The formula exists. The successful results proven for decades. When it comes to flipping the script on elementary and high school math scores in Canada and around the world, Larry Martinek believes the most difficult part of the equation has long been solved.
“We do an assessment so we meet the kids where they’re at,” says the architect of The Mathnasium Method™, describing the starting point of Mathnasium’s approach to teaching math.
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Welcome to where parents talk. My name is Lianne Castelino. Our guest today is an educator who spent almost 30 years teaching math to middle school and high school students. He’s an author, a teacher, trainer, and a consultant, Larry Martin, Nick has also developed a specific method of teaching math that is behind Mathnasium, a supplemental math education company. Now in its 20th year Mathnasium has more than 1000 learning centers in more than 89 locations in Canada alone, as well as around the world. Larry is the chief instructional officer at Mathnasium. And he joins us today from Los Angeles. Thank you so much for being here.
Well, thank you so much for having me.
This is a wonderful opportunity. Thank you.
You know, it is such an interesting story about how this all started. But I’d like to ask with the ask you about the current state, what do you believe has contributed to creating this world that we live in where math seems to be such a pain point and a struggle for so many kids today?
Well, we unfortunately don’t have about three hours to do the complete on that story. But at its root, one of the major problems is the lack of people going into into the math teaching profession. And so many kids are instructed in the US and in Canada, and well aware by folks who are not credential math teachers, and they’re doing a, I got to tell you, they’re doing a great job against all odds. But it’s not the same as having a person who is who’s dedicated their career to going to college, getting a degree in math in getting a credential and then going out and teaching. Very, very unfortunate, we have a lot of folks who are teaching, as they say, out of subject, and that is a major contributor to the problem. Also bless their hearts, elementary teachers are some of the hardest working folks I’ve ever worked with. But most of them are not math majors are not math or science majors. And so they are not always as inclined toward the math and science as they are toward the liberal arts. And this confluence of all those elements. Also, the panorama of what’s been going on since roughly about 1960, in terms of changing curriculum, seems like we change curriculums every six or seven years, whether we need to or not. And that’s causing a massive confusion among, you know, regular math teachers. And for people who are not, you know, that’s not their, you know, their number one calling in life has made it very difficult for them to perform in the classroom.
So quite a lot of factors that you’ve just outlined there. And I know in the province that I live in, in Ontario, in Toronto, the math scores provincially continued to go down. In fact, the latest reports have shown another decrease in provincial math testing scores. So the government has now given incentives to families to buy, you know, get tutors and get extra help, they’re actually giving families money. You know, what, what do you think of when you hear that kind of a story?
Well, I wish we could do it all in school, but the job is so big that it can it can’t be done completely in school, you know, but they you guys mentioned, with scores declining, and this is not just the last couple of years, and this is a long term trend, both in the US and in Canada.
And getting I’m sorry, can I just ask you a question again?
Well, what else like when you hear about the declining scores, what runs through your mind as somebody who’s taught the subject who’s come up with the Mathnasium method? You know, what do you take away from it?
That we’ve got an awful lot of work to do ahead of us the the situation in the schools, you know, Mathnasium has a wonderful luxury, but a classroom that I didn’t have no one has as a classroom teacher, and that is when we instruct students and instructor they will sit one on one with that person while they’re working with them. And as a classroom teacher, we, we there’s not that luxury of being able to we’ve got to impact all of our kids all the time in our world. And this is what’s made math news as successful and it’s really fired our growth through the last few decades has been that one on one attention that kids get. Also the fact that schools be you know, by the very nature of the structure, if you got a seventh grade students fundamentally working say at the fourth grade level, which is not sadly not an uncommon phenomenon. Classroom teachers in a classroom and the classroom with kids will all these different levels. They have a very difficult job compared to a Mathnasium instructor who’s working. We do an assessment so we meet the kids where they’re at, and we’re sorry about that. Moving on, We have the ability to meet kids where they are. And if classroom teachers have that ability would be a very different panorama out there. But due to the very nature of the way that schools are constructed, that’s not available. So that’s one of the reasons why, you know, when parents become aware of that their kids, you know, are part of that decline that they look for, you know, firstly, for the schools to work and, but at the same time, supplementing that so that their kids don’t get any further behind than they already are.
