Manatee students testing math skills on baseball-inspired game

Baseball-inspired math game TiViTz can help students improve math skills and win scholarships

eearl@bradenton.comNovember 14, 2013 

MANATEE -- A baseball themed math game endorsed by Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. could be a new teaching tool in Manatee County Schools.

Steve Scully, the creator of the game TiViTz, is pushing for more classroom participants with the promise that his game will sharpen students math skills, and allow them to compete in tournaments and win scholarships.

Steve Scully of SAS Games in Cocoa wanted to create a fun way for students to approach math and challenge each other.

"For most kids, math is very boring. They have to be motivated," Scully said.

Scully said the game board is similar to a checkers board. The goal is to move the game pieces, or TiViTz cubes, across the board by creating math problems. At the end of the game, the players add up the sums of each correct answer to the math problems they created. The interchangeable game sheets used on the board range from early

elementary math through pre-algebra, targeting fourth through eighth grade students.

Ripken is a partner in SAS Games and spokesperson for TiViTz, which relies on baseball for some of its entertainment. The board is shaped like a diamond, and players start in the dugout and move toward the outfield.

"You don't really have to know much about (baseball) to play and compete," Scully said. "But kids recognize a baseball diamond, dugouts and an outfield. It is a fun way to get them engaged, and it gets their attention."

Scully said TiViTz is a strategy game first and a math game second. Students are able to block and trap their opponents to "manipulate their score."

"Students making Cs, Ds and even Fs get engaged because they want to play the game and want to win," Scully said. "Teachers like it because they are doing math, and then checking their opponent's math. The kids like it because they get to mark up a paper."

Scully said the game gives students who do not excel on traditional worksheets the chance to use strategy skills and critical thinking skills. Currently, Scully said the game is used primarily in Hillsborough County schools, but he is looking to expand game sales to schools in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Highlands, Hardee and DeSoto Counties through workshops.

SAS Games will be hosting a TiViTz workshop at Charlotte Sports Park on Nov. 19 and 20 where parents can try the game and learn how to implement it in the classroom.

Scully has been talking with the Marauders and the Pirates to schedule workshops at McKechnie Field, although no dates have been set yet.

Joseph Racasky, a math specialist in the Hillsborough County School District, said that in his nine years of teaching, he has been using TiViTz every year.

"It builds a community in the classroom," Racasky said. "They have quirky things they say to each other, and they come up with new things every year. They approach me if they are having problems with things like double digit multiplication."

Scully created the game in late '90s. He started testing the game in schools and approached the New York Yankees to help him create tournaments for the game. Around 2005, Scully started building the online version of game.

This year, Scully launched TiViTz Tuesdays from February through April at McDonald's restaurants in Hillsborough County.

"Students were not being challenged," Scully said. "They need to get outside of the classroom and compete with other kids."

The McDonald's in Hillsborough encouraged Scully to spread TiViTz Tuesdays to McDonald's from Citrus all the way to Charlotte counties, giving students and teachers more than 200 locations to meet after school. The expanded Tivitz Tuesdays will start February 2014.

Scully has also organized TiViTz tournaments at Steinbrenner Field and Tropicana field at the end of the school year.

Racasky helps run the Hillsborough County School district's competition for third, fourth and fifth grade. Teams of four students from each grade level from every school are sent to compete.

Scully is hoping to have more participation in the tournament in June 2014, where $15,000 in scholarships will be awarded. He is also planning a teacher tournament for the spring.

"You have to play a season to improve skills," Scully said.

SAS Games also has a partnership with the Ronald McDonald's House of Tampa Bay. The game costs $30, and $10 from every purchase goes to the Ronald McDonald House.

The game is free to play online.

The Charlotte Sports Park workshop on Nov. 19 is for teachers only, and the workshop on Nov. 20 is open for anyone to attend. The workshops run from 9 - 11:30 a.m.; 12:30 - 3 p.m. and 4 - 6:15 p.m. The costs of the workshops is $25. Each participant will receive a game.

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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