The Rational Football League

Fantasy football can be a ton of fun, but winning your league requires months of careful research, late nights searching for updates on players you barely even know exist, and the toll of an emotional roller-coaster played out in fifteen minute increments. It also requires math! Specifically, it involves reading and understanding a wide range of player statistics, optimizing your team player by player based on an ever-dwindling pool of prospects.

Our Rational Football League activity was like a full season of fantasy football injected with targeted math standards and stuffed into a single class period. Students, working in pairs, drafted a six-player team given just two statistics and three options for each position. These statistics were randomly generated, so each pair of students was presented with a vastly different set of players. To understand which player to draft for a given position, students had to use ratio and proportional reasoning (the focus of the unit) to compare the three options, then decide which of the two stats they deemed more important. They justified their choices on paper, including both their mathematical reasoning and their football strategies.

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Once they had a full six person team, students traveled through time to the big game – the RFL Super Bowl. All student-drafted teams faced off against the feared Third and Long Divisions, putting their six selections to the test to determine if they’d made the best choices or if their team would falter.

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Now, I’ve been in Boston for plenty of Patriots Super Bowl wins, and I’ve been in Seattle for the Seahawks to take the title, but it turns out nothing brings out the full spectrum of human emotion like playing a text-based football simulation with an imaginary team you used a calculator to recruit. This wasn’t just a math exercise – it was life and death for digital teams like the “Bruins” and the “Kent Cobras”.

Like our criminal justice project, the Rational Football League activity was created using Twine, an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories. The Super Bowl was simply a set of story blocks linked together, full of football plays based on all twelve statistics students studied and a healthy dose of randomness to keep things interesting.

Win or lose, students were able to either attempt a rematch or to draft an entirely new team from the near-infinite pool of possible players. Calculators in hand, students competed for glory and more often than not came out victorious. Want to give it a shot yourself? Play here!

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1 thought on “The Rational Football League”

  1. This is excellent, Eli! Talk about engagement! So many kids ask the “when am I ever going to need to know this” question in math. Here is a great example. I’m sure they were way into it and it’s clear you were too. Nothing breeds excitement in a classroom like excited teachers and students. Well done!

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