Larry, take us through your aha moment, as it relates to coming up with the Mathnasium method. What did that look like?
Okay, I was in my fifth year of teaching, which would have been 1979. And I got the greatest news of all time, and that was, I found out I was going to be a parent. And I remember stopping dead in my tracks one day at school going, how does human beings learn math may not know how to add and subtract, and all the mechanical skills, but how does one become a math thinker. And, as my son Nick was born, and his first four years of life, I started to understand that there is a way to approach this, that, well, it’s become now the Mathnasium method. And the big emphasis is on, you got a kid who’s four years old, you know, most people think that you can’t do any serious math with a kid like that. But it turns out that that is not at all the case. And we have a pre K program in Mathnasium, where we use a lot of the elements I used with NiP to get kids off to a tremendous start. But that aha moment that I had was when I realized that what I had been doing as a classroom teacher really didn’t work with with a young child who didn’t have any mathematical experience. And so when I, the corner, one of the cornerstones of Mathnasium method is the amount of mental and verbal work we do with kids. Your math is often thought of pretty much as a written phenomenon. But the long before you do any writing, you’ve got to think math. And so our emphasis is initially on on the mental component and the visual component, we can make a real quick example. But how much is 99 plus 99? Plus 99? Well, a lot of folks, when they hear that question, basically try to think of it as a written problem. 99 over 9999, and due to the column addition problem in their head.
That’s exactly what I’m doing right now.
Welcome to what most most adults do, I’ve done this many, many parents evenings that I do that the way we look at it, hey, 99 plus 99, plus 99, we call it that’s almost 100 plus 100 plus 100. Well, that’s easy, 300. But there’s a little bit extra in there, three extra impact. So 300 minus three is 297. And you’re all done. We’re gonna do that with kids long before we we get to the written part of math. So the kids are already have a groove, if you will, dealing with numbers. And that’s something that unfortunately, well Mathnasium was number one product and ultimately is number sense, that is really understanding how numbers work. You’re not just the mechanics of it, but actually the sense of it all. In fact, before Mathnasium existed, the program that Nick and I had developed, it was now called the Mathnasium method was called math awareness. Because that awareness piece is what I believe is the missing element in pretty much the panorama worldwide. Everybody goes is going immediately to skills and instead of going through, yes, it’s a much more much more difficult process to work on installing numbers since the example I just gave you. You know, that was nothing hard about that. And in fact, if Leon if I may challenge you for a moment, how much is 99 times seven? Think about that for a second. Based on the example I just gave you. I don’t mean to put you on the spot. But the 300 What do you think? So 700 Minus? Yeah, I give up.
700 Minus seven, each one of those hundreds you got you got one extra in there. So 700 minus seven is 693. And we’re gonna get kids thinking math. One of mathematicians, co founders, his one of his children, was one of the first kids I worked up with in the Mathnasium environment. And that was about 18 years ago. And I met the young man recently at our Christmas party. And he said something interesting to me. He said, you know, Larry, that what you do and what Mathnasium does, is you don’t just teach kids how to do math. You think you teach kids how to think math? And probably that would be the Mathnasium difference right there. The emphasis not just on the mechanics, kids need absolutely need to learn their timetables. Memorization is one of the worst techniques for doing it, however, and that’s what most people think, is the is the way to do it. Well, if that was true, we would. That’s one of the two major things in this in math education that It stumps kids before they get to algebra, Algebra teachers across the country in here in the US hope and pray that by the time kids get to the doorstep of algebra, they simply know their times tables. The third and fourth grade skill. So we started developing a palette and the experience that I have, and my team has it at Mathnasium headquarters, we’ve been in very competitive rich classroom situation you can imagine and we bring that wisdom to how we develop materials, and very importantly, how we train our instructors to to not just be teach kids mechanics, but to teach kids actually how to think math, which bestows on and the ability to do the mechanics, from a position of under actually understanding it, as opposed to just kind of praying that it’s gonna be right.
