HOME The JUMP Program
and why it is important to us all

JUMP stands for Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies. Read all about it at their web site www.jumpmath.org. From their web site,

"It is an education program founded in 1998 by mathematician and writer John Mighton. We are a volunteer-based, registered charity committed to the advancement of education. JUMP believes that all children can be led to think mathematically, and that with even a modest amount of attention every child will flourish. By demonstrating that even children who are failing math or are labeled as slow learners can excel at math, we hope to dispel the myths that have caused us to neglect our children. And by offering inner-city children effective and consistent help in mathematics (and eventually reading and other subjects), we hope to break the cycle of ignorance that lies at the root of all poverty."

Pow! That, I feel, is right on the money. More on this in John Mighton's must read book "The Myth of Ability", especially his chapter on "Breaking the Cycle of Ignorance". Visit their web site above for information on the book. Look under Instructional Materials. I have witnessed first hand the devastation that can occur when young minds struggle with math in grade school and fail. Apart from a failure to learn to read, it is perhaps the single biggest event that determines their future path. Math phobia severely limits their options, destroys their confidence and leaves them very vulnerable to making bad choices down the road.

The JUMP program is based on moving the student in very small steps, leaving nothing out, so that even the poorest student can enjoy the feeling of success ... the excitement of success ... and the subsequent praise. Kids love the process and respond in amazing ways. The subject of math happens to lend itself to this process, but there is no reason why this process cannot be applied to other subjects and to higher levels. We, as educators, especially at the higher levels, tend to leave out steps for the student to fill in. This is warranted at the higher levels but the method is prone to creating uncrossable barriers for even the best students from time to time. We, as educators, could take a page from the JUMP book: we need to be able to diagnose when a student is stuck at a step and we need to be able to break down the step into sub steps so that the problem concept can be grasped. Some professors balk at such spoon feeding. I prefer to think of it as a temporary helping hand. If I have a broken leg, I need a crutch for a short time, not a kick in the pants. The JUMP program has shown that students following the 'small step' process learn to make conceptual leaps as a result. So there should be little fear that the short term nurturing will lead to a long term dependency. Experience has been quite the opposite.

I am a nuclear engineering professor at McMaster with a passion for mathematics - not to be confused with exceptional ability :-). But, like most profs in Engineering and Science, I bemoan the lack of mathematical ability I see in many of our students. I believe that the main problem is that somewhere early on, they stumbled on the math concepts and fell off the path. To recover, they would have to go back to that spot and retrace the correct path. Not many university students are willing to do that! I also see the lack of ability to think in mathematical terms as a great barrier to making intelligent decisions in the day-to-day, be it carpentry, shopping, understanding facts and issues in politics, making environmental choices, and so on. I believe it to be a problem at least on par with illiteracy. How can we sustain a working democracy when people are not empowered to think properly?

I had the pleasure of attending a training session on the program on 2005.02.23 and to meet John, Katie and Laura. So often in life, we, in the first class cabins of this planet earth, wish we could do more to help those less fortunate than us. We can give money to favourite charities and hope that it reaches the intended audience. But we are left still wonting. Yes, support Ryan's Well, Foster Parent Plan and the host of other good causes. But here is an initiative right here at home that can correct a huge local flaw that will, in turn, unleash the potential of empowered people. This is truly thinking globally but acting locally at its finest.

But it is not just about grade school kids and their math issues. It is about the way we teach and the way people learn at all levels and in all subjects. I see the following action areas: