March 14 is not just another day in the calendar for math enthusiasts – it’s Pi (∏) Day. And for students at Mathnasium Learning Centres across Canada, it’s a good reason to celebrate the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter – 3.14 – appropriately in the third month of the year, on the 14th day of the month.
A rewards program for students, whimsical décor and celebrations to mark important math days are just some of ways Mathnasium makes math fun. But, in addition to the lighter side of the subject, the learning centre has a thoughtful approach that focuses on reasoning ahead of memorization and repetition to build a fundamental understanding and love for the subject, says Harpal Kalsi, general manager, Mathnasium Canada.
Students can redeem the reward points immediately or save them for a larger item in the onsite rewards cabinet.
“We have rewards the kids enjoy: last year fidget spinners were popular, and there are big items they can save up for, like Xboxes,” he says.
Larry Martinek, a former teacher and founder of the Mathnasium Method, began work on the unique approach 40 years ago to communicate with his son, Nic, who was naturally very analytical. He created a way to help children understand math by developing their instincts for the subject.
“It’s pretty easy to forget things you memorize and near impossible to forget things you understand,” he said.
In 2002, Peter Markovitz and David Ullendorff made Mr. Martinek’s work the foundation of Mathnasium.
Children from grades 2 to 12 attend the learning centres across North America – at 60 locations in Canada by year end and over 800 in the U.S. Each new student is assessed and benefits from an individualized learning plan, says Mr. Kalsi, adding that the ratio of instructor to students is 1:4.
Unlike other organizations, we focus on and prepare children to be successful in the future. To do that, they need to understand math, have fun with it, and not regard it as something ominous – we don’t want learned helpfulness.— Harpal Kalsi, General manager, Mathnasium Canada
“We focus on individualized learning in a team environment,” adds Mr. Kalsi. “Unlike other organizations, we focus on and prepare children to be successful in the future. To do that, they need to understand math, have fun with it, and not regard it as something ominous – we don’t want learned helpfulness.”
In fact, several former students enjoyed the approach so much they have rejoined Mathnasium as instructors and even as franchisees. “Franchise partners don’t have to be teachers. We train them in our Mathansium Methodology.”
“As long as they have the willingness, ability and empathy to share the Mathnasium Method – that’s what we look at,” says Mr. Kalsi.
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.