There are people who get numbers and people who don’t. And the people who don’t just have to muddle through school as best they can until they can leave the dreaded, horrible, confidence eroding subject behind. Later they will have calculators. Later they will hire people to do their taxes and forget this miserable part of their life. Right? Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! It doesn’t have to be that way.
This is something I am passionate about because of personal experience with friends and family members who have struggled with math, especially those of an artistic bent. People who have wonderfully visual brains and terrific spacial sense (which I unfortunately lack, having to wrack my brains to get that the world is round) think about numbers differently than I do.
Here’s an example. I was working with one of my children on homework, trying to come up with a similar word problem to the assigned one. So I said to my artist girl, let’s say there is a road and the road is 100 metres (about 300 ft) and the car is 10 metres long. How many cars can park in the road? My child replies, “Mom cars are not 10 metres long.” I had to think about that for a while. Oh yeah, she was right. Ummmm, could it be a river and a boat? “Mom, what kind of boat?” A ferry. Fine. But even with the ferry, I couldn’t explain how to do the problem in a way that made sense to her.
And so we struggled. It is not pleasant to struggle with one’s child, wanting desperately to figure out how to explain things to this person whose strengths are opposite mine and failing. Seeing that bright intelligent face dimmed. Again. Again. I despaired. And then I stumbled across the solution.
This is what I want to share with the world: JUMP Math. It stands for “junior undiscovered math prodigy.” The program was designed by John Mighton, a playwright who is a genius at teaching math. The series goes from grade 3 to grade 8 right now, but high school level workbooks are in development.
This book, which is cheap and available in a format both for schools and as a home workbook, teaches math step by step through simple building blocks, always beginning with the basics of counting. I could kiss John Mighton! Okay maybe not–but a hug, yes. Many many hugs. I recently found out that he has donated all the copyrights to this series to a charity, which uses the proceeds from the sale of the books to fund free copies to Big Sisters’ and Big Brothers’ programs for kids that can’t afford it.
We got the book midway through the school year and have been working on a couple of pages every other day. We are now halfway through. Concepts that seemed to be in an alien language at Christmas time are now solidly understood. I can’t tell you how wonderful it’s been to hear my child say, “I get it. It’s easy. I’m good at math.” And it’s true. I just wish that I had known about this series a year ago. My other child, who thinks more like I do, will soon start on the workbook, too, because solid teaching is good for all kids. I have no personal connection with John Mighton–but someday I hope to meet him and at least shake his hand.
Please–if you know anyone with kids, tell them about this series, especially if math has been a challenge. It can be a joy. Pass the word.