How Nic & Larry Changed the World of Math Education

Aug 13, 2022 | Red Deer


Did you know that there are thousands of students attending Mathnasium centres all over the world every day? Mathnasium has been around for 20 years and its more than 1,000 centres are spread in all five continents. But what’s the story behind Mathnasium? The story started way back almost 50 years ago in California.


Larry Martinek: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Larry Martinek is the Principal Educational Advisor of Mathnasium and the creator of the powerful Mathnasium Method. He is a veteran math teacher in his over 40 years of making math make sense. He was a math teacher, graduated from California State University with a degree in Mathematics and a minor in Physics, in 1973. Over the following decades, he worked as a teacher, curriculum designer, teacher trainer, and consultant in public and top private schools. 


Nick & Larry 

Larry was also a father to a mathematically gifted son, Nic, and his Mathnasium Method was the result of his experience teaching his son, using an approach combining oral, visual, mental and written modalities to build children’s Number Sense. 

Unfortunately Nic died in 1999 at the age of 19 in a car accident. As a legacy to his son – who said to his dad not long before he died “dad, why don’t you teach other children the way you teach me?” – Larry continued to refine the curriculum that became the Mathnasium Method in 2002, when he became the Chief Instructional Officer of Mathnasium LLC. 


A Quick Look Through the Years

Age: almost 8

“Dad, do you think I know half of 13 1/2?” ... “Nope.”

“Well, 6 and a half and a quarter.” (Nick was breaking down 13 ½ to 12 + 1 + ½ and halving all the three numbers). 

Age 8: 

Larry: “How much is a half plus a third (1/2 + 1/3)?

Nick: ½ is the same as 1 ½ thirds. So 1 ½ thirds plus 1/3 is 2 ½ thirds; doubled up, that makes 5/6.”

(Genius! Honestly, as a new owner of a Mathnasium centre, when I read this, it was like having a eureka moment; because I was so used thinking in a procedural way – just like most people i.e. change both denominators so they become 3/6 plus 2/6; using Nick’s way is very useful to solve other fractions problems that are more complex). 

Solving 19+19+18 by first rounding up to 20

Age 11: 


Change 5/6 to decimal.

“Five times 10 is 50 and 6 times 10 is 60. Half of 50 is 25 and half of 60 is 30. That’s 75 so far.

Now, to get up to 100, I need a third of 30, which is 10 [60 + 30 + 10 = 100] so I also need a third of 25, which is 8 1/3. So, it’s 0.831/3 [50 + 25 + 8 1/3].”

(Another Eureka moment; I know .. this is a bit overwhelming to follow .. but amazing to see an 11 year old kid could think far beyond his years, and even beyond us adults! He was so creative and so original and so “free” ðŸ˜Š)

It is undoubtedly Nick was a super gifted child who could conceptualize math in his own way and used a unique approach to solve math problems. Larry admits that his son altered his own thinking about education, because he needed to explain serious math to a very young child. “This changed my own approach to thinking about and explaining math to other kids''.


Here comes Mathnasium!

Mathnasium was founded in 2002 by Larry Martinek, David Ullendorff, and Peter Markovitz. The first Mathnasium centre opened in Westwood, L.A., and the company began franchising the following year. Franchisees have to go through four stages of training; two of these stages takes place in L.A., one at the corporate head office and the other one is at one of the corporate centres. We – owners of Mathnasium of Red Deer – did our training at this historic, very first Mathnasium centre, Mathnasium of Westwood. 

And here we are now, making math make sense to children in Red Deer and its surrounding communities – thanks to the hard work of Larry and the legacy of Nic Martinek!

Happy 20th anniversary, Mathnasium!!


Yani & Riwan in front of Mathnasium Head Office in Los Angeles, after the last training, February 2020.

Mathnasium of Red Deer is your neighbourhood’s math-only learning centre, and we are here to unlock your child’s potential and set them on a path to lifetime success. Our centre director, Riwan, and the whole team, would be happy to meet you! We are conveniently located in the shopping destination area in Red Deer: 5250 22nd St, Unit 30 B – at the Gaetz Avenue Crossing shopping centre, in the same area as Chapters Indigo/Starbucks, Michael Arts, Petland and Ashley, and the phone number is 403-872 MATH (6284). 

Sign up today for a Free Assessment!