Our History - Mathnasium

Nov 26, 2020 | Schertz

Ever wonder how Mathnasium got its start, or what exactly it is that makes Mathnasium so special? Today, we’re going to share the story of how Mathnasium began and the man behind the legend. 


More than forty years ago, math educator Larry Martinek was inspired to find a better way to teach children math. In addition to being a classroom teacher, consultant for public and top private schools, and a trainer to other teachers, Larry fathered a mathematically gifted son, the combination of these things gifted him with a uniquely comprehensive view of education. He quickly identified a troubling theme in mathematical instruction: a “serious disconnect between students’ basic skills training and the curriculum they were expected to master in the years to come” - he believed they were not being properly prepared for their future. 


“[Nic, my son] had a candy bar… and he cut it into two pieces. Now, he said he had ‘half and half.’ The only thing was, it was really about 60/40. The question is, as a math teacher, what do I say to this child who’s only 3 years old? Well, I could have said, ‘Hey Nic, that’s not half, because half means the division of a while into two equal parts,’ but that would have gone right over his head. I said, ‘Hey Nic. That’s not half, because half means…’ - and for the first time in my life, I uttered four words that changed my life -’ ...two parts the same.’ Yep. I knew I was onto something because Nic said, ‘Oh! And he cut it perfectly in half.” - Larry Martinek


At this point Larry had been teaching for nine years. Although he was a well regarded teacher, he admitted that he had been teaching right out of the book. He was teaching the same way that he was taught, which is a natural tendency. But his son, Nic worked as a new force for him. He realized that the difference between “two parts the same” and the “division of a whole means two equal parts” for a three-year-old, is the same difference that goes on in classrooms every day across the world. Teachers are saying things that don’t get through to kids. The syntax is not particularly kid-friendly.


Here at Mathnasium, we change the way people think about math, and that includes our instructors. Students, and parents, come in with their own understanding of things, but it’s primarily an accumulation of the way that they were taught. We strive to be an outside force for our kids.

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