Teaching Math in a Way That Makes Sense

By Mathnasium | May 12, 2021

What is it about Mathnasium that helps students find success in math? The answer is simple: We teach for understanding. Instead of coaching students to rely on memorization, rote learning, or calculators, our highly trained instructors use multiple approaches, so children learn in ways that make sense to them. Because all students learn differently.

The Mathnasium Method™ is unique in that it employs five distinct modes to deliver our program to students, and lessons usually involve a combination of several of these modes. If a student doesn’t understand a concept one way, the instructor will use another mode until the student thinks, “Aha! I get it.” This deep understanding is the key to reaching their mathematical potential.

Below are our five approaches and an explanation of how each one works.

Mental math is, quite simply, doing math in your head. When students develop confidence in their ability to solve problems mentally, it improves their self-esteem and willingness to explore math. It’s also often a much more efficient way to finding solutions. For example, adding 99 + 99 + 99, as shown here, is made easier by thinking of 100 x 3, then taking away 3.

Here are two more examples:


What is 6½% of 200?

Mental Solution:

Think of 6½ for each 100. There are two 100s, and 6½ two times is 13. So 6½% of 200 is 13.


What is ¾ of 20?

Mental Solution:

Developing confidence with the concept of halving and quartering allows you to recognize that ¼ of 20 is 5. 5 x 3 is 15. So ¾ of 20 is 15.

These thought processes are far more efficient than traditional methods, and they develop higher levels of problem-solving skills in our students.

Visual cues help students focus on the question.

Visual learning focuses on what we can see. Students who gravitate toward visual learning do much better with visual cues that help them understand a concept. For this reason, a significant number of Mathnasium worksheets contain pictures, figures, graphs, scaffolding, and other visual prompts. These help students make important mathematical connections.

Comprehension often comes through verbal interaction.

Some students respond more favorably to the spoken word. This is known as verbal, or linguistic, learning. Multiple forms of verbal interaction guide a student to understanding, and “direct teaching” is a good example. Instructors walk students step by step through a lesson in their Learning Plan, checking frequently with the student to ensure the student understands each part of the concept before moving to the next step.

“Socratic questioning” is another verbal mode in which instructors help students to understand a concept by asking the student questions. This is the method Socrates used with his students. By answering questions, students have to make sure their logic is sound.

Finally, instructors ask students to explain how they got their answers. That verbal exchange encourages students to think about the mathematical process rather than simply calculate.

Touching and holding objects can make all the difference.

Tactile learning, also known as kinesthetic learning, involves touching, manipulating, or physically experiencing a concept for better understanding and retention. For students who respond best to these techniques, we use manipulatives (coins, dice, cards, scales, clocks, fraction circles, etc.) to guide them through the thought process. Each manipulative targets a particular concept that needs to be mastered:

• Coins not only provide students exposure to currency but are critical for understanding strategic grouping and proportional reasoning.
• Dice and cards can be used to help a student practice basic math facts.
• Clocks help a student tell time, calculate elapsed time, and even provide a foundation for multiplication.
• Fraction circles provide essential reinforcement to the relative value of fractions, an understanding invaluable to a student’s future math success.

Solving problems through written methods. 

Written learning takes place through the reading and writing of text, which is how some learners absorb and retain the most information. To address their needs, Mathnasium teaches algorithms for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Our written materials allow students to experience the most efficient, accessible algorithm for any given topic. We build Number Sense through these algorithms as well. This process enables students to start to look at problems, see multiple ways to attack them, and choose the best, most efficient one.

We can identify which techniques will work best for your child.

Mathnasium’s teaching techniques are tailored to the individual learning styles and needs of each child. They are specifically designed to help fill in knowledge gaps and build a solid mathematical foundation that enables students to feel competent and confident in learning and doing math. We invite you to stop by your local center and ask the center director to demonstrate some of our techniques with your child.

Our Results

By Mathnasium | April 14, 2021

Does Mathnasium work? We conducted multiple parent surveys and independent studies to find out. And the answer is a resounding YES. Children who consistently attend our learning centers make tremendous strides in comprehension, confidence and grades, and their performance improves on standards-based tests.

