JUMP Math: Dr. John Mighton Makes Math Accessible for All

Like many people, Dr. John Mighton grew up struggling with math. But rather than conclude that he simply lacked innate mathematical talent, Dr. Mighton earned his doctoral degree in math and went on to develop a revolutionary new education program called JUMP Math. Now he and JUMP are working worldwide to dispel the myth that some people just aren't good at math. Schools offering Mathematics degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Dr. John Mighton JUMP Math founder

Learn.org: Your biography describes you as an author, playwright and mathematician. What's your educational background, and how did all these diverse interests come together to lead you to become an innovator in math education?

Dr. John Mighton: I have an MA in Philosophy and a Ph.D. in Math. My background in philosophy helped me think more deeply about the problems students face learning mathematics and my background in math helped me develop the materials and methods of teaching.

DD.org: What inspired JUMP Math and how was the organization founded?

JM: I struggled with math and only developed the confidence I needed to study it in my thirties. I founded JUMP as a tutoring club to help students who struggle because I had struggled myself. The project has grown into a full classroom program since then.

DD.org: Your website describes JUMP Math as a 'numeracy program' designed to teach any student math, no matter his or her innate ability. Can you elaborate on what a numeracy program is and how it can help make math accessible to any student?

JM: We train teachers and supply teachers with guides and student workbooks that cover the full curriculum from grades one to eight. The program shows teachers how to break math into steps that all students can manage, how to assess students' understanding and how to build their confidence.

DD.org: Is the JUMP Math curriculum used primarily in formal classrooms or at home and in tutoring situations? Is there an ideal age for JUMP Math, or can it be used by learners at any level?

JM: The program is mainly used in classrooms, but it is also used by parents at home and by tutors. It can be used by learners at any level.

DD.org: How widespread is the JUMP Math program - about how many students are currently using it and in what countries? Has JUMP Math been used to promote access to math education in any developing countries?

JM: JUMP is used as the main classroom resource in math by about 65,000 students. Another 20,00 students use the program at home or with a tutor.

Some private schools in South Africa are using JUMP to tutor disadvantaged students.

DD.org: Where could a math educator go to learn more about getting JUMP Math for his or her classroom?

JM: To the JUMP Math website. All of our teachers' guides are currently available for free on the site, but you need to register to access them. Information on how to order student workbooks is also on the site.

DD.org: You founded the JUMP Math program - are you still involved with the education side of it? In what ways?

JM: I still help train teachers and develop new materials.

DD.org: You're also currently a fellow at the Fields Institute in Toronto. What projects are you working on there? Do any of them relate to your work in math education?

JM: The Fields Institute hosts many of our Toronto training sessions. I am also working on my own research in graph theory at the Institute.

DD.org: And, as noted above, you're a playwright who's had his work produced all over the world. Has your research and experience in math education influenced any of your writing? In what ways?

JM: I get most of my best ideas for my plays from math and science. I have written one play called 'The Little Years' based on my experiences in education. It is about a girl growing up in the fifties who loves mathematics and science but who is discouraged from studying those subjects.

DD.org: Do you have any upcoming plays or other projects that you'd like to share with our readers?

JM: The Little Years will be produced at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival this summer.

DD.org: Finally, I'd like to give you the opportunity to share anything you'd like about JUMP Math and your work in math education.

JM: Math is more interesting and easier to learn than people think. Success in math depends on how much you practice and on how you are taught.

It can take time to master a concept or skill in math. Most people don't practice enough to become good at the subject because they get convinced that they don't have the ability. JUMP Math is trying to do something about that problem.

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