Teaching all children Mathematics may well be possible. That’s the inspiring lesson delivered by **Dr. John Mighton** at an April 24 Public Lecture, sponsored by the **Mount Saint Vincent Faculty of Education,** and attended by 150 curious educators and concerned parents. He is the founder of **JUMP** (**Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies),** a Toronto-based charitable organization that seeks to *“multiply the potential in children”* and to instill in them the joy of truly mastering mathematics.

Mighton is an incredibly talented mathematician on a mission. Founded as a kitchen-table tutoring group in 1998, **JUMP Math** is presently challenging the prevailing math education **“discovery math”** ideology embraced by North American curriculum consultants and reinforced in textbooks and online resources published by giant learning industry multinationals, **Pearson** and **Oxford/Nelson**. Since June of 2013, JUMP Math is breaking out with new adoptions in Manitoba, Calgary, and Vancouver where teachers are looking to significantly improve elementary level student math performance.

The founder of JUMP Math shot to prominence in 2003 with the publication of his book, ** The Myth of Ability. **Leading mathematicians like

**Dr. Robert Dawson,**Editor of the

**, sat up and took notice. In the Newsletter, he compared Mighton to the classroom teacher**

*Canadian Mathematical Society Not*es**Jaime Escalante**in the inspiring feature film,

**. Both educators, he noted, embraced the idea that mathematics was “something that everybody can learn to do.” His book, he added, “may be a big step in that direction.”**

*Stand and Deliver*The **Mathematics Education Wars** are fought on contested pedagogical terrain and Mighton’s JUMP Math is emerging as a logical and welcome middle ground. In his recent lectures, he makes a persuasive case for a “balanced’ approach, starting with fundamentals and then empowering students to engage in creative problem-solving activities. He’s clear in explaining the limitations of* both* “drill and fill” traditional teaching and “fuzzy Math” promoted by romantic progressives.

“Students must be empowered to succeed” is his consistent message. Beginning math instruction is broken down into tiny and carefully-structured chunks, that any student, working with any teacher, can learn thoroughly. It’s teacher-guided but also exploratory and provides elementary students with the scaffolding needed to possess the knowledge and skills to eventually tackle creative problem-solving. “Teachers are my heroes,” he says, because they are the ones who have driven the spread of JUMP Math, not the math consultants.

Canadians tend to be slow to embrace their own heroes and seek validation of their talents elsewhere. Mighton holds a** Ph.D**. in mathematics from the **University of Toronto,** completed **NSERC postdoctoral research** in knot and graph theory, teaches Mathematics at U of T, and in 2010 was appointed an **Officer of the Order of Canada**. He’s also a playwright and script writer, known in Hollywood for his star turn in the feature film** Good Will Hunting.**

Mighton’s JUMP Math has evolved significantly over the past decade and now boasts supportive classroom effectiveness research, including studies at **Toronto Sick Kids Hospital**. in **Lambeth, UK**, and at the **Mabin School**. While he was once “the nation’s math conscience,” **Manitoba Education Minister James Allum** now sees his approach as giving that province an edge over provinces like **Alberta,** wedded to the standard **Western and Northern Canada Protocol (WNCAP) curriculum** and continuing with “less successful methods”.

What’s standing in the way of Mathematics education reform? Two key factors jump out as the obvious explanation – the established “Discovery Learning” ideology and the preponderant influence of its proponents, the late **Richard Dunne (**1944-2012), creator of ** Maths Makes Sense**, and his Canadian counterpart,

**Dr. Marian Small,**purveyor of Nelson mathematics problem-solving books. They are a formidable force backed by the

**Pearson**and

**Oxford/Nelson**publishing conglomerates and a small army of textbook author replicators here in Canada.

Richard Dunne and his Canadian camp followers talk about mathematics but their real agenda is to promote a “whole school approach” to discovery learning. His distinctive teaching style, initiated at **Reading Boys’ Grammar School** in the late 1960s, uses concrete “manipulatives” to help kids understand math concepts. Based upon his theories rather than research, Dunne cut a plastic cup into 10 pieces to demonstrate the meaning of decimals and then developed other dramatic demonstration techniques to introduce children to abstract ideas.

Dunne was a teacher and math consultant rather than a mathematician. His earlier version of ** Maths Makes Sense **published in the 1980s proved popular with teachers who were non-specialists, but was resisted by many university based mathematicians and then rejected by the British Government in 1989 with the introduction of a more rigorous

**National Curriculum.**Panned in the U.K., his teaching methods enjoyed greater popularity in North America and his version of “Discovery Math” made a comeback in 2007 with the re-publication of

*Maths Makes Sense.*Dunne’s “whole school approach” was embraced by North American math consultants education schools seeking to promote “discovery learning” in all subject areas. Secondary school mathematics specialists remained skeptical and most stayed true to traditional methods, but Discovery Math made deep inroads among regular elementary teachers, often with little or no mathematics training. It achieved the height of its influence in Canada when the **WNCP Math curriculum** spread across the provinces, supported by the **Pearson Canada** ** Math Makes Sense** series of books and online resources.