Ask Larry: Math and the Left-Brained Misconception

By Mathnasium | March 24, 2021

Larry Martinek, Mathnasium Co-Founder and Principal Education Officer, is a beloved educator, teacher trainer, and curriculum consultant. And together with our expert team, he has spent years refining the most powerful teaching methods and materials into our comprehensive, industry-leading Mathnasium Method™. These “Ask Larry” features are a way for Larry to share his knowledge and love of math with our curious readers and fans.

Dear Larry,

No matter how hard I work to improve my grades in math, I just can’t seem to understand it. I’m a right-brained creative person, and I don’t think my brain is wired to understand math. What advice can you give someone like me to survive math classes until high school is over?


~Melanie R.
8th Grade

Mathnasium Beliefs

By Mathnasium | March 10, 2021

Since our first learning center opened in California in the spring of 2002, we have grown to more than 1,000 Mathnasium Learning Centers worldwide. We are humbled and incredibly grateful that, with each center we open, we profoundly impact the lives of children, their families, and local communities.

At the core of our business is a set of beliefs that guides us in our mission of changing lives. Continue reading to learn our thoughts about math and learning. And, as always, if you have questions or would like to know more, visit us at www.mathnasium.com!

Prodigious Pi (Activity)

By Mathnasium | March 1, 2021

Why do we make such a big deal out of pi? Because pi is a big deal. This irrational number that begins with 3.14 and goes on forever helps us understand so much about our universe. We first learn about pi when measuring circles, but pi is also used to talk to satellites, to measure how fast and powerful a computer is, and even to study the structure of an eye. Pi is used every day to make calculations in physics, engineering, modern construction, space exploration, and so much more. Pi is all around us, and it helps the world go ‘round (and ‘round).

Reversing Math Loss for the “COVID” Generation

By Mathnasium | February 3, 2021

It goes without saying that the pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives — from the way we live, to how we interact, to the way we work and play. And as most parents of school-aged kids are well aware, it has also greatly impacted our children’s education. How students learn and teachers teach have changed dramatically since COVID emerged around the globe. Instead of teachers providing consistent in-person instruction to children in a classroom, a majority of schools transitioned to online learning – which proved to be challenging for a great many kids. Students had to learn to balance the distractions of home life with daily instruction and completing assignments. And many students faced physical, psychological and economic effects of the pandemic that further impacted their ability to learn.

Math Tips for Students Grades 6 and Up: Introduction, Zero, and One

By Mathnasium | January 27, 2021

Last week, we introduced our Math Tips series to parents with kids in grades K-5 in hopes of helping foster an understanding, mastering, and love of math in the home. This week, we’re continuing this effort for parents with older kids.

The math facts and concepts that we’ll be highlighting in the coming weeks and months should be well known by every student in grade 6 and up. They form the fabric of knowledge — the foundation necessary for success in the middle school and high school math classrooms. Most teachers assume that their students know this information. When facts and concepts are at a student’s fingertips, new material encountered becomes an extension of things they already know. Without them, it seems like every new topic has to be learned from the beginning — and the prospect of that can be daunting.

Math Tips for Parents, K-5: Introduction and Counting

By Mathnasium | January 20, 2021

Parents often ask us what they can do to help their children understand, master, and love math. Well, this happens to be right up our alley. In fact, it’s our mission! Our team of master educators has put together some fundamental tips and strategies that you, as parents and guardians, can use with your children. In the coming weeks and months we will share a number of recommendations in hopes that foundational knowledge can grow in your homes. By utilizing these math tips and engaging your child, you’ll help them feel more confident in math, improve their understanding, and spark their love of learning math.

The following tips are for kids in grades K-5. Parents with kids in grades 6+, check back next week for tips for you!

The History of Mathnasium

By Mathnasium | January 13, 2021

When starting a new year, it’s always good to look to the past, appreciate what has happened, and focus on what lies ahead. Today we’re going back to the beginning of Mathnasium and invite you to take the quick journey with us!

In the 1990’s, education industry pioneers Peter Markovitz and David Ullendorff recognized that to truly be successful in school and in life, students need a solid understanding of mathematics. There was a vast disconnect, though, between students’ learning skills and the math curriculum they were taught in school.

To address that gap, they founded Mathnasium — a math-only learning center committed to providing the world’s best instruction. Their goal: teach children how to think, with the skills to succeed in math and the confidence to achieve their academic potential.