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Cultivating A Love Of Math – At Home

Parents often ask me about ways they can supplement their child’s math learning at home. Usually, their motivation is to make sure their child excels and has confidence. I will answer that question, but first I think it is very important to settle on what math is.

What is Math Really About?

Most people would say math is about arithmetic, variables, and equations among other things. This view reduces math to a collection of skills, definitions, and procedures. Sadly, this is a view held by most students and adults alike, and it is a direct result of how we teach math in school. (Don’t get me wrong, these skills are very important, but to focus only on these skills is to miss out on the beauty of mathematics)

The truth is that math is about investigating patterns dealing with quantity, structure, and space. Mathematicians pose questions and then try to explain things simply as possible. This view of math allows for creativity, logic, reason, intuition and inspiration.  That is what makes math fun and engaging, and it’s what we want our kids to discover and embrace.

The Real Tools of Teaching Math – Games, puzzles, and brain teasers.

Too often parents focus on how to accelerate their child through the school curriculum. The idea is to master one skill after another to get ahead. To reach that end, the tools of choice tend to be worksheets, flash cards, and computer programs. These tools can be useful if you are trying to supplement math skill development and memorization because your child isn’t picking it all up in school. However, these tools are focused on teaching skills, and for the most part, kids don’t find them all that fun. The worst part is they remove the most beautiful aspects of math. I want to implore parents to also think about how to teach the other aspects of math that make it an amazingly intriguing and rich field.

To that end, the best tools I know of are games, puzzles and brain teasers. Parents can show their kids the beauty of math by playing games and working to solve puzzles and brain teasers together. A huge added benefit is that by doing these things together, you are guaranteed to share “aha” moments with your child that neither of you will ever forget.

Develop New Attitudes

The attitudes we want to cultivate using these tools are:

  • Perseverance – Too often students get conditioned to think math problems should be quickly solved because of the way we teach math — teacher gives an example of how to do a problem, and then student repeatedly practices that until it is “mastered”.
  • Confidence – Each time a student perseveres and solves a challenging problem, their confidence naturally grows by leaps and bounds.
  • Acting on Instinct – As more and more challenges are completed, the student hones their instinct on what will work best for a new problem. As a result, they solve problems faster and more efficiently.
  • Creativity and Wonder – When working a challenging problem, try several new solution strategies and see if they work. Once a problem is solved, think about ways to extend it. This will stimulate more creativity and wonder.

Games You Can Play

ThinkFun makes engaging puzzles that kids love. Try the following: Rush Hour, Chocolate Fix, Square by Square, and Block by Block.

Gamewright makes family games that your whole family will enjoy playing together. You’ll learn teamwork, logic, planning ahead and other great skills: Forbidden Island, Sleeping Queens, and Loot.

(FYI – ThinkFun and Gamewright games are available at our center. Call 614-792-6284 if you are interested.)

Others: Blokus and Qwirkle

Tip: When you play, discuss your strategies out loud. This will allow your child to learn more advanced strategies without feeling like you are explaining things to them. In addition, they explain their strategies, and you get valuable insight into what they see and how they think.

Books You Can Read

Websites to Explore

  • – logic puzzles and much more. Try family brainstorms.
  • – Free printable puzzles (Sudoku, KenKen, Kakuro, etc)
  • – Math challenges (check out the math index)

Tip: Work on puzzles and brain teasers together. When you think you’ve solved it, try to explain it as simply as possible using words, pictures, diagrams, or equations. Then extend the problem by making some new conjectures and then test them out.

What If Math Wasn’t About Acing the Test?

How would math education change if parents, teachers, and students, weren’t so focused on grades and test scores?

Let’s imagine what that might look like…

  • Kids spared from high-pressure timed-tests
  • Kids spared from incessant practice worksheets and flash cards
  • Kids no longer forced to answer questions they never thought to ask
  • Teachers no longer pressured to “teach to the test”
  • Kids no longer burdened by the fear of wrong answers

With the time we would save, we could…

  • Let kids ask their own questions instead of answering questions
  • They weren’t even interested in yet
  • Let students share their thinking and honor their creative ideas
  • Give students more opportunities to explore and play

As a result, we could raise a generation that actually appreciated mathematics.

