The Math Myth

I just finished reading a fantastic and inspiring book, The Myth of Ability: Nuturing Mathematical Ability in Every Child, by John Mighton.

The book gives an account of how Mighton started his charitable tutoring program called JUMP (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies). I had heard about the JUMP math program from other parents and read a few articles in the media. I was finally inspired to read the book after my daughter was teased at school for her low mark on a math test.

When I was growing up I believed that I was the type of student who just ‘didn’t get’ math. I moved around a lot and missed many key mathematical concepts and struggled to catch up at each new school. I failed grade 8 math and went to summer school and almost failed that too. My father’s idea of helping me overcome my challenge was to have me write 100 lines a day of, ‘I love math’, over and over again. Lets just say it didn’t help me get through grade 9 math.

The concept that Mighton stresses the most in this book is the myth that some students have the ability to do math and some just don’t. He shows that anyone can learn math and anyone can teach it. Just reading that sentence is a struggle for someone like me. His approach to teaching math is to isolate and describe each step in a math problem so that no knowledge is assumed and that any student can understand how to complete it successfully. Several studies have shown definitive evidence that this program works.

Mighton is an interesting guy. In his late 20’s he was an award-winning playwright who earned extra money as a math tutor. As he worked with students and learned how to break down each problem to its element he reignited his own interest in mathematics and went back to school in his late 20’s to earn a PhD in mathematics. His kitchen table was the birthplace of his charitable organization that has helped thousands of children learn that they do have the ability to understand and excel at math.

My daughter and I are working our way through the first workbook. Unlike other workbooks we have used she actually enjoys it. Her success motivates and helps  build confidence in her ability. I won’t let her buy in to our society’s belief that some people ‘get math’ and some people don’t. We can all understand it.

How about you? Did you struggle with math? Do your kids? I would love to hear about your experiences with math or the JUMP program.


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