School News: Making an Accurate Olympics Prediction

Winter 2022

In the 2020 summer Olympics, Japan dominated in judo, karate, and table tennis and won silver in women’s basketball despite being some of the shortest players in the competition. In total, the country won 57 medals. This was almost exactly what a group of high school students from Milton Academy (MA) predicted would happen.
When precalculus teacher Terri HerrNeckar gave students a chance to explore any topic for an ungraded project, Christopher Scanlon, Elliot Strauss, and Teddy Sunshine took the opportunity to investigate whether countries that host the Olympics have a home field advantage and used statistics to predict that Japan would win 58 medals. “I was ecstatic to see the results of our project come true,” Sunshine says.
They analyzed Olympic games that took place in China, Britain, and Brazil in the past several years. They examined data from the two games leading up to when each of these countries hosted the Olympics and determined that countries had a 30% increase in their total medal count at their host Olympics. They hypothesized that some of the reasons for this include being able to play in their own facilities, receiving more funding, and entering more athletes into the competition due to lower qualification standards, per official rules. “We were able to see math in a real-world way,” Scanlon says.
The group plans to work together again for their senior year independent study. “We all have different skill sets that make working together easy,” Strauss says.

(Left to right) Teddy Sunshine, Elliot Strauss, and Chris Scanlon used statistics to predict whether Olympic host countries have a home field advantage.

What’s happening at your school? Share your story with us at 
[email protected].