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New App Uses Professional Basketball to Teach Math

Earlier this year, I told you about NBA Math Hoops, a startup company that uses real data from the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) to teach students math.

Last week, the nonprofit organization Big Picture Learning announced that a new NBA Math Hoops app was available as a free download on Apple's App Store and on Google Play. (EPE Chair Emeritus Ron Wolk is on the board of Big Picture Learning.)

As a self-professed hoops addict, I took the app for a spin this week. You start with a team of five real NBA and WNBA players: Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers,  Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics, Ricky Rubio of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Glory Johnson of the Tulsa Shock, and Candice Dupree of the Phoenix Mercury. (You unlock a slew of additional players as you progress through the different levels.)

From there, you're ushered into the first level of addition problems. You're presented with a number on the "scoreboard," and must add two numbers on the court to reach that scoreboard number. Assuming you're successful in that mission, you earn five "coach points."

Every time you successfully complete a problem, you then choose a player to take a shot, with his or her real-life shooting percentages factoring into the likelihood of draining it. Each "quarter" consists of five problems, so you're only allowed to use each player once per quarter to take a shot.

To get a sense of what I'm talking about, here's a screenshot I took from the sixth addition level:

NBA Math Hoops.png

For this particular problem, you'd tap the "64" and "34" circles, then tap the card of the player you want to shoot.

Each level consists of four quarters, or 20 problems in total. Once you've completed those 20 problems, you're presented with a "bonus question," which uses a player's real-life statistics in a math problem. For instance, if a player is a 82.9 percent free-throw shooter, a bonus question might be, "If this player takes 100 free throws, how many will he make?" Answer the question right and you earn a multiplier for your "team score," which is based on the number of shots your players converted throughout the round.

Assuming you do well enough with your "coach score," you can unlock additional players and levels. My current starting five, for instance, features Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets, David Lee of the Golden State Warriors, Ty Lawson of the Denver Nuggets, Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat, along with Johnson (who's an excellent three-point shooter). You eventually unlock other mathematical operations (subtraction, multiplication, and division), along with a "mixed equation" set of levels.

As someone who's pretty good when it comes to simple math, I have to admit that some of the problems in the later levels made me stop and think for a second. For a student who's looking to practice their addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division, I can think of far worse ways to do so.

Photo: A screenshot of an addition level from the NBA Math Hoops Android app.

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