So interesting to hear you tell that story, because I’m sure you’ve noticed, you’re talking to somebody for whom math was a pain point, which is why I became a journalist. And so I always had to think extra hard. And it was always a struggle, it never really became easier, until I guess I got a little bit older. And I still, you know, it’s a bit easier, but it’s still something I have to stop and really think about. So, Larry, take us through your five years into your teaching career, you have this aha moment. How do you go about constructing a method? And how long did that take you?
Well, by the time that really that aha moment happened, and when, before Nick was born, as I said, my question with myself was, how does human beings learn math? Well, so what I did was I started observing how, first how Nick thought about things. And then I realized that he had a very different take on how on how to think math. And so I started encouraging him with that. But I also started including some of these things that we did together into my own teaching method. And during the, the 80s, or early 90s, I haven’t done another business that, that I was, was doing along with teaching at that time. And that other business gave me the opportunity to spend six to seven, eight hours a day writing something that we would not have been able to do if I had been a full time classroom teacher. And I was so and as a result of that, pretty soon, the teachers in school started hearing about the work I’d done. And they asked me to come do some workshops. Pretty soon, the principals of schools or friends with the teachers were calling me because they the these teachers, were all sudden coming back to classes with ways to do things that were instantaneously effective. And that would, so that, as you might imagine, really fired me up in terms of going, Hey, there’s a long way to go here in terms of the entire K 12 math curriculum. So I kept writing and doing ultimately doing teacher teacher training at a level of an individual teacher, or sometimes for a small school district got, you know, a couple of 100 teachers at a time. And all of this was generated by the work that Nick and I did together. Because what I really got an insight into was how the young mind can do mathematics. My business partner that business by the way, one day, he said, Sure, you can do with your own kid. But what about some somebody else’s kid, you’ve kind of egging me on here. And so a few months later, I showed him how it was working with other people’s kids. And then he goes, Well, sure, you can do it. But can anybody else do it? On here that bless his heart, by the way, because it kept all this in motion to get to where we are today. And all along this, this time, Nick’s growth in math just skyrocketed, largely because he had this incredible understanding of numbers by about age seven. And that same level of understanding if we’re able to get when kids, kids come to us as seven year olds, by the time their nine year olds, they’re completely transformed in terms of how they approach this whole thing called mathematics.
Larry, I’m wondering if you could articulate how does Mathnasium and the Mathnasium method change the way that kids people think about math? In what ways does that happen?
Well, that example I just gave you, the 99 business is a good window into this process, your most kids will wouldn’t encounter a problem like that, except on paper. And so the Mathnasium method, and as Matt alluded to a few moments ago, the first thing we do with kids is to do an appropriate assessment for them. Now, by appropriate I mean, they let’s take that hypothetical seventh grader that I mentioned a few minutes ago. Who was the first thing we do in that assessment process is ask the students series of oral questions to start to get a feel for where this kid is. I mean, is this kid math phobic? Or is this kid math lover? What what to do here, and, and get an idea of which one of our assessments is a full, full blown assessments is going to be appropriate for that for that student. And so again, it’s not uncommon to have a seventh grade student, ultimately, take checkout for and get 50 or 55% on it, which means in our world, by the way, that that is exactly the right assessment for that student. So, then what we’ve got is that I mean, we got our marching orders as this kids in seventh grade and is working at the fourth grade level, we need to fill in that gap. And roughly worldwide, about 80% of the kids that come to us need some form of fairly serious remediation. You know, to the your point about yourself, you know, a few moments ago, you I’m sure you’re well aware that, you know, you’re not the Lone Ranger out there in that respect. In fact, I think that that is more the general case. And so here’s an interesting little side. Fun fact, a deep dive was done into math, news and social media last year. And they rounded up pretty much every reference to map to math knees, and they could find on the on the internet their parents had done. And the interesting thing, while the several interesting things came out of that the one that really jumped out at me, was 27% of the time, parents describe their child’s experience at Mathnasium as fun I’m guessing, but I don’t your your early days in math, you probably could not classify as fun.
Yeah, no fun did not enter the equation.
