As ministries of education across the country try to save their failing math curricula, a grass-roots enrichment program that has been challenging the way students learn math for over 25 years is celebrating a milestone.
Spirit of Math Schools opened its 35th location and now teaches enriched after-school mathematics to over 4000 students weekly.
While the tutoring industry has been experiencing growth as fed-up parents decide to supplement the education of children struggling to grasp concepts in the discovery-based public school math, Spirit of Math has been fulfilling the needs of an entirely different niche – kids who find math class too easy.
“Many students are craving much more challenging material than what their day schools are able to provide them,” said Kim Langen, founder of Spirit of Math Schools. “When taught using a method that works, 1st graders are capable of working with negative integers, 3rd graders can easily master complex average questions and all students develop outstanding abilities in problem solving.”
Spirit of Math students are well-known for their above-average math knowledge. Their students infallibly win top spots in national and international math competitions; their graduates regularly earn scholarships to top universities and; in a KISS 92.5 radio segment earlier this year, 12-year-old Spirit of Math student, Victor, beat DJ Damnit Maurie in a one-on-one live math contest.
“I think it’s a really great learning environment,” said Shannon Wong a Spirit of Math graduate who has won national math contests and travelled to Romania to represent Canada in the International Math Kangaroo. “Spirit of Math has really helped me to accomplish these things because of the concepts they teach in class.”
Spirit of Math uses a back-to-basics approach blended with a progressive cooperative group-work element – combining drills and creative problem solving to ensure that students learn the fundamentals, such as multiplication facts so lacking in public school, as well as learning how to solve math problems both logically and creatively.
“The public school systems are trying to teach children to exclusively use creativity to solve math problems without first giving them a basic foundation in numeracy or in skills. Students can be much more creative once they have the skills to work with,” said Kim Langen. “It’s like trying to teach a kindergarten child to write poetry without first teaching them words.”
One parent summed up the general sentiment that appears to be prevalent among parents of Spirit of Math students. “There are absolutely a lot of problems in the current curriculum – both in public schools and private schools – with respect to mathematics,” said Stephen, the parent of a recent Spirit of Math graduate. “Spirit of Math understands the opportunity to take your kids to the next level… I think it’s one of the best-kept secrets in the academic world.”