Declining Mathematics achievement levels from 2003 to 2012, on PISA and Canadian national tests, began to raise red flags. A **WISE Math movement**, sparked by Winnipeg math professors **Anna Stokke** and **Robert Craigen**, demonstrated the direct relationship between declining scores and the spread of Dunne-inspired WNCP curricula. In September 2013, **Manitoba** re-introduced **Math fundamentals and approved JUMP Math** for use in the schools. Over the past year, the number of students studying JUMP Math has jumped from **90,000 to 110,000** as more and more schools are breaking with the entrenched Discovery Math methods and adopting a more systematic, teacher-guided, step-by-step progression in their teaching of early mathematics.

**What’s standing in the way of Math correction in North American elementary schools? Why has the “total school approach” made such inroads in the teaching of Mathematics in the early grades? Can all or the vast majority of students be taught Mathematics? Will Dr. John Mighton eventually be vindicated for promoting fundamental building blocks? Which of the Canadian provinces will be next in abandoning the core philosophy of the Discovery Math/WNCP curriculum?**

on April 26, 2014 at 5:31 pm |@edubeatJUMP Math is now more accessible than ever before and at a reasonable price….You can get the appropriate grade level JUMP math exercise books at both Target and Wal-Mart … I encourage all the parents and teachers in my (tutoring) practice to purchase it. It acts as an antidote to the ‘shudder’ math curricula espoused by the faddish educrats, publishers and school boards.

on April 27, 2014 at 10:01 am |JamieHi @edubeat:

Two things to keep in mind. It is best to order JUMP workbooks from the JUMP website, as these are the “authentic” JUMP books. The JUMP books that are on the market from stores have a separate license, which means they may be changed from original; as well, to the best of my understanding, the JUMP books have been reworked several times post-licensing.

MORE IMPORTANTLY, JUMP student books are really for practice and assessment purposes, they are not the instructional component of JUMP. The JUMP program consists of lessons delivered by teachers and outlined in the JUMP Teacher Guides which are online and can be down loaded by anyone for free at the JUMP MATH website.

It’s important to keep in mind that children need the lessons as delivered by a teacher (or tutor). Children who get the practice books have not had the JUMP program, per se.

on February 15, 2015 at 6:20 pm |L. KempA tip for parents: It isn’t necessary to order the teachers JUMP workbooks from the JUMP website. I have used the “JUMP At Home: Worksheets for the JUMP Math Program” available at Chapters for several years with my kids, currently in grades 3 and 5. The copyright belongs to John Mighton, and they are published by the House of Anansi Press.

I can see that teaching JUMP Math in a classroom, where the pace of progress would naturally vary among students, would require specific training. (Dr. Mighton describes some of his approaches to classroom teaching in his books.) But when helping one or two of your own children at home, I don’t think special training is necessary. The beginning of every workbook has information describing the approach and guidance for parents who want to use it.

When my kids have trouble with something learned in class or their textbook, usually there has been a leap in ideas or difficulty that was too great for them to make. In my experience, the biggest value of the workbooks and the JUMP Math approach is the breaking down of math operations and concepts into small, incremental slices. It just seems to work really well.

on April 27, 2014 at 10:46 am |WISE MathAt WISE Math we endorse the use of JUMP Math.

on April 27, 2014 at 11:58 am |Jo-Anne Gross“What’s standing in the way of Math correction in North American elementary schools?”Paul said.

After all these years,I smell a relationship between publishers and Ministries of Ed.

As Jump is independent of that relationship,it seems his efficacy and logic and proven methods aren`t the reason to change instruction-as insane as that may seem.

I`m rooting for them and John.

on April 27, 2014 at 8:41 pm |Paul W. BennettThe dominance of Pearson Canada in implementing Math Makes Sense is amply demonstrated in Professional Development webinars which amount to e-Text Walk-Throughs for elementary teachers. Pearson’s electronic textbooks are even described as “fabulous new resources.”

In the case of Nova Scotia, the October 9, 2013 webinar sponsored by the Department of Education gave free reign to Kelly Ronan, a Pearson Education Canada representative.

http://dvl.ednet.ns.ca/videos/mathematics-3-math-makes-sense-3-etext-walk-through

The provincial curriculum consultants, Robin Harris (Mathematics) and Eric Therrien (IT/Math & Science), not only endorse the Pearson series, but defer to the Pearson staffer who is not a mathematics specialist. We also learn that Nova Scotia has purchased a 7-year license for the mathematics resources.

