Toronto, Canada

Jumping Ahead with Math!

Jump Math

February 11, 2010

Mainstreaming educational opportunity through math success

Who’s afraid of math?

Forget the stereotypes of who can and cannot do math. The philosophy behind the JUMP Math program is that every student has the potential to think mathematically and can excel at math class, including the most disadvantaged children, and those facing the greatest learning challenges.

JUMP (Junior Undiscovered Mathematics Prodigies) mathematics is a teaching programme developed in Toronto by Canadian author and mathematician John Mighton that has shown that success in mathematics  helps develop the confidence and the cognitive abilities that children need to do well in all other subjects.

“We strive to increase children’s chances of success, to reduce socio-economic disparities, to engender a sense of belonging and, most importantly, to endow voiceless children with opportunity.”

Classroom results show that even at-risk students using JUMP Math receive a performance “jump” that raises their academic achievement and puts them close or on par to mainstream standards.  It also improves their scholastic confidence and personal expectations.

How Jump Math succeeds

The JUMP Math program is based on a step-by-step approach to learning that begins with confidence building exercises and methods that minimize the differences between students. As with language learning or music, students master the basics using meaningful cognitive practices and, with success, soon acquire the joy, confidence and creativity to move ahead.

Mighton believes the JUMP Math approach helps reverse stereotypes about mathematical ability that can sideline poor students and lower expectations for their potential to learn and be successful. When all students are viewed as equally capable of learning and succeeding at math, argues Mighton, children feel more confident, less excluded and the classroom dynamics improve.   Success ultimately contributes to more educational opportunity –and less inequality in student outcomes.

Since its founding, JUMP Math has caught the attention of teachers, researchers, and school board officials across Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Toronto. Project managers and participating schools have taken great care to track and evaluate student outcomes and classroom impact.

Toronto teacher,  Mary Jane Moreau, started using the JUMP program in her grade 5 class. At the time, student scores on a standardized computation test ranged from the 37th to the 75th percentile. After a year of JUMP, she says, “all but one were in the 91st-to-the-99th percentile.”

Going global, with confidence

Now Jump Math is on the move, testing its methods and taking its success to classrooms outside Canada.

In 2006, JUMP Math implemented a UK pilot in Lambeth, an inner-city area of London which is the third neediest borough in England and where 79% of the school population is from diverse (BME) groups. Over a three-year period, Lambeth has seen a 7% rise in its national test scores in mathematics, moving from close to the bottom to within two points of the national average.

Based on JUMP Math’s success in Lambeth, the program was recently recognized by the UK Department for Education and Skills in “What Works with Children with Mathematical Difficulties.” Lambeth has been awarded a grant by the London Challenge to make JUMP Math available to more students in Lambeth and other boroughs.

Research at the Vancouver School Board in 2007 reports that teachers also experience increased confidence in their teaching abilities after using the JUMP Math program. What’s more, teachers observed an increased experience of social inclusion among students. The program helped students develop more confidence and fostered “a sense of connection or belonging to the larger group.”

Jump Math is a good example of how good ideas can lead to success reaching well beyond the original proposition. This innovative program helps students enjoy math while levelling the field of opportunity in education — so that no child is left behind.

A surprising journey

Dr. John Mighton is an award-winning playwright and writer  who completed his Ph.D in mathematics and now teaches at the University of Toronto. He began JUMP Math as a student after he himself almost failed his first year of calculus.  A passion for math and his personal belief that we all have mathematical potential led Mighton to found JUMP Math as a kitchen table tutoring group in 1998. Today Jump Math is a charitable organization operating internationally from Toronto.

Mighton has combined research in cognitive science and case-study evidence from the classroom to train teachers and produce free teaching guides that demonstrate how any student can master fluent mathematical literacy given the right kind of practice.

You can read more about Junp Math and the work Mighton has done to dispel classroom myths about learning in his books, The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child and The End of Ignorance. Jump Math was also featured in The New York Times in April 2011: A Better Way to Teach Math.

Try Jump Math for yourself (pdf)!

Making it Work for You:

  • Creating opportunities to build confidence in children establishes a foundation for future success, whatever the field of action.
  • Be wary of sterotypes and unexamined assumptions about people and groups. They will not help you understand or serve your client's needs.
  • JUMP Math used critical community resources to develop its programs --teachers, parents and volunteers. Get involved!
  • Share your success! Online resources allow parents and community members to get involved and create a larger base of materials for use at home and in the classroom.
  • Telling your story persuasively requires facts and solid evidence of success.
  • Benchmark your starting point, measure your progress going forward and use that evidence to revise and improve your methods and outcomes.