Basketball-based math class in Detroit a slam dunk for LTU student-athletes
DETROIT -- “Who likes basketball? Who thinks math will make you better at basketball?”
That’s the question George Terrell, a sophomore computer science major at Lawrence Technological University, asks a group of energetic middle school students. Terrell – along with Derek Seidl, a senior mathematics and computer science major – led a two-day workshop called “NBA and Mathematics: Who is the Real MVP?” at Sampson-Webber Leadership Academy, a K-8 magnet school in the Detroit Public School Community District.
Terrell and Seidl are serving as formal “ambassadors” this school year for LTU’s Marburger STEM Center, the university’s clearinghouse for its K-12 outreach efforts, now in its third year of operation.
The Sampson-Webber students were impressed to learn that Seidl plays on LTU’s men’s basketball team as a small forward. Seidl’s take-home message to the students is that you can excel in sports – and major in a STEM discipline.
During the first day of the workshop, the students reviewed video footage of the three MVP (Most Valuable Player) candidates from the 2016-17 NBA season – Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, and James Harden. The students then worked in teams to analyze statistical data for each player, including points scored, rebounds, assists, and field goal percentage. The goal was for the students to use the data to determine which of the candidates truly deserved to be the NBA MVP.
This workshop also included a physical activity component, where each student had an opportunity to shoot baskets, which led to a discussion about converting the class data into a percentage and comparing the data to the shooting averages of the NBA players. The sixth grade class produced an overall 47 percent shooting average, which was quite comparable to the professional athlete statistics.
Day Two of the workshop included two additional basketball players from LTU – Lucas Vojak, a mechanical engineering major, and Aleck Ivanovic, a biomedical engineering major. The presence of the student-athletes majoring in a STEM discipline sent a powerful message to the middle school students during the workshop. The students also worked in teams to complete a creative poster identifying their MVP selection and data to support their conclusions. Each team also delivered a three-minute presentation of their results.
The student teams were given about 40 minutes to complete their posters, with Terrell, Seidl, Vojak, and Ivanovic providing the teams with some guidance to prepare their posters before the final competition. The LTU basketball players evaluated the team posters and selected the winning poster based on creativity, teamwork, and communication skills. The students often engaged in spirited debates about their conclusions. Members of the winning teams each received Virtual Reality Google Cardboard Glasses for their efforts.
This activity also included an additional writing component, where the students were asked various questions, including providing feedback on improving the workshop. Two students indicated that the workshop could be improved by including players from the WNBA to engage girls with basketball. The overall goal of the workshop was for the students to formulate an argument and support their argument with evidence.
Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 100 universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.