Equation. Better to fully acknowledge that absolutely. And dark because it’s there’s a real simple proposition that I’ve always worked from. And that is that learning is fun. Not learning is not fun. And kids know the difference, you knew the difference at the time. And so by those meeting kids where they were their app, that what that means is the first thing we give them is going to be the next thing they need to learn that something way in the future. Which unfortunately, and this is a worldwide problem. Classroom teachers, a seventh grade teacher doesn’t have time to remediate fourth grade skills. Pretty close to that, you know, it’s that’s that straightforward. So when a kid comes to Mathnasium, out of the school system, we’re able to, you know, spend the time that’s necessary to fill in those gaps. And that has been the principal driver of the Mathnasium growth experience that we certainly have experienced over the last 20 years.
So for, you know, people listening to this interview watching this interview, one question that jumps out as you as you describe it, is, if it works, and it’s worked so well, and there’s been an explosion of the learning centers in the Mathnasium method across the world. Why aren’t more schools school boards excetera, adopting this method, if it is proven to be effective? How do you respond to that?
Yeah, well, before in the years before, math news, and that would be in the late 90s, I pretty well had the methods with math awareness. Now, the Mathnasium method, very well documented. And I started applying to various foundations, school districts, trying to do exactly what you just just said, trying to get this method that has shown itself to work so well. Unfortunately, you may be familiar with the phrase institutional inertia.
Basically, what I encountered was, hey, we got this. They didn’t put the deck but publicly, that’s what they have to say.
And I gotta like every author, I got my stack of rejection letters in my file cabinet here. Because the welding, the problem is, so it’s so broad. I, by the way, I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked to the very question you just asked what, you know, why isn’t everybody doing this? Every every parent workshop, I do at the end of it, somebody walks up and ask me that very question. And the school systems, both public and private, by their, by their nature, unfortunately, have a certain degree of resistance to change. And now, the successor Mathnasium, you know, we’re actually very hopeful that perhaps over the next now the next 20 years of our existence, that the fact that we are now becoming so well known that, as you said, you know, every time you turn around new ones opening up in your area, that eventually the good word will get out there, and we’ll have an opportunity to seriously address these things, by the way that our nurses is so severe back in 2008. Here in the US, there was a commission that called the National Math advisory panel that the President appointed, and they made a series of recommendations in 2008 For what needed changing in the US and the all those changes were also appropriate for Canada by the way, and was a big hoopla when when the report came out, and then it faded to nothing. And the next news cycle? Well, the recommendations that they they put out were, interestingly, were almost parallel, perfectly the Mathnasium Mathnasium method. Because they laid out exactly what kids are not learning now, and what they need to know what changes were needed. Unfortunately, very few institutions heeded the good words that were spoken there in that report from the National Math advisory panel.
So as you look at the current state, we live in a very different world. 2020 to STEM is a very big acronym and education, circles, science, technology, education, and math. You know, there’s all kinds of future jobs that we don’t even know about yet that are going to be based in fundamental math. Are we at a tipping point or a turning point? Do you think in any way?
Well, I think the pandemic has given everybody a real swift kick in the rear end that that things are not and not being okay. And they’re not okay. Right now. So yes, there’s a real possibility. I think interviews like this, if you know, to give wide distribution will be helpful in that regard. Because the most influential element in the education industrial complex, if you will, our parents. And if when parents bring concern, there’s a pressure on on systems, that probably is the most effective agent for change. And so that’s why when I saw what you do, Leanna, Wales was very happy to be in Ghana and honored to have been invited to be on your show. Because getting the word out to parents that yeah, there is a way to do this. There’s a lot of ketchup needs done. Now, you know, I mean, before the pandemic, things were not rosy or anything, you know, now, I mean, everybody’s seen that, you know, the, the, what they call the COVID. Slide, and as negatively impacted just about everybody.
Well, now, you mentioned parents, Larry, and I’m wondering, like, what would you suggest to a parent who can see that their child is struggling with math, what do you suggest would be an appropriate point for them to turn to for help? And I should mention, a lot of parents look at their child’s grade three, math homework and have absolutely no idea what that entails in many households. So you have the added layer of not being able to help them yourself. So what would you say to that parent in terms of what support they should turn to?