Would we end up with more scientists, engineers, or entrepreneurs?

Would we find more people willing and able to tackle the big problems that face our economies and our planet?

I know some of you are thinking this is crazy! Of course, grades matter; we can’t get rid of them! How would we rank kids and rate teachers and schools without tests?

How would we choose who gets into college without the SAT and ACT? How can we be sure that everyone knows enough math to balance their checkbook (no one does that anymore!) or calculate tips and discounts?

You say, just teach math the traditional way. I learned math that way, why can’t everyone else?

I would agree, except there is one extremely important reason we can NOT afford to do it the old way; the old way left millions of intelligent, thoughtful, and curious people behind.

It left them thinking math wasn’t for them. That is an enormous waste of human potential. We can’t afford to let that keep happening!

Today, in the quest for good grades and test scores, we force kids to memorize their facts, master algorithms, and push them through math courses that they’ll probably never need.

A select few make it through today’s school math experience and still enjoy math. But, is it any surprise so many people decide they don’t want to do math after they finish school?

Making a Difference

While all the other extra-curricular math programs focus on raising grades, often at the expense of enjoyment (looking at you Kumon), we at Math Plus Academy strive to ensure every student experiences joy while doing mathematics. It’s that joyful experience that will spark them to want to learn more and continue to pursue mathematics beyond what is required in school.

Special Offer to Kick Off 2017

Sign up for classes before January 21, 2017, and we will make your first month absolutely free. After you complete the first month, we’ll send you a BONUS coupon for $50 off our summer camps! This is a $200 value!!!

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We’ve NEVER done this before and will probably never do it again!

A Documentary All Parents Should See


This past October, I was invited to a screening of True Pursuit, a documentary produced by Tolles Career and Technical Center. The documentary was eye-opening and I want to share it with you.

It highlights how our society has promoted college education at the expense of career and skills training. There are tons of high paying jobs available to people with technical skills!

The movie is thought-provoking. I know many parents, including myself, think that “those schools are nice, but not for MY kids”. The documentary helped me realize that notion is NOT true anymore. There are amazing opportunities available to students who are willing to take advantage of them.

We expect kids will go to school and naturally discover their strengths and purpose. But this is RARE. Most high school graduates have no idea what they want to do (I know I didn’t). With college costing upwards of $20,000/year, only a select few can expect to “find themselves” in college.

Parents need to really think carefully about helping their children find their strengths and purpose. This can involve exploring after-school activities, shadowing professionals at work, volunteer opportunities, internships, and exploring options at places like Tolles Tech.

My goal has always been to provide opportunities for students who have an affinity for math, science, and technology to explore their passions. But, that is only one small piece of a giant puzzle.

Personally, I didn’t discover my purpose until I was 37 years old. I was lucky to find it, most people never do. That said, I often wonder how my life would be different if I had pursued math education at a much younger age. How much more could I have accomplished and how many more people could I have impacted?

I recommend you check out True Pursuit which you can watch online for free starting today. Grab your middle school or high school student and watch it together.

Somewhere within the rhetoric about college & career prep lies our students’ true pursuits.

Documentary Trailer on YouTube

Full True Pursuit Documentary

Mastering Chess: A Beginner’s Guide


Proactive parents like us, enroll our kids in after-school programs like sports, music, and martial arts, with the hope that one of the two will happen:

  1. Our child will develop a passion for the activity and want to excel. In which case, we will continue to invest in that activity.

  2. As a result of participating in the activity, we expect our child will learn “life skills” like perseverance, confidence, or physical fitness.

You are unlikely to find their passion without trying a lot of things. In the meantime, if the activity has practical value regarding life-skills then it may be worth the investment.

Chess is a great game to learn and play, but does it have any practical value?

Here are a few life skills kids can learn from Chess:

Impulse control
Kids start naturally impulsive. The ability to control impulses develops over a lifetime. In chess, careless moves quickly lead to defeat. Chess students learn to Stop – Think – Do — even if they see a good move. Stop and think if there is a better one before you take action. If you fail to do that, you will lose quickly.

