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Aiming for the end zone

Tracy Elementary teacher combines math with Fantasy Football as a fun lesson for her students

December 7, 2011
By Jenny Kirk , Marshall Independent

TRACY - Fantasy Football isn't just for adult football enthusiasts anymore. It can also be an educational tool.

At Tracy Area Elementary School, fourth-graders use some of the concepts to enhance their mathematics skills, under the direction of first-year teacher Amber Buysse, a Marshall native.

"They have Fantasy Football online for adults during football season, and last year I wanted to put a project in to start with student teaching and this idea kind of popped up," Buysse said. "It's been great. The kids love it."

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Photo by Jenny Kirk
First-year teacher Amber Buysse implemented a new math-enhancement activity, which uses some of the concepts of Fantasy Football, for her fourth-grade students at Tracy Area Elementary School. As the students, in teams of two, correctly finish extra math problems, they move down the field toward the end line for touchdown points.

The students, working in teams of two, started the activity with a draft.

"The kids had to pick their top three teams, so that way, when the draft was going around and one of their teams got picked, they had another one," Buysse said. "They also had to agree on the team. Most of them did a good job."

No one chose the Minnesota Vikings, who are currently 2-10 this season.

"The kids know what they're doing, because the Green Bay Packers were the first ones gone," Buysse said. "They knew what teams were doing well."

During the weekend, the students keep track of how well their National Football League team did, and on Mondays, Buysse changes the scoreboard, which is on the classroom whiteboard.

"If their team wins, I give them seven points," she said. "Then, with each lesson, they get five extra problems to do, which they can do with their partner. They can get more points by getting their homework done and getting it right."

Fourth-graders Reilly McConnell and Carter Olson have the Denver Broncos.

"We learn our session, what we're doing in class," McConnell said. "Then, Miss Buysse sends a sheet home with us. We have to do it and bring it back for the next day. Then we correct it in class and she asks us what we got. If we get all of them right with our partner, we get to move 10 (yards)."

Olson said he's happy he and McConnell chose the Broncos.

"They're good," Olson said. "They've been winning. They just beat the Vikings."

The Broncos are currently one of three classroom teams in the lead with 21 points.

"I haven't drawn the touchdown yet, but we're up by the 21-point mark already," Olson said. "Right now, we're on the 10-yard line, so if we get 10 more yards, we can get another touchdown. I'm excited for that."

Like McConnell and Olson, Olivia Peterson said she loves math and the new Fantasy Football activity.

"I have the Seattle Seahawks," Peterson said. "It's fun and I'm one of the people who are in the lead. We have 21 points. The Seattle Seahawks won twice and when we drew, I got a touchdown. I was happy about that."

Since math is one of her favorite subjects, Peterson said she doesn't mind doing the extra problems.

"If we get done with our worksheet, we can work on Fantasy Football," Peterson said. "Or, if we don't get done with the worksheet, we have to bring it home and bring it back the next day. It's fun. It helps with our math."

So far, Buysse said, the only team not on the scoreboard yet is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Even Alexis Buchholz and her partner, who chose the Indianapolis Colts, who are still looking for their first NFL win, were fortunate enough to get on the board.

"I have the Colts," Buchholz said. "They're not very good. But I drew and I got a touchdown last time, so we got seven points."

Math is also Buchholz's favorite subject.

"I like Fantasy Football," she said. "I like that if we get the most points, we get to go to Dairy Queen or Subway. That would be fun."

While the grand prize is extra incentive, most of the students just have fun doing Fantasy Football.

"It's just fun to do the work and draw the cards out," Olson said. "Sometimes you get a sack and lose 10 yards or you can go up 70 or 30 yards. Me and my partner take turns. I like math."

Buysse said the students have to do their regular assignment first, before they can tackle their Fantasy Football problems.

"They're still learning, but they're having a good time," Buysse said. "I think that's what education should be about. They need to learn and have fun at the same time. Add in any hands-on activity, and they love it."

For the next week, the fourth-graders will keep trying to march their team flag down the field towards the end zone, hoping to score a touchdown, before starting all over again.

While the math chapter and Fantasy Football in the classroom are soon coming to a close, Buysse said she is hoping for one last hurrah.

"I'd like them to have a Super Bowl party," she said. "I'll set a goal for them for their test, and if they reach it, they can have a Super Bowl party."

Buysse also said the students mentioned something else to her.

"They love playing Fantasy Football," Buysse said. "They talked about wanting to try Fantasy Basketball, so who knows?"



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