Well, I mean, obviously, there are multiple layers of support, some free, some not so free, whatever, in school tutoring that can be done, I think that’s gonna become a bigger feature in the you mentioned it earlier, you know, the government has, the Canadian government has committed a significant amount of funds to dealing with this, as has been the case in many of the states here in the US. And so that could be a first line there. And but, again, depending on on exactly what the details of the problems are going to perhaps a tutor, we make the claim that Mathnasium experience is better than the tutoring experience for a couple of reasons. Tutors don’t typically pull into a student’s house with a sophisticated assessment system, and 20,000 pages of material to draw on to create a program for that kid, basically, what they’re doing is getting through tonight’s homework and getting ready for Friday’s test. And also had an experience. I mean, this is both observational and anecdotal that a lot of the tutors basically spend a lot of time kind of hovering over kids. And one of the trainings that we do for Mathnasium instructors is how to how to give the student a meaningful explanation of what’s going on, and then remove the instructor from the situation and give the student a meaningful task to do on their own. And we’re always under the the instructors very watchful eye. But I know when I was the many, many years that I do tutoring a lot of the time was basically sitting there twiddling my thumbs while the student was working Mathnasium take what that instructor while the students working on one thing is going to be working with another student and then cycling back to that student to getting so that again, but I guess what I’m alluding to here is that the individual attention that kids get, either from a tutor or from a place like Mathnasium is one of the essential ingredients because the classroom situation was working for that individual kid, they probably would not be in the state of affairs they are at that moment. But so, at the risk of plugging a giant commercial here for Mathnasium, finding professional help, and depending on exactly what the needs of kids are, if kids need just mechanics, which is not usually the case, there are other programs that do that very well. There are some programs that emphasize very heavily on problem solving but not so much them mechanics at Mathnasium, we want it all. We want our kids to be numerically fluent. That is they know their number facts, they know the basic algorithms. And also, they can apply that in a meaningful problem solving environment. Because you mentioned that the jobs of the future are the ones, especially the ones we that we don’t know that we don’t know about. The math that folks are gonna be doing there is going to be primarily problem solving in one form or another. And that is the biggest emphasis in the Mathnasium curriculum. And that is where most kids fall apart, you’re probably familiar with an international assessment called the PISA performance international students student assessment, and the US is now 37. In the world, I don’t have a current data on Canada. But um, that is a dismal place for our kids to be. And these, the PISA only test one thing, it does not test computation, it does not test theory, it tests problem solving. And this is where American kids are pretty terrible when compared to the rest of the world. I mean, 37 is not a great place for kids in the, you know, in, in the US to be. So I wish that was different. But it’s not
mentioned at the outset of the interview, how one of the big gaps is how teachers are trained currently to teach math. I’m curious as to the feedback as well as the process of how Mathnasium instructors are trained. What’s different about that?
Well, the when we hire someone, the first thing, before we do any training at all with them, the first thing you got to do is pass her math just so we know that they’ve got the hardcore mathematics under their belt, they also have to pass the personality test, if you will, that is you know, there’s a reasonable shot, this person could be really good with kids. But okay, now to your question, how are they trained specifically, in the Mathnasium method, we have an online program that takes folks through in pretty agonizing detail, the details of of curriculum of what’s expected at every grade level. And then on top of that, I do in fact, I’m gonna be doing one did one last week, I’ll be doing one in two weeks, where I do four hour sessions with instructors to take them really deep into the methods and method. And also, most of our instructors, as you might imagine, are math majors are science majors of some sort, or folks who just happen to be very good at math. But everybody needs to, to understand how curriculum is assembled. And also some of the ins and outs of the effects that teachers attitude has on student learning. Because I learned all of that in my graduate you’re in and teaching theory classes. Most folks never, most of our instructors never take a class like that in college, because they’re there, they’re not necessarily on a teaching track. So I’m having them become deeply familiar both with what they already know, and then how to package that for the kids that are going to be working with. And so the it’s a lot, it is a lot of intense personal training that we do we do. I mean, I can go through all the immediate modalities. I mean, we Mathnasium method is taught in, in five modalities mental, visual, verbal, tactile, and written and unexplained you’re going through the details of how each one of those is similar how they blend into each other. All of those things are a part of our instructors training to be to be done pretty much within the first 90 days of their employment. At ours centers.
