Fantasy Football In Math Class?


While mathematics is a fundamental skill crucial to daily life, U.S. parents today see math education as boring, outdated, and disconnected from the real world. (1)

At the national level, short and long-term achievement trends paint a disconcerting picture of the need for innovative math education strategies:

  • Math scores among eighth graders dropped in 2022, to the lowest score since 20031
  • Math scores declined for students regardless of racial and ethnic group, gender, parental education, or disability status1
  • The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated declines in math achievement; the median school district lost about 52% of a year’s worth of academic growth in math2
  • Black and Hispanic students experienced a widening educational inequity, both between and within schools from 2020-20213
  • Socio-economic disparities widened the math achievement gap during the pandemic, with students in high-poverty districts falling further behind in math than students in low-poverty districts4

Moreover, students’ low math confidence in middle school has been shown to lead to poor math performance in high school math, often preventing students from pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.5

Now, with a new grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, (contract #91990023C0025) researchers will be working to create a web-based math game to offer an engaging way for children to build math knowledge. Fantasy Sports and Mathematics Game: An Innovative Gaming Approach to Increase Middle School Math Skills (FSMath). Using real-life professional sports player statistics, students will create and manage their own fantasy team and compete to be the highest scoring team and the most accurate mathematician (aka “Mathlete”).

Under the leadership of Principal Investigator BA Laris (dfusion, Scotts Valley CA) and collaboration with the original developer of the Fantasy Sports and Math curricula (Dan Flockhart, MA) the research team will build on the success of the original printed curriculum. FSMath is interactive, comprehensive, and aligned with educational standards. It is designed to build on concepts over time and supports individualized learning as middle school students practice and reinforce math skills in a collaborative and competitive learning environment.

During early testing of FSMath, both students and administrators were excited about the program. A School Director from Massachusetts observed that “students were eager to be the first to math class to tally their scores and begin working with their team’s stats. It was great to see boys and girls working both above and below grade level fully engaged in using their math skills and learning new ones.”  And a 6th grade girl from Oregon enthusiastically noted that “learning fractions is fun now. It definitely wasn’t before we played Fantasy Football and math.”

The research team will now test the feasibility of developing and pilot testing FSMath, an interactive web-app game using fantasy sports to improve math skills among middle school age youth. The web-app will be based on the concept and approach originally developed in the paper-curriculum but will add additional features to launch students more effectively into learning math through fantasy sports with linked teacher and student portals.

Student portal features

  • Login with personalized team 
  • Team Builder
  • Team and Player Weekly Score Cards
  • Personal Graph Gallery 
  • League Leaderboards

Teacher Portal Features  

  • Create their own fantasy team and compete with students
  • Set math functions to review 
  • Integrated Grade book   
  • Individualize students’ learning

At the end of Phase I, the Fantasy Sports and Mathematics game will be finalized with one sport (football) that includes individual and team performance leaderboards, multiple scoring approaches, individualized student learning feedback, and real-time feedback for teachers to reinforce learning and motivate students to go beyond the basic level of mastery within the game. Three additional sports (soccer, basketball, and baseball) and additional features will be developed in Phase II, followed by a randomized controlled trial to assess effectiveness.



2.. Huang, X., Zhang, J., & Hudson, L. 2019. Impact of math self-efficacy, math anxiety, and growth mindset on math and science career interest for middle school students: The gender moderating effect. European Journal of Psychology of Education34, 621-640. 

3. U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2022. Largest score declines in NAEP mathematics at grades 4 and 8 since initial assessments in 1990.  

4. Kuhfeld, M., Soland, J., Lewis, K., Ruzek, E., & Johnson, A. 2022. The COVID-19 school year: Learning and recovery across 2020-2021. AERA Open, 8 

5. Fahle, E., Kane, T.J., Patterson, T., Reardon, S.F., Staiger, D. O. 2022. Local Achievement Impacts of the Pandemic. Education Recovery Scorecard. 

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