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Activity: 49ers web-quest challenge

This content is provided by the 49ers Museum Education Program.


Most people who watch 49ers games are familiar with football rules and terminology, but they aren’t always aware of the important role that math plays in football. The mathematical study of statistics drives almost every area of the game. There are vast amounts of statistical data on players, teams, divisions and leagues that is provided by the media and teams.
It is likely that you keep up on the scores and standings for your favorite football team. Tables and graphs are commonly used to summarize these football statistics. Team or division standings are often summarized in tables, and historical data about a sport is often summarized in graphs. Below is example of how the 49ers display statistics in a table format:

2015 49ers team statistics

PASSING (COMP-ATT-INT-AVG)322-526-12-6.9375-549-9-8
FIELD GOALS24/2728/37

Web-quest challenge

Today, you will have an opportunity to compile your own statistics in relation to win-loss percentages of ten National Football League (NFL) teams of your choosing. You are tasked to complete a fun web-quest that will give you firsthand experience in exploring statistics and percentages in a meaningful way!
A web-quest is an inquiry-oriented, online, research challenge that will allow you to explore and evaluate statistics as they are used in the real world. In this challenge, you don’t only look for information; you can actually use it!

What is a percentage?

You see percentages used all around the world and especially in football. What is a percentage you may ask? Percent basically means “for every 100” or "out of 100." The percentage symbol (%) is a speedy way to represent a fraction with a denominator of 100. For example, instead of saying, “The 49ers won 80 games out of 100," we would say, "The 49ers won 80% of the time.”

What is win-loss percentage?

Win-Loss Percentage (WL%) is important statistical data set for any NFL team and can be easily computed. WL% is also used in almost all competitive team sports. These are the formulas for finding win-loss percentages for teams in the NFL:
WL% Formulas:
  • Total games won ÷ Total games played = Winning percentage
  • Total games lost ÷ Total games played = Losing percentage
  • Winning percentage + Losing percentage = 1.00 (100%)
Let’s see it how the Win-Loss Percentage applies to football: In their 1988-89 championship season, the 49ers had a season record of 10 wins and 6 losses (10-6). Below is example of how to solve for winning and losing %:
A. To calculate winning percentage: You would divide 10 (wins) ÷ 16 (total games played), which would equal .625. You would then move the decimal over to the right two times (when making a decimal into a percent), and take that number and round it to the highest number possible, which would equal 63%. So, the 49ers total winning % for that season is 63%.
B. To calculate the losing percentage: You would divide 6 (losses) ÷ 16 (total games played), which would equal 37%.
Based off these statistics, you would have never thought the 49ers would turn it around and earn their third Super Bowl Championship after the season ended. Statistics can definitely help predict possible game outcomes, but ultimately cannot gauge the heart of a championship team!

Web-quest steps

Materials needed:

  • This task requires access to a computer and access to the web
  • Statistics data table
  • Scratch paper, pencil and a ruler
  • Links are included for each quest to help you explore at the bottom of this page.
Step 1
Go online and research win and loss data for ten total teams, including the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL in 2015.
Step 2
Compute the WL% for ten teams in the league, five in a conference and five in a division.
Step 3
Fill in the data table for your results.
Step 4
Answer the following questions:
  1. How long did it take for you to compile these statistics?
  2. Is WL% always expressed as a percentage? Think about it as how you were introduced to the concept of percentages above and what you found online.
  3. Which team had the highest winning percentage?
  4. Which team had the highest losing percentage?
  5. Which website provided you the best source of information?


Research on the Internet and answer the following question: What other sports use WL%?

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