So yeah, no, let me ask you, because one thing that strikes me as I listened to you, you talk and sort of researching your background, you know, it’s safe to say that you’ve influenced 1000s of people at this point in terms of their of empowering them, where it concerns math, is there an anecdote, a piece of feedback, something specific that you’ve received over the years that really stands out for you, that really impacted you in terms of, you know, a sense of pride and, you know, something that you took away that thought, wow, that’s really impactful for me.
Yeah, I’ve got a, I can quickly tell you my, my personal resume, by the first page is the usual cover page. The second and third pages are standard resume. The fourth page under under references, it says see next 20 pages. And what I have there is documented from from the 70s all the way into the to the 2000 20s comments from teachers, parents, my kids, and probably the one that really stands out was working in inner city high school. And these kids were coming out with these because the school was in serious dire rates in terms of the educational product that they were delivering. The end of the year in my first year there, I asked the kids at the on their final exam just tell me something they liked and didn’t like about the class. And one really, really jumped out at me, a young lady said, the reason I do good in this class is because of the teacher. And that was a nice start. But she went on to say, Well, I’m actually she she said, he seems strange, but he’s not. Well, I don’t know if she was half right or completely right. I’m not sure. But anyway, she but what she said was the tagline to that was, he respects you. So you respect him? You know, a lot. A lot of folks I know who were involved in the education business think that respect is a one way street. It’s not that maybe when they keep the personal. And that’s what something that sense of dignity and, and respect is something that I really instill in instructors. I’ve been doing Mathnasium for the last 20 years, I’ve probably been doing it for another five or six, too, because I need to set this in place so that someday I’m actually going to retire. We’ll see about that.
Larry, let me ask you really quickly for parents listening and watching. How can a parent tell if their child is struggling in math?
No, certainly attitude is right here, right at the right at the forefront of that. You know, I mean, the kids are saying, you know, we keep hearing reports of kids saying, you know, I, I’m not a math person, like, second and third grade. That’s very depressing to hear that. Needless to say. So one, that’s one big clue up the frustration that kids have been doing their homework, no homework should be an extension of what went on in the class, not a brand new experience for the kid. And if kids are experiencing it as a brand new phenomenon, that is they’re not connecting what goes on in school to the homework. That is another really clear sign that that’s some extra help of some some form is going to be needed. Think your second? I mean, it’s your parent yourself? Yes. So I mean, I, you know, when you see your kids work you’re working on, on whatever they bring home from school, it’s probably pretty apparent that either they’re getting it’s getting through to them, or it’s not. I mean, it’s pretty straightforward in that respect. I can’t, you know, the, the manifest, it’s kind of, in my mind Deleuze with the 10,000 things that can influence the way that kids approach to math screens that they need help. But it’s primarily what, you know, how the kid is projecting what math with the experience that they’re having been in doing their homework, and, you know, coming home from school, you know, when a kid comes home and says, Mom, I really learned something today. You know, that’s a great thing for parents, needless to say. But when kids come home and math by the way, I, I’d like to make a statement here, if I could, of course, you may have heard people walking around saying I hate math. Now fairly common expression. I’m gonna make a very bold statement here and say people don’t really hate math. What they hate is being frustrated, intimidated, bored, at times embarrassed by math. It’s not the math itself that most people just like, it’s the experience that they have in the process of learning the math minds knowing how to make proper change, or how to get a good deal on a car as an adult. The problem is not the math itself. The problem is the delivery system that has been developed over in this country and around the world in the last one 120 years, 125 years when math edge when mass education became a phenomenon. You know, we’re, you know, we’re not educating just, you know, the children of the elite anymore. But you know, we’re, everybody goes to school. And we’ve never really gotten it together so that everybody has an equal opportunity to be able to benefit from the system. But as I said, I don’t really think that people hate math, I think is that the frustration? Basically, it’s having a problem with the messenger because they don’t like the news.
