Review by Galen McQuillen, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2016

EA Sports Madden NFL: Football by the Numbers

"Educational" football site is basically an interactive advertisement

Subjects & skills
  • Math
  • Science

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Could rope kids who are ardent football fans into caring about a few math concepts or answer the "When am I ever gonna use this?" question.

Cons: Math content is incredibly weak with no depth, the site is littered with references to the video game, and there's no way to save progress.

Bottom Line: This isn't worth your time. If you want to bring football into math class, head out to the field with your students and toss a few balls around.

There aren't a whole lot of situations where EA Sports Madden NFL: Football by the Numbers would work better than going outside with your giant protractor and some footballs to play catch for awhile. Alternatively, you can visit football practice with some data loggers or measuring tapes and calculate force in person. 

If you absolutely must have a football-themed math class (Green Bay, looking at you) and otherwise can't get outside, you might use this tool instead. Only use it as a very shallow introduction to the concepts, however, or as a way to talk about how difficult mathematical modeling of real-world events can be. Discussing the flaws on this site would be a very fruitful learning experience, but exposing kids to so much branded content might be too high of a price. On the other hand, it just might be perfect for that one student who can't stop playing Madden NFL long enough to do a homework assignment. 

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EA Sports Madden NFL: Football by the Numbers is an interactive website experience that uses the concepts and the language of American football, the players and teams of the National Football League, and footage from EA Sports' Madden NFL video game franchise to introduce and practice some math and physics concepts. Students read through content about the rules of the game, the history of the conferences, and details of play formations before learning about how angle, velocity, force, and probability are important concepts in the sport. 

After learning these concepts by reading text (with pop-up definitions of various football vocabulary words), students use interactive sliders to change angles and velocities or adjust force and then watch simulated football footage rendered using Madden NFL's video game engine to see if their inputs were correct.

It's very difficult to recommend EA Sports Madden NFL: Football by the Numbers as a learning tool. The four math and science concepts covered (angle, velocity, probability, and force) are discussed in very shallow terms, with little specificity and with tenuous links between the content and the game of football. For example, defensive players aren't using F=kg*m/s² to calculate the necessary force to tackle a player on the fly, so making students do so is the kind of disingenuous link between school and real life that totally turns students off and seldom results in deep learning.

The site does go into great detail about plenty of football topics, so students can expect to learn tons about the NFL and, by extension, EA's video game version of the league. This just amplifies the feeling that students are playing through a big advertisement, not any kind of learning experience.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Might be engaging to kids who are football fans, but won't keep them interested for long. Using actual video game footage will initially seem like fun.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Students experiment with trial and error to determine actions on the field, but the actual math content is too weak to be meaningful. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Students do not receive helpful feedback for wrong answers, and support for teachers is missing beyond a quick how-to guide.

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