Consideration for Another Person’s Perspective
Focusing exclusively on your strategy will also lead to defeat. In chess, you have to be constantly thinking from the other player’s perspective (perspective taking is a key to success). If not, you may not discover a hidden attack or a well-built trap.

Weighing Risk vs. Reward (Cost Benefit Analysis)
Every piece in chess has a value. When is it best to trade pieces? Is it ever worth it to trade a more valuable piece for a less valuable one? (Hint: Yes! But this can only be learned from experience.)

Dealing with Failure
At some point during your career as a chess player, you’re going to lose. If you never lose, you’re probably playing the wrong people. Learning to accept a loss and grow from it is an important life skill that is practiced through chess. Think about how valuable these skills are beyond the chess world?

Controlling your impulses, the ability to see the world from another person’s perspective, being cognizant of the risk-reward trade-offs of your decisions, and dealing with setbacks.

Those sound like skills a leader would find invaluable!

Inspire Your Young Master to Play Chess

Did I mention that playing chess is just plain fun? There’s a reason people have been playing chess for 1500 years!

Our Coach, National Life Master Chess Chuck Diebert, suggests parents try the following to kids excited about chess and teach them the basics.

  1. Book – Anything by Bruce Pandolfini is a good choice. We recommend starting with Beginning Chess
  2. MovieBrooklyn Castle – a documentary about Intermediate School 318, an inner-city public school in Brooklyn, New York, where an after-school chess program has triumphed to build the most winning junior high school chess team in the country.
  3. Website – Try – features learning videos, puzzles, and online play

Try these and let me know how it goes!

PS – If you’re looking for an expert coach and fun environment, try our chess club. Here’s some additional information OR schedule a trial.

Information About Chess Club


  • Coached by National Life Master, Chuck Diebert. He’s great with kids and interweaves the history of chess in ways that kids love.
  • Prepare your child for scholastic chess tournaments.
  • Find playing partners at just the right level. Chess club has a broad range of student ability so your child can find kids at their level as well as others to challenge them to get better.


  • Students learn to Stop-Think-Do
  • Learn to think about the other’s perspective
  • Develop decision-making skills
  • Have fun!

Who is it for?

Kids from first grade on up

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Attitude vs. Aptitude

It’s that time of year again, time to revisit the goals you had for this school year. The kids have settled into the routine of school and first quarter has come and gone.

When you have the opportunity, it would be great to ask your child’s teacher(s) two important questions:

  1. “How would you assess my child’s attitude towards math (enthusiastic, perseverant, lacking confidence, bored, etc.)?”
  2. “How can we help my child become a confident problem-solver?”

Attitude is the most important factor for success in any field, including mathematics, so you’ll want to find out where your child stands.

Is the teacher seeing the same attitudes you observe at home?

Is it time to take action because your child needs a boost or because they need to be challenged more?

Regardless of the math skills students are required to learn, the most important things are whether they have the mindset and ability to apply what they’ve learned to solve problems.

It’s not enough to memorize facts and algorithms that they can execute on a test; you want them to deeply understand concepts and make connections so they can become mathematical problem solvers.

Watch the end of the video above for a fun math exploration that you can do with your child.

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One Thing Parents are Starving to Hear…

Steve Locker, owner of a local youth soccer program who has 19 years of college coaching experience, speaks about a “serious problem with youth sports… a culture where parents seem to be in a race to competition.”

Steve understands that it’s not easy for parents to navigate youth sports. There’s so much pressure from leagues, coaches, and other parents to push kids to specialize and move into higher leagues at a very young age.

He knows parents are starving for someone to say ‘it’s ok to slow this down.’ He shares his lifetime of experiences and clearly shows that a patient approach to sports can and does work.

While he empathizes with parents who are afraid their child won’t be able to compete, he also delivers a strong warning about pushing too hard and too fast.