Larry Martin, Nick, it has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for spending time with us today. Larry is the chief in Chief Information Officer, instructional officer, instructional officer at Mathnasium. We really appreciate your time today.
Thank you so much. Lianne. It was a pleasure being with you.
Thank you. Hang on one second. Sure.
During an interview with Lianne Castelino of Where Parents Talk, the Chief Instructional Officer at Mathnasium,
“a math-only learning centre,” describes the root causes of declining math scores globally, what can be done to fix this ongoing downward trend, and what has contributed to Mathnasium’s rapid growth.
Since opening its first location in California in 2002, Mathnasium has grown to 90 locations in seven provinces in Canada and more than 1,000 centres across the United States.
Martinek, who spent almost 30 years teaching math to middle and high school students is also an author, teacher trainer and consultant.
Here is an excerpt of an interview with Larry Martinek:
What do you believe has contributed to creating this current state where math seems to be such struggle for so many kids today?
One of the major problems is the lack of people going into the math teaching profession. Many kids are instructed in the US and in Canada by folks who are not credentialed math teachers. They’re doing a great job against all odds, but it’s not the same as having a person who has dedicated their career to going to college, getting a degree in math, getting a credential and then going out and teaching.
Also, the panorama of what’s been going on since roughly about 1960, in terms of changing curriculum . [It] seems like we change curriculum every six or seven years, whether we need to or not. That’s causing massive confusion among regular math teachers.
In some jurisdictions, families have been given financial incentives by the government to pay for extra math help for their children, through tutors, etc. What is your response to that approach?
I wish we could do it all in school, but the job is so big that it can’t be done completely in school.
We’ve got an awful lot of work to do ahead of us.
What is the secret behind The Mathnasium Method™ attributing to its success?
We do an assessment so we meet the kids where they’re at. If classroom teachers had ability, it would be a very different panorama out there. By meeting kids where they are at —- what that means Is —the first thing we give them is going to be the next thing they need to learn, not something way in the future. This is a worldwide problem.
One of the cornerstones of The Mathnasium Method™ is the amount of mental and verbal work we do with kids. Math is often thought of pretty much as a written phenomenon. But long before you do any writing, you’ve got to think math. And so our emphasis is initially on the mental component and the visual component.
At Mathnasium headquarters, we’ve been in every classroom situation you can imagine and we bring that wisdom to how we develop materials, and very importantly how we train our instructors to not just teach kids mechanics, but to teach kids actually how to think math, which bestows on them the ability to do the mechanics, from a position of actually understanding it, as opposed to just kind of praying that it’s gonna be right.
How does The Mathnasium Method™ compare to having a tutor?
Tutors don’t typically pull into a student’s house with a sophisticated assessment system and 20,000 pages of material to draw on to create a program for that kid. Basically, what they’re doing is getting through tonight’s homework and getting ready for Friday’s test.
There are some programs that emphasize heavily on problem solving but not so much on them mechanics. At Mathnasium, we want it all. We want our kids to be numerically fluent, that is they know their number facts, they know the basic algorithms, and also, they can apply that in a meaningful problem-solving environment.
Mathnasium method is taught in, in five modalities mental, visual, verbal, tactile and written.
What signs should parents watch for that indicate their child may be struggling in math?
Certainly attitude is right there, right at the forefront of that.
It’s primarily how the kid is projecting what experience they’re having in doing their homework.
I’m gonna make a very bold statement here and say people don’t really hate math. What they hate is being frustrated, intimidated, bored, at times embarrassed by math. It’s not the math itself that most people dislike, it’s the experience that they have in the process of learning the math.
During his interview with Where Parents Talk, Larry Martinek also discusses:
- How The Mathnasium Method™ was developed
- His lived experience as a math teacher
- Tips for parents to support math learning at home
OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment’s (PISA): Math Performance
Fraser Institute: Math Performance in Canada
First Year Investment of Ontario’s Four-Year Math Strategy Announced: Press Release
Province Takes Action to Ensure Students Catch Up: Press Release