Training Program Proposal
The anecdotal consensus is that black male students are two years behind their grade level in terms of knowledge of mathematics. This nationwide pattern of academic shortfall can be examined on a district by district basis at
A math skills enhancement course embedded in an academic/ physical training program that improves participants jumping skills, leading them on a path toward the goal of being able to “dunk” a basketball.
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.
The idea of using a lure is something that sets apart the Math-Dunk project from standard learning approaches. Schooling through to at least age 16 is mandatory in every state in the nation. Children up to that age represent a captive market in which as consumers of this product, knowledge, have little if any legal ability to exercise freedom of choice. The only tool available to them is a variable level of resistance to consumption of the presented information. This resistance can take many forms including, “playing hooky” or “acting-up” in the classroom.
The providers of the knowledge are collectively held accountable to their consumer base because unlike that in a classical free market situation, because the providers of the product are not compensated by the level of consumption, in this case learning, but rather through the mechanism of public funding. This disconnect, between suppliers and consumers, is a likely contributing factor to the current pattern of educational achievement.
As a summer program Math-Dunk relies on voluntary participation by its enrollees and in the absence of coercive pressure, the project must be attractive to its potential participants. The project’s basic element of attraction is the possibility of achieving the status enhancing ability to dunk a basketball. This is a proxy for the identification of “ganas” (desire) among the enrollees. Over the length of the project it is envision that this will be augmented by naturally occurring degree of competition within the group on both the mathematical and athletics sides with concurrent development of esprit de corps through collective struggle to achieve the concrete goals of bring computational skills up to grade level while improving leaping ability.
The program would begin on the first week of summer vacation and conclude on the last week before the fall term. It would consist of 1-3 sessions (depending upon funding), per week, to be held at the high school or a community recreation facility.
PARTICIPANTS IDENTIFICATION & PREPARATION
In the March-April timeframe, the names of perspective students that will comprise an entering high school freshman class (a large urban high school will admit approximately 300 students) for the fall semester are identified. It is expected that approximately 50% of these new students will be males and likely to have varying degrees of attraction to a summer program that would improve their sports and academic skills. If the population size is large enough, a group, 40 names would be chosen at random for a control group. All other male students will be contacted to assess interest in participation. There will be no attempt to further eliminate any potential participants on the basis of ethnicity or should any female request for inclusion, gender. The program is aimed at black males but no person within the target group of entering 9th graders will be discouraged from participation.
This entering group of freshmen was chosen because it is a critical moment in their lives. They are leaving middle school and going to high school. This is a significant step toward adulthood. At this juncture they should be more open to the positive stimulus of a new environment than would be the case when high school becomes part of their daily routine.
Once the participants identified, there will be a concerted effort involving mail, email, and telephone contact to enroll them. There will be a follow-up contact with the interested students’ middle school math teachers to ascertain what the students’ actual level of math proficiency is. After consultation with their middle school teachers, materials for the math component will be culled from 6th-7th-8th year’s common core standards and, from online sources. Should there be a small group of students whose skills are at or above grade level materials for them will be provided following the core standards that they would follow as per the existing high school math curriculum.
It is expected that 35-45 students will show-up for an initial diagnostic orientation session. Over the projected 11 weeks of the program, it is estimated that roughly 20% of the participants will not complete the program.
Though the above group is the ideal group, the program is adjustable to any age level. The associated STEM topics have been chosen such that any appropriate level of mathematics from arithmetic to calculus can be linked to the subject area.
2. The Basketball Court
3. The Backboard & The Rim
4-5. Basketball Metrics
6. Figures Don’t Lie
7. Public Universities & Public Prisons
8. African Math - Jump Stats
9. Statistics - David Blackwell
10. The Knee
11. The Kidney
12. Blood Bank - Charles Drew
13-14. Steroids - Percy Julian
15. DNA - Rich Kittles
16. Order of Operations
18. Gas Mask - Garrett Morgan
19. Nap Attack - Garrett Morgan
20 Refrigeration - Floyd Jones
21-22. The Microphone - James West
23. Home Security - Marie Van Brittan Brown
24. Optics-Lasers - Patricia Bath
25. Networking - Skip Ellis
26. IMB PC/AT - Mark Dean
27. Video Games - Jerry Lawson
29. Computer Graphics - Marc Hannah
30-31. The Parabola
32-33. Orbital Mechanics
The initial meeting would be to show the video “Road to the Rim.” a combination of “5'7'' White Kid Dunks After 6 Months Of Training” intercut with three pre-existing, African-American commentators. As of 10/28/16, there were over 6.7 million views of the initial video and 4.9 million views of the commentators. Though there is some street language and politically incorrect commentary, all videos support the concept that hard work and honest effort are required, and that this combination can achieve outstanding results.
A question and answer session will be held. It will be emphasized that this is a program for STUDENT-athletes and not some “keep ‘em busy” time filler.
After the question and answer session, students who wish to participate will be given a multiple choice math diagnostic exam. Upon completing the exam, the students will go to the gym where their initial jumping ability will be measured through the use of the Tandem Sport Vertical Challenger, Vertical Jump Trainer or comparable device. The P/T trainer will then give a demonstration of the typical exercises lunges and squats that will comprise the major components of the dunk training.