Watch his talk and you will learn:
  • How a team of “average” players beat the best by taking the slow and deliberate path to growth.
  • You don’t have to be afraid that your child will fall behind just because you didn’t put them in the most competitive (and time consuming) league.
  • Why 70% of all children who specialize in a sport drop out before puberty.
  • How to develop intrinsic motivation instead of having to push and prod. (Hint: It’s what I always say about math… make sure they are having fun FIRST!)
  • How we can reframe the question from “How do I get my child into high school sports?” to “How can I get them to promote their own health and wellness?”.



    How you will balance youth sports with math enrichment and everything else on your child’s schedule?

    Remember, it’s OK to take it slow and play the long game.

Why I Hate Taxes But Still Love Math

Filling out tax forms is tedious, boring, and confusing. The forms make it almost impossible to understand what’s going on.

Sadly, most people think doing math is just as painful, mindless, and confusing.

It doesn’t have to be that way…


See if you can figure out my “IRS version” of the subtraction algorithm. Good luck!

Subtraction Worksheet
Video image for FB

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What Does It Take to Excel at Math?

Most people think excellence starts with natural ability or talent. I disagree!

Attitude is everything. No one ever excelled at anything without having an interest in what they were doing FIRST.

I explain several reasons why kids lose interest in math and I illustrate one simple example where math is engaging for kids.

YOU can start improving your child’s attitude about math today! It’s not as hard as it seems.

Download a Pascal’s Triangle template and play with your kids.

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This is mind-blowing.

It’s also a great activity to do with the kids.

Here’s a link to the template! Give it a try!

Math Plus Academy students complete activities like this all the time! In addition to completing a fun activity, they also earn experience points and credits which they can redeem for things like educational games OR iTunes Gift Cards! Speaking of games, check out this book. We’ve compiled some of our favorite games for home or school!.

Do you live in the Columbus area? Are you interested in finding out more about Math Plus Academy? Click here to meet with one of our Directors to discuss math, math enrichment, programming lab, chess club, and much much more!

Why Bother With Extra Math?

Unless your child is really struggling, why would you invest in extra math classes?

Kids do math at school already and as long as they get good grades, there’s no reason to do more.

Let’s be honest, most kids probably wouldn’t enjoy an extra math class anyway.

Why Parents Invest In Math Plus Academy Classes

It turns out, there are several reasons why parents invest in math enrichment classes rather than doing nothing or trying to go it alone.

1) The majority of kids lose interest in math as they get older (especially girls). So, many parents proactively seek to prevent that from happening. They choose Math Plus, because our classes are fun.

2) Lots of young children are naturally curious about math and what they learn at school just isn’t enough. Many of these kids are classified as ‘gifted’. They often get bored at school because most schools lack the resources to challenge them.

3) Parents realize being able to solve problems analytically is a highly marketable skill and they know that skill is best developed through the study of mathematics. They believe a small investment today will give their child a huge advantage in obtaining greater opportunities later in life.

4) Many students have a hard time learning everything their teacher is trying to teach them in just a few hours of math class each week. An extra hour of math, presented in a way that’s fun and makes sense, benefits a student’s confidence immensely. As a result, grades improve and their confidence gets another boost!

Do you fall into one of these categories?

If so, have you checked out Math Plus yet? If not, what are you waiting for? Give your child the advantage they deserve.

Schedule Your Free Assessment

You wouldn’t be reading this unless you were the type of parent that solves problems pro-actively. Not the kind that waits until their child’s confidence, interest, or grades dip significantly before doing something about it. Let us help you get your child to the next level in math.

Listen to What Parents Say About Investing in Classes at MPA

Last year, my daughter was doing extremely well in math, but she is a perfectionist and would often just give up when it came to taking tests due to her anxiety of being wrong. I was told that once she had more confidence and felt better about taking risks, she’d feel less anxious about taking tests and would be less apt to give up. Well, after 7 months as a student at MPA, she scored in the 98th percentile in the nation on a big test! Thank you for building her confidence and allowing her to showcase her true talents!!! – Kelly L.

My son was the only child in the 2nd grade to score proficient on the practice test… He scored higher than some of the other students that typically did well on their tests. Math Plus has really helped him learn to love and be confident in math, as well as succeed in school! – Nikki F.

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