Take Advantage of Your Students' Interest in the Gridiron
The crisp fall air hangs calmly in the evening, the leaves begin to turn and the sound of clashing shoulder pads and cheering crowds can be heard blaring from TVs.
It’s football season. And for many in this state, their attention has turned toward their favorite high school, college and professional teams. Educators can certainly take advantage of that enthusiasm by bringing the math of football into the classroom. And students will get the idea that math, indeed, is everywhere.
With an increased emphasis on math throughout this state, activities that engage students and peak interest in math should be considered in the classroom, experts say.
Math Football isn’t as complicated or complex as Math Baseball, but it's still plenty of fun.
First, if you’re not familiar with the rules of football, check out one of many football Websites for complete rules (such as Wikipedia).
To save you time, here are some basics you should know to create your own football math problems and solutions:
- A team gets four downs to get a first down, which is 10 yards.
- The high school, college and pro fields are 53 1/3 yards wide.
- A touchdown is 6 points, a field goal is 3 points and an extra-point kick, which comes after a touchdown, is worth 1 point. A two-point conversion occurs when a team runs or passes the ball into the end zone following a touchdown.
- NFL and college games are 60 minutes with four 15-minute quarters. High school games are 48 minutes with four 12-minute quarters.
- Common penalties, when a team or player commits a rules infraction, are 5, 10 and 15 yards. A false start on the offense (moving before the ball is snapped) or a defensive offsides is 5 yards. A holding penalty on the offense (when a player grabs another player) is 10 yards. And a personal foul (ie., unnecessary roughness, unsportsmanlike conduct) is 15 yards.
Using yardage and scoring, you can come up with plenty of problems to solve. It’s important to emphasize for those unfamiliar with football that once a team passes the 50-yard line, yardage is counted backward instead of forward. For example, a player runs 8 yards from his team’s 47-yard line to his opponent’s 45-yard line (you count that as 3 yards to the 50 and 5 to the opponent’s 45).
Below are some sample questions:
- If a team scores 4 touchdowns (worth 6 points each) and makes three extra-point kicks (worth 1 point each), how many points does it have? (Answer: 27)7)
- Running back Jimmy Jones rushed for 84 yards on 12 carries. How many yards per carry did he average? (Answer: 7)
- The Seahawks’ offense starts at the 7-yard line and moves 32 yards. On what yard line are the Seahawks on? (Answer: 39-yard line)
- Running back Ricky Smith breaks a big run from his team’s 32-yard line to the other team’s 21-yard line. How many yards did he carry the ball? (Answer: 47)
From the sample questions above, you can create an entire game by using yardage scenarios. This will help students with overall math skills, but learn to appreciate the game of football. See below for a sample game (and feel free to use and alter for your classroom use). If you use this, we’d love to hear your feedback by clicking here.
Examples of how teachers use Football Math in their classrooms
- Foothill High School teacher John Hagen works a math problem with his students using statistics from Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.
- A San Marcos school teacher has harnessed children's interest in the Super Bowl to develop their mathmatical skills with Xtreme Math Football.
- Download the football math field for your students (PDF).
- Download a sample game of football math (Word).
As far as interactivity goes, this game’s a dud. However, the learning aspect is a big hit with four different skills levels of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It even gives the option to solve problems in algebra style.
Batter’s Up Baseball
This game is pretty simple, but it’ll entertain for a short while. It’s for ages 6-12 and requires Macromedia Flash.
We can't vouch for the book (because we don’t have a copy), but the concept of kids grades 4-8 learning basic math to geometry sounds interesting. According to the publisher, the book is “filled with realistic activities involving baseball -- score keeping, team travel budgets, schedules and player salaries.” Give it try. Buy the book at www.teachervision.com.
"Fantasy football and mathematics: A resource Guide for Teachers and Parents, Grades 5 and Up", by Dan flockhart
"Fantasy Football and mathematics: Student Workbook", by Dan Flockhart