[Interview] Khalil Fuller Actually Makes Math Fun With NBA Math Hoops

Photo: (Ted Fitzgerald for Boston Herald)

For students out there who love basketball but hate math, we’ve got a game changer for you. You can actually combine the two for a legitimately fun game that helps your math skills. We kid you not! Brown student Khalil Fuller’s NBA Math Hoops brings the best of both worlds together.

Twenty-year-old Khalil and his team first tried out the game in seven different schools two years ago, and the students who played improved an average of about 50% with their math. How do you play the game? According to the site, “students use real-world NBA and WNBA player data on specially designed player cards to compete against classmates in timed, simulated basketball games.”

Khalil’s ready to go far with NBA Math Hoops and is doing a national launch. He also just won $70,000 from MassChallenge, an org that helps entrepreneurs! We give Khalil a big congrats, and we also wanted to learn more about what he’s up to.


Khalil with his awesome NBA Hoops game which is making math fun. (Ted Fitzgerald for Boston Herald)

ACT: How did you come up with using the NBA and WNBA to help students with their math?

KHALIL: I grew up in LA, and as I went through the public education system, I saw that so many of my peers were becoming disengaged from school, most notably from math class. In high school I wanted to see why math was so unbearable for so many of my kids, so explored the reasons behind this through tutoring younger students. I realized that the tools that educators have at their disposal are not fun, engaging, or culturally relevant. My tutees didn’t want to do their math homework; they wanted to go outside and play basketball. I knew that if we could bring the NBA into the classroom, kids could learn to love math. Amazingly, when I was studying Education and Social Entrepreneurship at Brown, I met a man named Tim Scheidt, who has over 30 years of experience in the math field and had been tinkering with a basketball math board game since literally before I was born.

ACT: Why do you think the program has been successful so far?

KHALIL: Put simply, math has never been this fun! NBA Math Hoops really feels like a basketball game! Yes, you have to do math along the way, but you get so wrapped up in the excitement and thrill of the game that math doesn’t become a dreaded task.

ACT: How can interested schools (or students) get the game?

KHALIL: We’re actually just now starting to sell Classroom Kits! Email me at Khalil@nbamathhoops.org or tweet at us: @NBAMathHoops.

ACT: Are real members of the NBA and WNBA involved with this? Would you like them to be?

KHALIL: Good question. The way it works is that we have a license with the NBA and Getty Images has joined our team, which means we can use unlimited NBA and WNBA player names and images on our product. We are definitely actively looking for players to become champions and evangelists of NBA Math Hoops! That is one of the most important things that I am currently working on, and I have many irons in the fire.

ACT: Right now this is aimed for middle school students. Do you have plans to make more games for students who are older and younger than that?

KHALIL: The game can really be played by anyone from 5th-12th grade; it’s just that some of the math activities in the Coach’s Manual (math workbook) may be too hard for 5th graders or too easy for 12th. We are certainly looking at making a more basic game for the elementary school level!

ACT: Do you have any advice for other college students who want to start their own non-profit like you did?

KHALIL: Starting something of your own is incredibly challenging but so rewarding! If there is an issue you really care about and no one else is doing anything about it, go out there and try to solve it. I think the first part of my last sentence is very important — definitely do a thorough search for organizations that are trying to accomplish what you hope to do, and if there is one out there, join them instead of starting your own nonprofit. I think that one of the biggest problems in the nonprofit sector is that so many organizations are trying to do the same thing, which is inefficient because if resources and overhead costs were pooled, more money could go into the actual impact.

I would highly recommend finding a mentor. Mentors are great because since they are usually older and more experienced than you are, you can learn from the mistakes that they’ve made. They also have extensive networks and resources that you can use when you are trying to build something from scratch. Things to look for in a mentor:

+ Someone you feel comfortable around and can speak to with candor and honesty.

+ Usually someone who knows a bit about the issue you are trying to tackle or the field that it’s in.

+ Gives you advice, but doesn’t try to tell you exactly what to do (my best mentor usually starts things off by saying “Look, only you can figure out what you have to do, I can just ask you questions that get your wheels turning…”)

+ Someone who is accessible and has time to spend with you.

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NBA Math Hoops

NBA Math Hoops

Check out Khalil's NBA Math Hoops and increase your math skills!

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