
  • Absolutely (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 3l1za (770108) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @03:44PM (#9726555)
    No question about it -- they are.

    Here are some traits of a sport:

    (1) It's something that you can train for -- and, with training, improve in

    (2) It's something in which your progress and fitness and skill/talent can be measured

    (3) It's something in which some people are just naturally gifted and others can achieve at a level commensurate with their effort -- to a point. At some higher levels of mathematics, though -- just like at some levels of athletics (e.g. the Tour de France, the Olympics), no amount of training can overcome a genetic deficiency.

    Most of all, both (mathematics & sports) are fun!
  • by sumac (714320) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @03:45PM (#9726563)
    Why is it that smart folks can't be happy with simply being smart? Math is obviously not a sport, nor is it a competition. Compete at math? Huh? What does competition add to the struggle? (mumbles something about never reading slashdot again...)
  • Of course not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @03:46PM (#9726569)
    It's an art.
  • Depends (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Apreche (239272) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @03:47PM (#9726578) Homepage Journal
    Just about every word in the english language has multiple definitions. You know, when you look in the dictionary and there are numbers 1,2,3, etc. Lets' take a look at one in the OED.

    I. 1. a. Pleasant pastime; entertainment or amusement; recreation, diversion.

    If you use that one, then yes, math can be a sport for some people.

    d. Participation in games or exercises, esp. those of an athletic character or pursued in the open air; such games or amusements collectively.

    That one depends on how you do the math.

    c. spec. Pastime afforded by the endeavour to take or kill wild animals, game, or fish. Freq. with adjs. referring to the result achieved.

    no, math is not a sport. Unless you can make a funny joke about how doing math kills wild animals. See replies to this post for witty comments.
  • I disagree... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Seminal (698722) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @03:56PM (#9726645) Journal
    Those criteria can make anything a sport. For example, by your criteria, masturbation can be a sport. I know people who have been training in masturbation for years. They do it every day. They progress and get better at it. No more of the right hand only, then use the left hand too, and upside down. They can even postpone ejaculation. And yes, some people are more naturally gifted at masturbating than others. But do we want to call it a sport?

    You are missing one of the main criteria for sports. You have to be able to stop someone else from scoring or getting what they want. In all games, there is a defense for the offense. What can you defensivly do to stop someone in math?

  • In a word? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Moofie (22272) <lee@nOSPam.ringofsaturn.com> on Saturday July 17, 2004 @03:59PM (#9726662) Homepage
    No.

    If Stephen Hawking can do it, it's not a sport.

    Geeks (like me) need to get over their inferiority complex (which I did). Intellectual pursuits are not more or less worthy than physical ones...they're just different.
  • Re:I disagree... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stoborrobots (577882) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @04:08PM (#9726725)
    Actually, rather than the existance of defence, the criterion should be the existance of competition...

    Tennis, basketball, swimming, cycling and track are not sports when they're not competitive - they are exercise.

    (And doing maths yourself, i.e. homework, is also called exercise...)

  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rokzy (687636) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @04:15PM (#9726767)
    Maths is not a sport.

    If it were, then why not Physics? or Chemistry? or Biology? or History? or Latin?

    I suspect people who want maths to be a sport are those who are good at multiplication tables and think they deserve recognition for it, but are too crap to actually do any proper mathematical research.
  • Re:I disagree... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Epistax (544591) <`epistax' `at' `gmail.com'> on Saturday July 17, 2004 @04:15PM (#9726775) Journal
    I disagree.

    One thing in common between bowling, swimming, golf, etc, is that you can compare your score to someone who played a week, month or years ago and it can still be a valid comparison. You obviously can't compare your score in hockey to a different team's on a different day. I'll use this to say that swimming, cycling, track, bowling, golf (etc) are alike in that any competition that does exist is passive (except cheating). However since I don't consider bowling or golf a sport I don't consider competition to be a factor.
  • by drfireman (101623) <dan@NOspam.kimberg.com> on Saturday July 17, 2004 @04:49PM (#9726974) Homepage
    People ask this kind of question about all sorts of things, as though there is some kind of natural law that dictates what is or isn't a sport (or game, or whatever we're arguing about today). Alas, "sport" isn't some natural feature of the structure of the universe, it's a word that's reasonably useful in communicating an ill-defined concept. Asking questions about the precise boundaries of an ill-defined word is pointless.

