Dozens of middle-school students crowded around the fold-up table in the center of the gymnasium inside the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club’s Navy Yard Clubhouse at 240 Nassau Street, biting their nails over the final, championship-determining game in the first-ever NBA Math Hoops tournament. They were so fixated on the paper-calculations and dice-rolling of their peers, that the presence of Brooklyn Nets player Darius Morris provided no distraction.
By the end, the Navy Yard Clubhouse’s four competing students hadn’t won the championship, but they did win some confidence.
“Math is easier now,” admitted Zaniah Lopez, 12, of Clinton Hill, who only competed after dogged persistence from her friend Sauda Ali, 11, who herself had been encouraged to participate by Club Leadership Development Director Danielle Shaw.
“I encouraged her because she didn’t want to do it and I wanted to help her,” explained Ali. “It [turned out to be] fun and confusing at the same time. We played three rounds and lost two, but won one. I’ll probably do it again [next year] and practice even more.”
The Navy Yard Clubhouse’s Director of Education Kwame Brandt-Pierce noted that “the kids love basketball” and “once they saw the [NBA Math Hoops playing] cards with players who they recognized and their stats, they got into it.”
The NBA Math Hoops tournament was sponsored by the Brooklyn Nets, NBA Cares and Learn Fresh, as a leadup to NBA All-Star Game 2015.
Pairing sports and math is important, he said, because “first, it strengthens their math skills in a fun and engaging way, and two, it teaches them about teamwork, winning gracefully and losing gracefully.
“Our club serves kids ages five to 18 and we have a STEM program, arts education, technology and other programs that, every day, we use to work to enhance the lives of at-risk youth,” he said.
The Navy Yard Clubhouse also runs a Saturday program and just received funding from the city to maintain and expand its after-school academic programming through the SONYC program.
They are also accepting registrations for their summer program, Club Fun, which serves over 200 youth aged six to 13, noted Club Director Cornelius Jeter. Call 718-625-4295 for more information.