Rajneesh Sudhakar
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Rajneesh Sudhakar is a graduate student in PSU's Department of Computer Science & Engineering developing tools to promote reflective activities.


Informal Learning in Fantasy Sports Chatrooms
Thursday & Friday

Statement of Interest
Analyzing the discourse used in online gaming communities may reveal knowledge use and learning that bear little resemblance to formal educational practices. Our goal is to understand how game players' online discussions of strategies and techniqes provide insight into their informal knowledge use and learning, specifically in decision-making and resource allocation tasks.

Recent estimates suggest that more than 15-30 million people regularly play online fantasy sports games (A.T. Kearney Inc., 2003; Ballard, 2004; FSTA, 2003), where players assume the role of "league owners" and select professional athletes to form ideal sports teams. Players of these games compete with others in what can be viewed as a resource allocation task: Decisions about teams involve choosing athletes to maximize winnings while working with limited assets. As a result, successful fantasy sports play may involve a variety of sophisticated, yet informal, information seeking and mathematical practices.

Sociocultural research has tried to characterize differences between the types of learning that occur in formal educational contexts and the world outside of schools. For instance, studies of activities such as carpet laying, farming, candy selling (Carraher et al., 1985; Saxe, 1991), shopping (Lave, 1988), and game playing (Nasir, 2002, 2005) have examined the use of mathematical knowledge during interactions with the environment, tools, and social partners. An important finding of this work is that mathematical practices occur as people attempt to fulfill goals during everyday activities and these practices often look different than those found in formal mathematics education.

One aspect of our research concerns the decisions made within the culture of fantasy sports, as players may be engaging in a great deal of thinking and learning around mathematical concepts such as optimization and statistical analyses. Some of these decisions may be mathematical while others may be tied to personal preferences, beliefs, and biases. We focus on three aspects of fantasy sports play that may influence the use of informal mathematics (Saxe, 1991): 1) the structure of decision-making activities, 2) artifacts and conventions that enable the activities, and 3) social interactions between game players. The intent is to characterize the relationship between player's goals and their use of mathematical knowledge in fantasy sports games.

An Interactive Exhibit will present the concept of fantasy sports games and analyses of a fantasy basketball chatroom during the first half of the 2004-2005 NBA season (~58,000 messages). These conversations may allow us to understand the use and value of various tools, representations, and peer collaborations. We will discuss our characterizations of message content to understand differences between novice and expert players, how external information sources are used during decision-making, and the nature of competition/collaboration between players.


A.T. Kearney Inc. (2003). The new sports consumer. Chicago, IL: A.T. Kearney, Inc.

Ballard, C. (2004, June 21). Fantasy world. Sports Illustrated, 100, 80-89.

Carraher, T. N., Carraher, D. W., & Schliemann, A. D. (1985). Mathematics in the streets and in schools. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 3, 21-29.

Fantasy Sports Trade Association. (2003). 2003 generalized comprehensive fantasy sport consumer behavior results. St. Louis, MO: Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

Lave, J. (1988). Cognition in practice: Mind, mathematics, and culture in everyday life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nasir, N. (2002). Identity, goals, and learning: Mathematics in cultural practice. Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 4(2&3), 213-247.

Nasir, N. S. (2005). Individual cognitive structuring and the sociocultural context: Strategy shifts in the game of dominoes. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 14(1), 5-34.

Saxe, G. B. (1991). Culture and cognitive development: Studies in mathematical understanding. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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