    Fortunately, nothing depends on it! Nobody's all that confused about which features math shares with track and field (sweating, no; competition, yes). And if the organizers of the Olympics declared that math (or poker, or cooking) would be admitted if it were a sport, the right step would not be to try to determine whether or not it's a sport. The right step would be to find out exactly what the organizing committee meant by "sport." After some run-around, we would find out they didn't have anything in mind, and were just speaking loosely in the hope that it wouldn't cause any problems.
  • by servognome (738846) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @04:54PM (#9727009)
    The philosopher Bernard Suits defines a sport as a game that meets the following four criteria: "(1) that the game be a game of skill; (2) that the skill be physical; (3) that the game have a wide following; and (4) that the following achieve a certain level of stability."
    "Maybe one should take 2) to mean "at least one of the skills relevant to the game is physical."

    I think that falls short of the definition of sports, it should be the skills are primarily physical. Which includes things such as ballroom dancing, figure skating, but rules out math, bridge, or just adding a short running component to solving math problems.
    Boxing columnist R. Michael Onello says "boxing is 70 percent mental"
    I disagree with this, the difference between Boxer A and Boxer B can be 70% mental, but that doesn't mean the sport is 70% mental. Once you push the human body to its physical limits (which all top athletes do) the difference from athlete to athlete is mostly mental.
    For example if you look at 40m times for football wide receivers there isn't much differece, like .1 or .2 seconds. That is one of the primary physical requirement, if you are too slow, no amount of mental skill can help you. So if everybody is running a 4.5s 40m, what makes one much better than another? The mental part, reading defenses, knowing their route against a given defense, running precise routes. The game is physical, the difference maker is mental.
  • by NanoGator (522640) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @05:02PM (#9727045) Homepage Journal
    " Compete at math? Huh? What does competition add to the struggle?"

    A demonstration of one's capabilities that some aspire to reach?

  • Re:Yes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rokzy (687636) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @05:12PM (#9727091)
    I clicked the biology one. it's about sitting exams. so didn't bother with the others. sitting exams is not a sport. even if it's a competition, that doesn't make it a sport, it makes it a competition.
  • Missing the point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AvantLegion (595806) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @05:20PM (#9727135) Journal
    >> Well, if World Series Of Poker can be broacasted on ESPN, then I guess math is a sport.

    Nobody is claiming that poker is a sport, either. Which is where your logic fails - you equate "broadcast on ESPN" with "sport". Granted, ESPN is mainly about sports, but it also broadcasts other competitive activities that are questionable as "sports". Poker is by far the one furthest from athletic competition. But if you ask anyone on ESPN if poker is a "sport", you can bet the answer will be "no".

    Neither poker nor math are sports. Of course, the difference between poker and math is that poker can be fun to watch.

  • Re:Sure! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Temporal (96070) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @05:38PM (#9727230) Journal
    Isn't it amazing what you can prove using clever divisions of zero?
  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by michael_cain (66650) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @06:07PM (#9727348) Journal
    None of these are sports, even if someone did attach some variation of "olympiad" to them. Let me put it this way -- could you hold an annual competition for the "best" mathematician (or biologist, or physicist) in the world each year? Not the best at taking a multiple choice biology exam, or at solving differential equations in their head, but the best at creating new knowledge in the selected field? Various organizations give awards for the "best" paper in different fields each year, but any one of those may be the culmunation of years of work and experimentation. But the thing that makes people great at such fields are those elusive "Aha!" moments in the middle of the night, or in the shower, or whenever, when a collection of pieces fall into place and form a pattern that no one has ever seen before.

