There is a significant perception acquired anecdotally, that these types of minority focused academic enrichment programs are palliatives designed to calm disgruntled elements. These programs have arisen in part in response to demands for action from disenfranchised elements so there is a grain of truth to that assessment.
Of importance, at least to this author, is that the Math-Dunk program be effective in bringing about statistically significant improvement in academic performance. There are a substantial number of university level education schools and black studies departments in the Bay Area. These programs will be contacted prior to the start of the Math-Dunk program to see if any scholar might be interested in providing a third-party perspective and a degree of academic rigor in the analysis of the success or lack thereof of the Math-Dunk program.
The Math-Dunk program has a superficial “freakonomics” aspect to it by combining two disparate elements, physical and mathematics training. On a deeper level, the pedagogy underlying this has a solid in basis in that the research shows that all other things being equal, participation in extra-curricular activities particularly sports is a correlate of increased academic performance and student retention.
The freakonomics aspect can used to attract press coverage to the program. This should appeal to both print, television and internet media sources. YouTube offers a way to publish video and with a GoPro camera, the participants in the Math-Dunk can be put on-line. Good visuals can be obtained on the physical training part and successful test grades can also be posted for participants reinforcing the linkage between the two activities. Such internet posting may have a positive impact upon participant retention in the program, as the video posting will allow participants, in their own way, to become internet mini-celebrities.
What do these two disparate skillsets have to do with one another?
“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun and snap! The job’s a game…” – Julia Elizabeth Andrews
Basketball exerts a powerful pull on the imagination of the African-American community. This attraction increases in early adolescence as youngster’s hands become large enough to handle the ball. The ability to dunk a basketball is seen a status making skill that can enhance one’s stature amongst the peer group. This is a feature can be used as a lure to attract participants into a summer study program to improve their math skills. There is also a high degree of science embedded in sports and this can be used as a basis for preparing exercises and problem sets to further link the mental and the physical training.
Participant progress and the interim reward cycle will be short in order to match youthful expectations. Charts ranking the participants will be prepared each week to measure progress.
Math chart which would group the participants according to whether they had passed their weekly math tests. Participants would be allowed one failure but the second failure would eliminate them from the program. Participants would also have the ability to erase a single failure by passing two subsequent exams.
Two charts on jumping ability, one the traditional one on absolute height but also another one on percentage increase. In this manner, the shorter and initially less fit child has a chance to compete with the taller and/or fitter participants. If the kid who can jump one foot high at the start of the program and is 6 inches shorter than another participant adds a foot to his jump should, he feel as accomplished as the other participant who from two foot initial jump height adds 1.5 feet to their jumping ability.
The Sustenance Chart. Pictures taken at the orientation session would be used to create a chart that as each person withdrew from the program for one reason or another there picture is removed from the chart.
These charts should be visible to all participants in the program at each session and will hopefully serve as a motivational tool.
Participants would be allowed a single absence (if the program meets once a week, and three absences if it meets three times a week, before being dropped from the program.
It is important to an extent; to let natural culling process occur as participants drop out for one reason or another. This is not to be encouraged as the more students complete, the fewer problems the math faculty should have during the fall semester.
A public high school has the responsibility of educating all its students and as such, its faculty members and administration has to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy with the most disruptive students. The structure of the Math-Dunk program should not incur these problems to any great degree because all participants will be self-selected, and allowed to withdraw should they so desire.