The U.S. faces an educational crisis. According to the 2017 National Assessment for Educational Progress:
67 percent of eighth graders nationwide scored below proficient in mathematics.
That number jumps to 82% among low-income students.
The problem is worse in urban areas, where school districts and teachers struggle to counter the effects of structural poverty.
These factors serve to widen the racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps: students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds can enter high school 3.5 grade levels behind students from more well-off backgrounds, and have a much lower chance of graduating.
2011 marked the first year in which the majority of babies born in the U.S. were children of color. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2043, the U.S. will become a majority minority country—more than half of all citizens will be persons of minority status. As the racial and ethnic composition of the U.S. shifts, there is a risk that the scope of these achievement gaps will become both deeper and wider, even as average scores increase steadily nationwide. The U.S currently lags behind many other developed countries, scoring below average in math on the 2009 PISA test, an indicator amongst Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations.
Few STEM initiatives seek to improve the methods used to teach basic math skills, and that is precisely the gap that NBA Math Hoops fills.
By making math fun and engaging, students are more likely to score better on tests, but they are also more likely to develop the intrinsic motivation and drive that leads to self-directed learning.
It is in this vein that Learn Fresh seeks to address the disparities in math achievement by targeting the lowest-performing populations of students, particularly in middle schools in urban areas around the country. The NBA Math Hoops program harnesses the competitive fun of a board game in the culturally relevant context of the NBA in order to both develop the cognitive skills of basic arithmetic, decision-making, and visual analysis while simultaneously developing students’ intrinsic interest in the real world application of math. Learning is at its best when an activity provides ongoing feedback, grabs and sustains students’ attention, and has appropriate and adaptive levels of challenge. Research suggests that playing games is not only voluntary, but also intrinsically motivating, and involves cognitive and physical engagement that allows for the freedom to fail, to experiment, to fashion identities, and to learn from peers.
When playing simulated basketball games, students develop and apply multi-tasking prowess as they:
Build facility and fluency with whole number operations as they perform calculations to move the ball back and forth across the court with the intent of placing it in the hands of their high-percentage shooters.
Exercise visual and analytical skills moving back and forth between the graphic representations on their player cards and the numbered, color-coded shooting locations on the game board.
Check for accuracy with calculations and keep detailed score of the game including statistics for shooting, rebounds, assists, and steals.
Compile final game data on a Team Stat Sheet where they calculate statistics such as field goal, three-point, and free throw shooting percentages, as well as points, assists, rebounds, and steals per game.
The NBA Math Hoops gameplay and post-game mathematics activities are aligned with and informed by the Common Core Standards for Mathematics, and also teach 21st Century Learning Skills. Special attention is given to effective integration of the eight Standards of Mathematical Practice - ”processes and proficiencies” with long-standing importance in mathematics education. They are as follows:
NBA Math Hoops is incredibly flexible, so it can be implemented across many learning environments. From math classrooms in coordination with existing curricula, to after school or out-of-school settings as a complete program, any time is a good time for NBA Math Hoops!