Fantasy Sports Math

This project was completed by rising seventh-graders in the High Jump program at The Latin School of Chicago and Frances Parker, and I have used portions of this project to support ninth-grade students in double period algebra.

In this individual project, students drafted a sports team using up-to-date, proportionally correct salary data available through Dan Flockhart’s fantasy sports and mathematics book series. Depending on time, an actual live draft was held, with students picking the best players available, and trying to stay under a salary cap. It was required that students take on the persona of general manager and that they create a team motto, logo, and placard that sat in front of them on the day of the draft. In some versions of this product, I included readings from Michael Lewis’s Moneyball and Sam Walker’s Fantasyland about the use of data and statistics in real-life baseball decision making, and the intersection of fantasy sports with reality in the highly competitive Rotisserie fantasy baseball league.

Students learned to read sports data from the internet and in some cases box scores from newspapers. They learned to hand-compute scores with a formula full of fractions with unlike denominators. Once they mastered hand-scoring, students completed over 30 scoresheets from live games concurrent with the class. Sometimes clips were played in class to connect the data they are recording with the real-life performances of their players. For the final project, students created a spreadsheet in Google Sheets in which a decimal version of their score was computed, matching the hand score with work shown, in all cases. The final product included: a cover page, team roster with salary data, an introduction to the team with fun facts, a full season score sheet for the entire team, 30+ hand scored games, the spreadsheet, and various graphs of player performance including segmented bar graphs, pie graphs, and line graphs.

Students were encouraged to be creative in the supporting documents they created for their teams; and real-life connections between the calculations they were making and real-world sports performance were constantly made. Students needed to master reading the data and doing the math, but they also needed intensive organization and executive functioning skills to manage the deadlines, the workload, and the details to get a good project correct, complete, and on time.
Doing the draft, having students prepare for the draft, and encouraging creativity gave students a sense of ownership over their final projects that powered them through the extraordinary amount of work that had to be done. In most cases, for the sixth-graders, this was the largest project they had done in their lives and some of them that had planned badly ended up staying up nearly all night to complete!

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