Numbers add up for Hooksett Mathnasium franchise owner

May 13, 2013
Math is sometimes seen as a subject students either love or hate, something they simply get or don't get.

Not necessarily so, says Mathnasium, which brought its franchise and its motto, "children don't hate math," to Hooksett earlier this year.

"A lot of students over the years come to feel like math is something that's just torture, and they kind of hide in the back of the classroom. They hope the teacher doesn't call on them," said Martha Gagnon, center director. "They might be embarrassed, frustrated, so by the time they come to us, they just hate math."

Mathnasium aims to help them get over their anxiety.

"Once they see that we can help them make sense of math, they start to overcome their frustration, and they end up wanting to come to Mathnasium," she said. "Maybe no one ever explained it to them that way, and a lot of students end up having all of their grades improving, not just math, because they have a better outlook, more confidence."

Mathnasium, a franchise tutoring center for students in grades 2-12, opened in January. The center's memberships function like those with a gym: once a member, students may come to gymnasium as often as they like, even every day. The programs are tailor-made to student needs.

Students take an oral diagnostic-test, followed by a written test based on the oral's results, which is used to create a customized learning plan for the child.

A third of the time is spent with this customized lesson plan. The other two thirds are given to something called "number sense" and working on homework.

"A lot of the students have a real hard time with their homework, and their parents don't feel comfortable helping them because they didn't learn things necessarily the same way that students are learning them now, and it ends up being a frustration in the family," Gagnon said.

Number sense is the intuitive grasp of numbers and patterns which is as innate in the mind as language. Mathnasium attempts to reintroduce that concept to students, freeing them from the frustrating mire of rote memorization.
Jillian Roster, left, and Bailey Caulfield study at Mathnasium, which recently opened in Hooksett. (COURTESY)

The center also works to instill this number sense in students who struggle with it, using exercises to get children off of counting on their hands or get them to think in doubles, for instance.

"Number sense is something that comes naturally to some kids and not to others," she said. "What we do is we try to work with them on things like counting and grouping, proportional thinking so that when they get older, they're not coming up with an answer to a math problem and not even know when their answer is completely off the wall, and the earlier we can start working with them, the better."

Gagnon's background is in computers, and she once served as the youngest programmer at New Hampshire Insurance. After returning home from a three-year stay in Alaska, she began thinking about the next step, which she found after she heard a radio advertisement for Mathnasium.

"I've always loved math, and I was kind of at a crossroads, so I decided to pursue the opportunity," Gagnon said. "I went out and met with Mathnasium in Los Angeles, and I guess you could say the rest is history."

Mathnasium is open Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cost varies between programs, but according to Gagnon, parents generally end up paying something in the range of $20 to $25 per hour of instruction. The center also has an SAT prep program, which is offered to regular high school members at no extra charge.

-- Brendan Clogston
New Hampshire Union Leader
Sunday, May 5, 2013


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