    I can just imagine the announcers at the typical annual world math competition in, say, the topological manifolds event. "And there's the final buzzer, Bob, and as usual -- NOTHING HAPPENED! The greatest topologists in the world went at it for 60 minutes and NONE OF THEM HAD A SINGLE INSIGHT!"

  • Re:I disagree... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Deadstick (535032) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @06:38PM (#9727563)
    What can you defensivly do to stop someone in math?

    Produce a counterexample.

    Prove his solution isn't unique.

    rj

  • Re:Ridiculous. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SydShamino (547793) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @06:50PM (#9727628)
    No, math is not an athletic sport. But it is still something to compete in and be proud of. I got a few nice trips and multiple days out of school in high school to travel for math competitions, and I wasn't particularly good at them.

    What upsets me more, though, is how academic and athletic achievement are recognized so differently.

    For example, a student athlete has their records published in the newspaper, the yearbook, and is recognized at student events. The student athletes that aren't as good don't get as much recognition, but their performances are public record as well.

    Contrast this with schools that are having to eliminate 'A' and 'B' honor rolls, because publication of such rolls shows that everyone not on those lists are 'C' or below students.

    So someone who's even marginally good at sports get to see their name in the paper, and get talked about at school, while those who are good at academics might get a note from the teacher with an extra smiley face sticker. No wonder academic instruction in the US is going downhill.
  • Re:Yes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by secolactico (519805) * on Saturday July 17, 2004 @06:54PM (#9727646) Journal
    And my opinion is similar to 3llia's.

    From 3llia's post:

    ere are some traits of a sport:

    (1) It's something that you can train for -- and, with training, improve in

    (2) It's something in which your progress and fitness and skill/talent can be measured

    (3) It's something in which some people are just naturally gifted and others can achieve at a level commensurate with their effort -- to a point. At some higher levels of mathematics, though -- just like at some levels of athletics (e.g. the Tour de France, the Olympics), no amount of training can overcome a genetic deficiency.

    Most of all, both (mathematics & sports) are fun!


    By that criteria, should needlepoint knitting be considered a sport? How about cooking? Airplane piloting? Writing?

    A lot of activities fit that criteria, most of them are not considered sport.
  • Re:I disagree... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FrYGuY101 (770432) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @07:33PM (#9727856) Journal
    Certainly not.

    A sport is not any athletic competition. A sport is an athletic GAME. One in which opposing sides play against each other, attempting to complete an objective or objectives, and attempting to prevent the opposing side from completing theirs.

    Paintball is a sport. Bowling is not.
    Football is a sport. Track and field is not.
    Water Polo is a sport. Swimming is not.
    Fencing is a sport. Gymnastics is not.
    Hockey is a sport. Figure Skating is not.
    Basketball is a sport. Golf is not.

    Get the picture?
  • Re:Yes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Senjutsu (614542) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:28AM (#9729170)
    My math degree says:

    Absolutely no. There is no way in hell math could possibly be considered a sport. Is this question some kind of joke?
  • Re:Sure! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Too Much Noise (755847) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:49AM (#9729243) Journal
    You're only half-right. Expanding won't help, as his argument is that the terms rearrange to form the other series, which is 'almost' correct.

    The problem, as already pointed out, is rearranging. In this case it's done by playing with differences of divergent subseries - and that's the fallacy in his argument. Thus, while x1=x2/2 is correct (true for any finite subsum), x1=x2 is not (where x1 is the {1/(2k+1)-1/(2k+2)} sum, x2 is the {1/(2k+1)-1/(4k+2)-1/(4k+4)} one)
  • No cheerleaders (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jim Hall (2985) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @09:18AM (#9730666) Homepage

    I was on the Math Team in high school ... and I was Team Captain my senior year. That year, I came to the conclusion that since Math Team got the same letter jacket patches as the athletic activities, and since we were representing our team competitively against other schools just like the athletic teams, we should get the same "benefits" as the athletic teams. The first benefit we asked for - we needed to have cheerleaders.

    Request was denied. :-(

    We decided not to ask for the pep rally. :-)

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