Try to imagine all Grade 3 teachers in Nova Scotia as they follow along and learn to implement the complete Pearson curriculum package with e-text, videos, and electronic manipulatives.

on April 27, 2014 at 9:51 pm |Jo-Anne GrossYes Paul,that`s the problem,publishers with untested materials that either work or cause real problems in a child`s academic life.There needs to be efficacy studies before these curriculums go across the country.

Strange how Jump Math has to compete to be the Ministries’ choice.

I`d love to see this in the press.

on April 28, 2014 at 2:44 pm |math teacherThe direction that many provinces have taken in adopting the discovery approach to teaching mathematics is nothing short of a national disaster. More and more students are showing up in the high schools devoid of the essential basic skills that are necessary for success with higher mathematics. The claim made by discovery proponents that the method develops greater problem solving and understanding is plain false. A career of teaching math shows me that the opposite is closer to the truth. I urge that parents and other interested parties demand an end to this unproven experimentation with the futures of our children.

on April 29, 2014 at 12:00 am |Tara HouleExcellent article Dr. Bennett. Thank you.

on April 29, 2014 at 1:00 am |Paul WohlgemuthIf you like this article, and live in Alberta, go here and support the back to basics math petition.

https://www.change.org/petitions/back-to-basics-mastering-the-fundamentals-of-mathematics.

As a Practicing Professional Engineer I fully support a math program that builds skill from the early years through to University. Our current Curriculum in Alberta (WNCAP) clearly does not do that.

on April 29, 2014 at 2:03 pm |Tunya AudainMath For Prosperity or Obedience?

Our BC radio station CKNW has a series going — Putting BC To Work. On April 17 they had Forbes Magazine writer, Susan Adams, discussing Best and Worst Jobs for the Future. She said the #1 Best Job was Mathematician with an Average Salary of $100,000. Furthermore, she said, the projection is that demand for mathematicians will continue at a 23% job growth rate.

Everyone who cares for economic prosperity AND good jobs for young people should get behind the restoration of sanity in math education.

Only those who believe in dumbing-down populations to a Grade 6 level* for maximum obedience to a New World Order will persist in discovery-type experiments in school subjects.

* — Why Grade 6 level ? Because: 1) Propaganda experts gear most effective campaigns for Gr 6 reading, mental level; 2) Dummies books geared to Gr 6 level.

on May 1, 2014 at 3:31 pm |Paul W. BennettA recent American comparative analysis of Mathematics textbooks raised serious questions about the Pearson North America texts and e-resources. Two U.S. textbooks, Saxon Math and Math Expressions, came out ahead of the Pearson North America products. Here’s the research summary:

http://www.ernweb.com/educational-research-articles/best__math_curricula_elementary_school-evidence/

Thanks to David Staples, Education Blogger at the Edmonton Journal, for unearthing this research.

Does anyone know of Canadian research comparing Pearson’s Math Makes Sense with the competition? What competition? FRom what we hear JUmp Math is hidden in a lot of teacher desks.

on May 5, 2014 at 5:04 am |Doug LittleMighton himself says JUMP is a form of discovery math.

on May 6, 2014 at 2:10 pm |Paul W. BennettYou got it half right, Doug. He is providing a valuable bridge between learning the fundamentals and proceeding to creative problem-solving. You might consider re-reading my commentary wherte I argue that he strikes a balance in his approach.

on May 6, 2014 at 2:18 pm |Paul W. BennettTeaching Math with manipulatives is creeping up into high school. The current issue of the Canadian Journal of Education, Vol. 36 (2013), may even suggest that using manipulatives with Grade 9 students is regarded as “best practice.” Read it and weep:

http://journals.sfu.ca/cje/index.php/cje-rce/article/view/955

Turning the Math ship around will be a challenge if this manipulatives experiment is considered worthy of emulation.

on June 5, 2014 at 4:32 am |Mr LindsayOne question that needs clarification is what ‘teaching with manipulatives’ means? For example, Jump Math uses a ten-frame. Is this ok? What is or isn’t ok? Any pointers on this issue would be greatly appreciated.

on June 5, 2014 at 8:19 am |Paul W. BennettTeaching with manipulatives is only objectionable when it is used to excess and to the exclusion of other methods. It’s fundamental to start with the fundamentals of Mathematics and to focus on mastering those math facts and standard algorithms. Using objects or manipulatives can be helpful, especially with students who learn through such strategies. The beauty of Jump Math is that it successfully combines mastery of Math basics with creative problem solving.

on July 28, 2014 at 11:34 am |Correcting Math Education: What Gives Students ...[…] “Teaching all children Mathematics may well be possible. That’s the inspiring lesson delivered by Dr.” […]