Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. announced a nationwide education challenge Tuesday that is geared toward helping students knock their math skills out of the park.
Through his organization, Ripken Baseball, the Baltimore "Iron Man" launched a Grand Slam Math Challenge, which will ask students in grades kindergarten through 12 in every state to play the online and board game TiViTz to improve their math skills.
Ripken said Tuesday that he was inspired to launch the challenge — which uses math skills on a video baseball field — by the youths in his Ripken Baseball program.
"As you get in the business of teaching kids, you find yourself talking about education quite a bit," Ripken said. "If you help one kid, it's a success, but if you help millions, you're really doing something across the country."
"I just think it's so important that a simple concept of playing a game really results in learning," he said, adding that his program stresses that even baseball requires the skills of calculating averages, distances and the Pythagorean theorem.
Ripken said he chose to partner with the creators of the game, SAS Games Inc., because TiViTz has a track record of increasing math scores on standardized tests.
Students "are really learning, without even realizing it because it's fun," Ripken said of the game.
The six-month challenge is open to students across the country, who can vie to be one of 50 to receive a trip to Washington to compete in the national TiViTz championships. Five grand-prize winners will win trips to the 2011 MLB All-Star game as a guest of Ripken.
A grand prize valued at $350 million will be awarded to the state with the most online games played per capita. The prize is a premium online membership to the TiViTz games for every K-12 student in the winning state.
The challenge began Tuesday and will run through May 15. To play the game and for complete rules, go to tivitz.com.