Fantasy Sports and Math: Research Reveals Link in Student Success

OXFORD, Miss. – Fantasy sports can help improve mathematics test scores in schools nationwide based on information gathered by a University of Mississippi researcher surveying elementary and secondary teachers and students.


Last summer, Kim Beason, associate professor of park and recreation management at UM, teamed up with Dan Flockhart, a former California middle school teacher who has written a series of mathematics textbooks, to examine the impact of using fantasy sports in mathematics education. The national study shows that fantasy sports has increased math test scores, in areas ranging from algebraic formulas to fractions, by nearly 50 percent among middle school students.


Kim Beason

“This is huge,” Beason said. “Across the board, both boys’ and girls’ test scores are up dramatically.”

Since 2003, math scores of 15-year-olds across the U.S. have remained stagnant and continue to trail those recorded of students in many countries, including Finland, China and Estonia, according to a recent U.S. Department of Education study. Flockhart said he believes fantasy sports can help solve the problem.

“Sixty-nine percent of eighth-grade students in America are not proficient in math. I believe fantasy sports can play a significant role in eliminating math illiteracy in our country,” said Flockhart, who in 2005 authored Fantasy Sports and Mathematics, a series of math textbooks that addresses nine national math standards and more than 50 national math expectations.

Algebra, perhaps the least liked subject of students due to its abstract nature, is the gateway to higher education, Flockhart said.

“If ‘T’ equals the number of touchdowns, then students know what they are dealing with,” he said. “Fantasy sports links math in the classroom to math in the real world.”

Flockhart’s belief appears to be supported by Beason’s preliminary research at UM. The study indicates that three out of four teachers surveyed believe their students understand mathematical concepts better after relating them to fantasy sports in the classroom. It also shows that nearly eight out of 10 students surveyed said they enjoyed lessons in math more with the innovative teaching method.

“In my opinion, this is one of the most significant applications to teaching English-speaking students mathematics in the last 20 or 30 years,” Beason said. “It’s interactive teaching using an interdisciplinary approach that combines math education and leisure activity.”

Among the teachers surveyed, fantasy sports is not treated as a stand-alone educational tool in their classrooms but instead is employed to augment their other resources. Based on textbook sales, thousands of teachers across the country are using fantasy sports in their math classes.

“If there’s one teacher in a school who purchased the textbook, then there’s another three or four possibly using it in their own class,” Beason said. “There could be as many as 80,000 students learning math through fantasy sports.”

Fantasy sports originated in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Beason started studying the consumer behavior aspects of fantasy sports in 2001, and according to his research, 20 million Americans play fantasy football alone, resulting in an $800 million-dollar industry.

“I started playing fantasy sports nearly 20 years ago, and that’s all it was, just a game,” Beason said. “Now we see that fantasy sports can actually be used to make inroads when it comes to leaving no child behind.”

Flockhart agreed, saying, “Mathematics education is not working in this country. Motivation is a large part of the battle, and kids love fantasy sports. In particular, girls enjoy beating the boys. If fantasy sports were used extensively in urban areas, overnight we could have millions of students enjoying math.”

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