It’s football season! For fans of professional and college football, it’s the best time of the year. Many of you have waited for eight months-unless you are an obnoxious fan like me of the New England Patriots who only has to wait for seven months for the football season to start up again. Given that only 7% of students have played organized football, there are many football fans who like watching or following football far more than playing the game. Many football fans find that Football Saturday or Sunday tailgating is a family affair. If you want to get your kids involved, I suggest adding fantasy football to your menu, because it is not only a great way to keep your family connected, but also a tool for learning math skills.
If you are a novice to fantasy football, here are a few things to know. You don’t actually play the game but instead construct your own fictional team through a draft of professional football players who accumulate points based on their performance on the field. I suggest setting up a league at one of the major sites such as NFL.com, CBS.com, ESPN.com, or Yahoo.com. Points are awarded based on the criteria set by your league. The most common points categories include touchdowns, yards gained via passing and running, number of receptions, field goals and extra points, and a few defensive and special teams categories. The key to being good at fantasy football is that you need to do math – a lot of it. Beyond the simple accumulation of points, probability, number sense, and a bit of luck (no longer Andrew Luck) are the keys to a successful season.
What’s the best way to teach children math? As a child clinical psychologist, I find that kids enjoy math when they use it or can apply it to something real in their world. This could mean using math to learn how to save money, such as determining how much they need to earn in order to buy something. Math can help kids when they are building something and need to take measurements or when making a recipe. It is also very helpful for children who are engaged in fantasy football or other fantasy sports, where numbers and statistics are crucial.
Fantasy football is an excellent way for children to develop basic math skills. At a basic level, fantasy football is similar to math word problems, where players need to understand the basic rules of the league before doing any computations. For example, players need to be able to understand how many points touchdowns are worth as well as rushing and passing yardage. During game play on Sundays, they can be keeping track of the number of points their team is earning while they’re watching football or looking at their fantasy football app. Following player trends and performance also requires math skills. Assessing probabilities, analyzing the pros and cons of starting or benching a player, and keeping track of league standings are ways that fantasy football is a tool for learning and applying math skills.
Fantasy football is also a great way to build an interest in sports and other activities. Kids who enjoy playing fantasy football with their families often become fans of a particular team or player, and following their team encourages more reading. Kids who are active in managing their teams are more likely to read about their players on football websites and might even become more interested in reading historical books about sports or some of the great sports fiction books written for children.
This football season, consider starting a fantasy football league with your kids and their friends. You will be helping them develop their math skills and using football as a tool for brain enhancement, rather than for concussions and injury.