# The Myth of Ability

## Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child

Book - 2004**Baker & Taylor**

Argues that anyone can learn mathematics and describes a teaching program to help struggling math students.

**McMillan Palgrave**

A pioneering educator, Mighton realized several years ago that children were failing math because they had come to believe they were not good at it. Once students lost confidence in their math skills and fell behind, it was very difficult for them to catch up, particularly in the classroom. He knew this from experience, because he had once failed math himself.

Using the premise that anyone can learn math and anyone can teach it, Mighton’s unique teaching method isolates and describes concepts so clearly that students of all skill levels can understand them. Rather than fearing failure, students learn from and build on their own successes and gain the confidence and self-esteem they need to be inspired to learn. Mighton’s methods, set forth in

*The Myth of Ability*and implemented in hundreds of Canadian schools, have had astonishing results: Not only have they helped children overcome their fear of math, but the resulting confidence has led to improved reading and motor skills as well.

*The Myth of Ability*will transform the way teachers and parents look at the teaching of mathematics and, by extension, the entire process of education.

**Book News**

Mighton is the founder of JUMP, a Canadian educational charity providing math tutoring to elementary-level students in the Toronto area. He describes the philosophy of JUMP, which assumes that all children are capable of learning mathematics and aims to close the gaps between strong and weak students, rather than just classify them. After laying out the argument for the efficacy of JUMP, he presents six units from The JUMP Teaching Manual demonstrating how the method works. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

**Holtzbrinck**

For decades teachers and parents have accepted the judgment that some students just aren't good at math. John Mighton-the founder of a revolutionary math program designed to help failing math students-feels that not only is this wrong, but that it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A pioneering educator, Mighton realized several years ago that children were failing math because they had come to believe they were not good at it. Once students lost confidence in their math skills and fell behind, it was very difficult for them to catch up, particularly in the classroom. He knew this from experience, because he had once failed math himself.

Using the premise that anyone can learn math and anyone can teach it, Mighton's unique teaching method isolates and describes concepts so clearly that students of all skill levels can understand them. Rather than fearing failure, students learn from and build on their own successes and gain the confidence and self-esteem they need to be inspired to learn. Mighton's methods, set forth in *The Myth of Ability* and implemented in hundreds of Canadian schools, have had astonishing results: Not only have they helped children overcome their fear of math, but the resulting confidence has led to improved reading and motor skills as well.

*The Myth of Ability* will transform the way teachers and parents look at the teaching of mathematics and, by extension, the entire process of education.

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## Comment

Add a CommentJUMP, for Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies, is the program that John Mighton developed to teach mathematics to children from Grade 1 to Grade 8. The key to the JUMP method would seem to be to break up a task, like the addition of fractions with different denominators, into the most basic steps, so that even the weakest students can solve it. In this case, as in others, the child is taught to count to the right answer. For example, if the fractions have denominators of 4 and 6, the child counts up by sixes: 6, 12,18…stopping at 12, since it is the smallest number in the sequence into which 4 divides evenly and so is the lowest common denominator.

The JUMP method would seem to rely on the use of teaching assistants in the classroom; Ontario schools today aren’t currently set up for them. This would seem to create organizational and budget challenges that Mighton simply skates around.

One wonders whether the careful steps of the JUMP method, so helpful for the slow learner, might not be boring and tedious for the gifted child. Mighton seems to be implicitly opposed to any form of streaming in classrooms, without explicitly mentioning it, but one really wonders if a higher stream of students shouldn’t be taught in a different way from a lower stream.

For me, one of the most interesting passages in the book was tangential to its main subject. Mighton talks about how Sylvia Plath had taught herself to write poetry through sheer hard work and tenacity, and how, inspired by her example, he turned himself into a playwright and won a Governor General’s Award for drama.