A headshot will be taken of each participant.
Before leaving the initial orientation session, each participant will be given a math assignment to complete that will serve as the entry pass for the next session of dunk training.
In order to instill the integration of the mathematics and the dunking as components of one program, the introductory mathematics exercise would be based on data generated by the introductory jump training class. The available data would include, starting height, weight, standing reach and jumping height.
As an introductory tool, it creates an initial focus on increasing participant ability to manipulate bivariate data and to link that data to actual events. It should also, increase competition within the group by heightening awareness of participant status within the group. In order to align with the goal of improving every participant’s performance, emphasis will be placed on personal improvement rather than within group status.
SAMPLE CURRICULUM MATERIAL - Bivariate data: The Jump Training Chart*
A unique element of the math component of Math-Dunk is to have the students work with the data that athletic component generates. This gives a tangible dimension to what might otherwise be an abstract project.
*NOTE: The jump training chart notations are measured in inches with the exception of the weight classification that is measured in lbs.
Though the ostensible goal of the jump training is the ability to jump high enough to dunk the ball, it is expected that the participants will not be able to reach this goal within the projected 11 week duration of the course. The inspiration for the project tracked progress of an individual jumper over a 26 week period. That may or may not be representative for a larger sample group but in the absence of additional information, it is used as the guideline for the project.
There are a number of sub-goals on the way to be able to jump high enough to dunk the ball. The first major accomplishment is to be able to jump high enough to be able to touch the bottom of the backboard (TOUCH BB), which on a standard rim, is 9’6” (114”) above the court level. The second level of accomplishment would be the ability to touch the rim (RIM TOUCH) which is 10’ (120”) above the court surface. Attainment of either of these goals can convey upon the achiever, a certain degree of status with attendant “bragging rights.”
Some courts have 9’ (108”) rims and if available and suitable, these can be used to provide training steps and parallel intermediary goals for those participants for whom size and initial ability make goal attainment the longest journey.
It is expected that out of the initial participant there will be a proportion that do not complete the course. Though there are no available guidelines for estimating the proportion of the population that will not complete, for purposes of the projected data, a drop rate of 21% (8/38) was assumed.
The term “Dropped” represents this group.
There will be some participants whose attendance is intermittent but since the main purpose of the project is to increase quantitative skills, those who do not keep up with the mathematical studies will not be allowed to continue with the dunk training.
Math-Dunk: Procedural Elements
A test will be given once a week which will resemble a traditional math exam where the student is expected to show the work as part of determining their grade. The test will take place prior to the physical training and the results will be used to gauge progress and determine the composition of the student’s next assignment.
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.
The purpose of the Math-Dunk program will be to help create a core group as a step toward a potential transformation of a school culture. This will be a group neither of math geniuses nor slam-dunking ballers but instead a self-chosen group who, are willing to persevere over a relatively demanding set of tasks to accomplish a self-chosen goal. Students completing dunk program will probably want to continue physical training through their PE classes. If a single participant actually learns to dunk the ball while achieving a sufficient acquisition of computational skills, the word will spread.
The project is projected to last just under 3 months but it should feed directly into the fall semester. The academic impact should be measured through the standard math exam given entering freshmen in September. Providing that data is available, for the project to be considered, in this author’s opinion, to be successful, mean scores on a September exam should be at least 1.65 standard deviations above what otherwise would have been expected. This would be a result that equals the 90% percentile of a normal distribution, or a one in ten chance that this would have been achieved without participation in the Math-Dunk project.
The program budget is based on two options. The least costly option is to base the project at a high school campus. In this situation, a number of project cost components can be picked-up in the school budget. If this is not available the next option is to base the project at a community recreation. This would incur additional costs.
High School Option
60 minute access to a classroom per session (not charged to program budget).
2 hour access to the gym per session (1-3 times per week). 90 minutes of activity and 30 minutes for locker room (not charged to program budget)
Math Tutor/Text Grader - 15 hours /week - $20.00/hr. – 11 weeks $3,300
Program Assistant - 15 hours/week - $20.00/hr. -12 weeks $3,600
Basketball-Weight Training Coach -15 hours/week - $20.00/hr. -11 weeks $3,300
Photocopying for problem sets and tests. $700
Office supplies (paper, pencils, etc.) $300
Tandem Sport Vertical Challenger, Vertical Jump Trainer $400
box/paper bag lunches, ($10 lunch, 40 participants 33 sessions) $13,200
Total Cost $25,300
Community Recreation Center Option
Classroom ($50/hr. x 33 sessions) $1,650
Gymnasium ($100/hr. x 2hrs per session x 33 sessions) $6,600
Total Cost $33,550
Funds will be deposited in either the name of the high school or the community recreation center. Should the high school be the repository of the funds, then all monies will be handled in the manner consistent with any and all guidelines established for such activities by the State of California. If the recreation center alternative is established option, then the same procedure will be followed.
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.