History of FSM
In 1989, I began teaching mathematics to grades 5-8 in San Mateo, California. Each year, several students complained that the content in their math textbook was boring. Therefore, in an attempt to increase student engagement and motivation, my intuition led me to believe that sports statistics and mathematical concepts could dovetail into a meaningful, powerful curriculum. I began to design a fractional-based scoring system for Fantasy Football and realized I needed to use a denominator that had several factors to ensure that students would have ample opportunity to find common denominators. I chose 48 for the common denominator because it had 10 factors, yet it was still small enough so students would not have difficulty reducing fractions. Within 30 minutes I created the centerpiece of Fantasy Football and Mathematics: the default scoring system.
I also realized that graphing activities could play a major role because students could graph their weekly points by creating bar, line, and circle graphs. I also began creating practice worksheets based on concepts students were studying from their textbook.
Before I incorporated Fantasy Football into my curriculum, I needed to teach students how to draft players, how to read box scores, and how to compute points. I gave my students a list of players with assigned values and informed them that part of their homework for that day was to purchase their players while staying under the salary cap. I chose a large salary cap because I wanted students to perform basic operations with large numbers. Our textbook did not give students opportunities to work with numbers that had a place value of ten million, and I needed to provide supplementary material that would provide those opportunities for students. The next day students exchanged lists of selected players so they could review one of their peers’ teams. This process helped to ensure that students complied with the rules of the salary cap, as well as give them additional practice with basic operations with large numbers.
The next step was to teach students how to read box scores. I placed a transparency of a box score on the overhead projector and showed them how to read the sections that included touchdowns and yardage gained. They practiced computing the points scored by several players that were listed in the box score.
The following day, students computed the points earned by the players they drafted. During the course of the next few days, I taught them how to construct stacked-bar and multiple-line graphs that showed the weekly points earned by their individual players. I also showed seventh and eighth grade students how to construct circle graphs.
I developed a Scoring Sheet so students could keep track of their players and their points. A bulletin board was utilized so students could choose whether they wanted to post their scoring sheet on the board each week. The result was heightened interest in the game. Students spent considerable time reviewing their peers' scoring sheets, in large part to discover who the best performing players were on their peers' teams. Some students then tried to trade for those players. Students ran into my classroom on a daily basis asking if they could play the game. When school resumed after the Christmas break, the students asked if they could play Fantasy Basketball. Who was I to argue?
I quit teaching middle school in 1999 - and have since gone on to teach in higher education - but continued to reflect on the possibility of publishing curricula for teachers based on my experience with Fantasy Sports and mathematics. In my observations, Fantasy Sports had the deepest impact on student motivation and achievement of any curriculum that I used in 11 years of teaching.
In Fall, 2002, I began graduate studies at Humboldt State University in Northern California. I began working on Fantasy Football and Mathematics as a thesis topic during spring 2003 and continued to work part time on it for two years until October of 2004, when the first draft of Fantasy Football and Mathematics was completed.
Fantasy Football and Mathematics was officially released in August 2005. I was overwhelmed by the positive response, as I sold out of my first print run in five days. Educators asked for student workbooks as well as programs based on baseball, basketball, and soccer. Consequently, Fantasy Basketball and Mathematics and Fantasy Baseball and Mathematics were published in Spring 2006.
In July 2006 I signed a contract with Jossey-Bass (an Imprint of Wiley), a publisher who launched all eight books in the Fantasy Sports and Mathematics' series in March 2007.