How do you get a group of sixth-grade boys to voluntarily work hundreds of math problems?
The answer is fantasy football.
Fantasy football is a competitive numbers game in which you select players across the entire NFL to create your team. You score points based on your players’ actual performances from week-to-week. But the core of fantasy football is math. Long before ESPN made fantasy football a staple in households across the country, football fans had to calculate the results of their fantasy teams the old-fashioned way — through tried and true “old school” math.
Fantasy football is a huge hit nationwide and our sixth-grade boys were likely going to be playing anyway. So we signed up a class full of sixth-graders to play fantasy football.
I staged a drafting party for the first class day. The boys drew numbers out of a hat to see who got the first pick, second pick, and so on…. I then allowed time for them to do research on their computers to check out NFL player stats. Many of them had done homework on players before our first class! I brought some snacks for them to munch on as we drafted.
When it was time for the selections, each boy handed me a piece of paper with his player’s name on it, and I used by best commissioner’s voice to announce who he picked. Each boy drafted one kicker, one quarterback, two running backs, one tight end, two wide receivers, one flex position (could be a running back, wide receiver, or a tight end), and one defense/special team. Their starting lineup consisted of nine players. They also drafted seven reserve players. I had the boys email their starting lineups to me before each week’s games.
The key is the scoring system. Instead of a website doing automated scoring for them, the boys have to calculate their team’s score by “old school” math.
The scoring was a season-long affair. The boy with the most fantasy points won the contest. This is the scoring system that we used:
- 25 yds. passing: 1 point
- 10 yds. rushing: 1 point
- 10 yds. receiving: 1 point
- Passing TDs: 4 points
- Rushing TDs: 6 points
- Receiving TDs: 6 points
- Offensive recovery TD: 6 points
- Rushing Point after TD: 2 points
- Passing PAT: 1 point
- Receiving PAT: 1 point
Each week in our class the boys would look at NFL box scores to find their players’ stats and add their total team scores. They didn’t mind doing the math because they were so excited to find out their fantasy team score and compare it with the other boys. (Note: I had to check their scores to make certain they were correct and, most of the time, they were!)
At the end of the season, arms were raised in triumph, prizes were awarded, and fun was had by all. Fantasy football was a blast!