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Unleashing the Power of Sport to Improve Numeracy

Emily O'Halloran

9 May 2024

NBA Math Hoops, the quality, easy-to-implement, easy-to-access resource for your classroom.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, "Sport has the power to change the world…to unite people... It speaks to youth in a language they understand." This wisdom transcends beyond the playing field and resonates within our classrooms.

Research published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health underscores the connection between sports-based learning activities and heightened student motivation, improved attendance, and enhanced academic performance.

But what about the specific links between sport and mathematics?

The evidence is compelling. In a 2017 study, Sanchal and Sharma found that introducing a sports context in learning improved attitudes towards maths. Furthermore, findings from the American Institutes for Research demonstrated that students engaged in sports-related maths programs showed enhanced problem-solving, critical thinking, and overall maths proficiency.

As a former Numeracy Leader, I've seen firsthand the transformative effect of infusing sports into maths lessons. Games like dodgeball for statistics, BinBall for percentages, and table soccer for angles make abstract concepts tangible, fun and playful experiences. Lessons like "Impossible Soccer Angles" and "Kicking Goals," part of the Middle Years Mathematics Challenges series by the Mathematical Association of Victoria, demonstrate how maths and sports can not only break down barriers but also make learning fun and engaging.

While integrating sport and play into lessons is undoubtedly beneficial, the reality is that it demands precious energy and time, both of which are scarce commodities for teachers.

Fortunately, there are quality, easy-to-implement, easy-to-access resources available. One standout example is NBA Math Hoops, a program designed by Learn Fresh for primary and junior secondary students.

In NBA Math Hoops, students simulate basketball games using a board game format that incorporates real-life statistical data from NBA players. Through this engaging approach, students not only reinforce their mathematical skills but also develop a deeper appreciation for the practical applications of numeracy in everyday life. Students draft NBA players for their team, assess player statistics, strategise game moves, and make decisions based on mathematical principles.

The success of NBA Math Hoops and similar programs lies in their ability to bridge the gap between abstract mathematical concepts and real-world applications. By incorporating sports into the learning process, students are more likely to stay engaged and enthusiastic about maths. The dynamic nature of sport fosters teamwork, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills – all essential components of mathematical proficiency.

Harriet Dunn, a primary school teacher from Merri-Bek Primary School, put it very simply after bringing NBA Math Hoops into her classroom: “For once the students looked forward to maths lessons”.

The power of sports to engage students in maths is not just theoretical; it's real and transformative. As school leaders, consider championing programs like NBA Math Hoops to create an environment where learning becomes synonymous with excitement.

Get free access to NBA Math Hoops in your school and explore how The Huddle is improving education and employment outcomes through the power of sport by following this link:

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