The Math of Football

Sep 1, 2022 | Stone Oak

Have you ever watched a football game and thought about just how much math is going on during each play? At its core, the game of football is really just a 60-minute math tournament. Consider how many mathematical functions are occurring during every play.

Simple addition and subtraction occur on every football play. Given that a first down takes 10 yards to reach, each play provides a subtraction-countdown toward that goal, subtracting yards from that magic number of 10. If the quarterback gets sacked behind the line of scrimmage, you need to add additional yards toward the first down onto what the team already needed. What's more, when referees call defensive penalties on successful plays, coaches must decide whether to accept the penalties or turn them down, depending on which choice adds the most yards to the play.

Fractions come into play when you consider the time segments of a football game, which is divided into four, 15-minute quarters, broken up with two minutes between the quarters, also called periods, and 12 minutes for halftime. But the actual time for each quarter varies with timeouts, clock stoppages for different plays and strategies to conserve time. What's more, halftime actually lasts longer than 12 minutes because the league allows delay times for teams to travel to and from their locker rooms.

These are only of the few ways that math presents itself in the game of football. The next time you watch a football game, spend a few minutes thinking about all the mathematical calculations going on with every tick of the scoreboard clock. Which, now that you think about it, the clock itself is a function of math!