[**Editor’s Note**: This article was written by the CTL’s Laurie Hansen.]

One day, my daughter came home from elementary school excited about math. Why? Her teacher, (shout out to Mr. Swanson!) assigned the kids a task: Fantasy Football. Following in the footsteps of a University of Mississippi study which “[i]n 2009, …surveyed 342 middle school and high school students who used fantasy sports in math class” and found that **Fantasy Football **definitely has an impact on what kids think and feel about math.

So teachers, how would you like to participate in some groundbreaking research? Dr. Kim Beason from the University of Mississippi will lead a study that investigates…

“basic fantasy sport consumer behaviors of youth in grades 5-12 and collect data from youth and teachers on the effectiveness of using fantasy sport in the classroom to teach mathematics and determine the efficacy of the Fantasy Sport and Mathematics system….”

Dr. Beason is “recruiting teachers and students in grades 7-12 (age 12-18) that attend public or private schools that use the Fantasy Sport and Mathematics curriculum from school districts across the U.S. Teachers from the nine U.S. Census Bureau geographic regions will be sent surveys their students should complete during class. The questionnaire should only take 10-15 minutes of your time and your participation is voluntary.” Sound good? The open call for participation will continue through 2011.

- NFL Fantasy Football FAQs for beginners
- Find out more about the OleMiss study here!
- Take it to the next level – Tips from MIT grad students
- Bring language arts into the mix and have your kids write a Fantasy Football poem, uh, rap?

Let the math begin!

Laurie and others,

Thanks for the post! The results look good enough that this is worth looking into further. Games and simulations are good ways to help students become interested in mathematics. Traditional math education bores many students because the math is often presented dryly. And with little focus on meaning and understanding, students come to believe that math is nothing but manipulating meaningless symbols according to arbitrary, meaningless rules.

But we should take caution when deciding to introduce games and applications in a math course. We should use a variety of them to reach out to as many students as possible. No matter what game, some students will not like it. No matter what application, some students will not understand it or find it meaningful or applicable. One discussion question in a general education math course elsewhere deals with an application of economics, but just about all of us during Summer 1 of this year–including me–found it difficult to get any meaning from the discussion that week because that particular application is meaningless to those whose background in economics is superficial, which was the case for nearly every one of us.

And another caution with applications: Some applications are contrived, and others are just purely mathematical problems “dressed up” with a real-world context. For instance, a problem asking for how many committees I can form with three assistant professors, two associate professors, and five professors from a university with 65 total assistant professors, 53 total associate professors, and 42 professors is not an application of combinatorics but just a purely mathematical problem “dressed up” in a real-world context. Why is this? Who in the real-world would find the answer useful for anything beyond mere curiosity? Even if one could find the answer useful for practical purposes, this question reveals nothing about that. That is not to say that such questions are bad, but we should take heed in labeling such questions(in fact, this question does have mathematical value because it helps students practice ideas that can be used in genuinely practical problems) as “applications.” The answer is interesting but does not help us solve any practical problems.

I checked out their website and sample problems. One difficulty I see is that these problems do not respect the differences between ratios and fractions. Students and teachers being confused about the differences between fractions and ratios has caused many problems with students’ understanding of both fractions and ratios. Several fellow mathematicians and mathematics educators and I in online discussions at Math Forum have been looking into this problem (along with others in the teaching of arithmetic) lately. I won’t go into the details here, but suffice it to say for now that a fraction represents a number, a single quantity whereas a ratio is a comparison of two or more quantites. That is, a ratio is not a fraction because it is not a number like a fraction is.

Jonathan Groves