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Building children’s self-confidence through math
John Mighton is empowering frustrated math learners and educators with a teaching philosophy and methodology that assumes all kids can learn math.
Taking the division out of math classrooms.
In North American schools, math too often divides people: those who can grasp basic concepts and those who can’t, those who can afford small classes and private tutors, and those who lack the resources.
Traditional methods for teaching math leave most teachers unprepared to manage the individual strengths and weaknesses of their students. Struggling students learn to blame themselves instead of a system that failed to set them up for success and this can have long-lasting impacts on their self-esteem and future career prospects.
As a child, John Mighton read a book about time-travelling that left him with the impression that math is magical and transcendent. But after getting a ‘D’ in calculus during university, John dropped math to pursue playwriting. While he became a successful writer, even earning a Governor General’s Award, his childhood beliefs about math’s magic stayed with him, and he stayed connected to the subject as a part-time tutor.
John found his students were being discouraged about their capacity for learning math, and he started to imagine a new teaching paradigm premised on the idea that all kids can learn math. He returned to school, earned a doctorate in mathematics, and in 1999, he launched JUMP — Junior Undiscovered Mathematical Prodigies.
JUMP Math is a numeracy program dedicated to enhancing kids’ potential by encouraging an understanding and a love of math in students and educators. It seeks to quash the myth that mathematical talent is a rare genetic gift, and it draws on the latest cognitive science research to build upon the best aspects of math programs from around the world. Through JUMP, tutors and teachers learn how to break down complex mathematics into basic operations like counting or crossing out a symbol. They learn how to reach not only the confident and the privileged, but all students.
To date, he’s reached nearly 180,000 students and over 10,000 educators and facilitated about 3,000 teacher trainings. Of 125 teachers surveyed, 94% reported that JUMP Math improved their students’ performance in math class. For the seventh year in a row, JUMP Math students saw their achievement growth by at least 2.4 times the rate of average students.
John’s model for empowering young math learners — his teaching manuals, trainings and philosophy — is empowering educators to replace classroom frustrations with enthusiasm.