Nonprofit Spotlight: Learn Fresh

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In February, PennyLoafer donors collectively gave to Learn Fresh!

The Rundown

  • Years founded: 2011

  • Leadership: CEO and Co-Founder Nick Monzi is a music educator with a Masters in Education from Harvard University. He is a 2021 finalist for the Elevate Prize, which “amplifies the work of impact leaders for social good.”

  • Issue they address: access and achievement gaps in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs for girls, students of color and students from low income communities.

  • What they do: leverage middle schoolers’ passion for sports and play to inspire their math and social emotional learning.

  • How they do it:

    • Create + distribute innovative and fun education games. Their flagship program, NBA Math Hoops, is a fast-paced basketball board game, mobile app and curriculum that helps improve fundamental math skills using real NBA / WNBA player statistics.

    • Support a national network of educators, providing free access to the curriculum, resources and training so it can be used in classrooms and after school programs across the country.

    • Partner with pro sports teams (NBA, WNBA and more) and have professional athlete ambassadors and board members.

    • Increase representation of curriculum writers of color through their Learn Fresh Fellowship, where educators are invited to create and share curricula that authentically represent their communities.

Why they were chosen

Learn Fresh is making learning fun for middle school students, tapping into their passion for sports and competitive games to help them develop fundamental math + socio-emotional skills (like compromise, teamwork, and sportsmanship).

  • It’s effective. Their games make math relevant to kids. In 2021, Learn Fresh students made 29% gains on a math fluency assessment. And were 30% more likely to report growth in leadership, grit and resilience.
  • It’s scalable. LearnFresh provides a blueprint for educators to bring these innovative learning tools to their schools. What started as a partnership with the Cleveland Cavs serving ~500 students in Ohio has expanded to 30 pro sports markets and over 500K students across the country. They’ve created similar programs with baseball and soccer, and are even expanding internationally.
  • They focus specifically on getting more girls and students of colors engaged in STEM, and 93% of partner programs serve low-income communities.
  • For more, watch this quick video on Learn Fresh.

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🔢  Math standards become more challenging in middle school, as students learn abstract concepts. Math proficiency in 8th grade is critical, because success at this level can influence students’ motivation and is one of the strongest predictors of students’ progress in the subject in high school and beyond.

😬  However, by 8th grade many students have developed preconceived notions of their “math ability” and can experience math anxiety which further impacts their proficiency level (think: nightmares about geometry).

📉  Programs like LearnFresh that target 6-8th graders engage students at this critical time, and are particularly important now, considering the significant impact the pandemic has had on student learning.

  • McKinsey study showed that during the 2020-2021 school year, K-12 students fell, on average, 5 months behind in mathematics, and for students in low-income schools it was 7 months.

🔬 People of color remain underrepresented in STEM careers, and representation of women varies depending on the job types (more women are in health care related positions, but not in engineering, computing and physical sciences). Recent demographic trends of those graduating with STEM degrees doesn’t appear likely to narrow this gap, so targeting students at a younger age is key.

If you enjoyed this and want to get involved, you can support the Quality Education cause on PennyLoafer, starting with as little as $5/month. Each month, you’ll support and learn about a different nonprofit working to improve the education system.