Joe Mignone's founding story for Mathnasium of Paoli
1. Our favorite “aha!” moment with a student.
A: We have a young student who is a very visual learner and has trouble conceptualizing numbers. Problems involving place value and what number came before or after had been challenging for her as she could not visualize the order. We took out place value blocks and had her build each number with them. Being able to see the numbers in front of her, she realized that it was easy to see which was the biggest. It was a perfect example of how sometimes students need to be presented with concepts in a different way. When learning subtraction, students might not automatically know that 7-4 = 3 but if we can show them what it actually looks like or put it in a way that makes sense to them, those problems begin to seem much easier.
2. A time when a student earned a reward.
A: We recently had a student get to Level 6 (currently the only student at that level)! He worked so hard to get there and it was fun to see the other students and instructors cheer him on. We were all so proud of him when he reached that level because we saw the diligence and self-discipline he had to get there. There were several times he completed pages before we could even grade them because he was so motivated to reach his goal! His new goal is to be an instructor here when he is old enough!
3. Positive parent experience.
A: We worked with a student recently who was really struggling in school. Her parents were concerned about her progress--she was close to understanding the material but wasn't quite where she needed to be yet on grade level. After working with our instructors twice a week for a couple months, and seeing the material being presented in a few ways that made sense to her, she is now much more confident in class. Not only have her grades improved, but she is also going up the whiteboard in class more frequently to show off her skills to other students! Her parents were so proud of all she had accomplished--they shared with us the new passion she had for math. Not only was math less scary, but she enjoyed showing off her new skills!
4. Favorite ways to teach concepts.
A: With younger children (and occasionally with older children as well), we like to use what we call the "cookie method," where we translate more abstract mathematical problems like "what is half of 3" to problems involving tangible objects like cookies. So "what is half of 3" becomes "If you have 3 cookies and you eat half of them, how many cookies are left over?" We often have the students draw these cookies or represent them with manipulatives like blocks, erasers, or whatever the student is most comfortable with. It's a simple change, but we find that it really brings problems down to earth for students.
5. A time when a student scored well on a test.
A: Recently, we've given out many extra punches and full reward cards to students who have been attending regularly because of the progress on their exams in school. Many of our students have come in with A's on their exams, and A's all year in math because of the hard work they do in the center! We love to be able to reward them for a job well-done both in and out of the center.