The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child with JUMP Math

Image Source: Poulsen Photo /
Image Source: Poulsen Photo /

It’s a common thing to hear a person lament that she has “no head for math” or that he struggles with learning a second language because there is an inherent belief that we all have a natural inclination for specific subjects. Some of us just find it easy and others are doomed to struggle for all eternity and there’s no other way about it.

Shinichi Suzuki believed otherwise. He believed that we are all born with the natural ability to learn – and if a child can learn to speak her own mother tongue, she can learn anything.

“A child’s slowness in any subject indicates a deficiency in his environment, educational or otherwise.” – Shinichi Suzuki

So perhaps it is not the subject that stumps us but rather the method through which we learn it.

And this is exactly what John Mighton seeks to achieve with his JUMP Math curriculum – to make math a subject that every child is capable of learning.

“Almost every kid – and I mean virtually every kid – can learn math at a very high level, to the point where they could do university level math courses.” – John Mighton, Jump Math Founder

About John Mighton

John Mighton might very well be to math what Shinichi Suzuki was to music. Author of the book The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child, he is already rather reminiscent of the late Shinichi Suzuki who wrote “Ability Development from Age Zero“.

Prior to developing JUMP Math, Mighton worked as math tutor in Toronto where he developed a reputation as a math guru, transforming students with severe learning disabilities. Some of his students later went on to university-level math. Mighton applied what he learned from his experiences tutoring to the creation of the JUMP Math curriculum.

About JUMP Math

“I believe that a root cause of many children’s troubles in math, as well as in other subjects, is the belief in natural academic hierarchies,” he’s quoted as saying. “As early as kindergarten, children start to compare themselves with their peers and to identify some as talented or “smart” in various subjects. A child who decides that she is not talented will often stop paying attention or making an effort to do well. This problem will likely compound itself more quickly in math than in other subjects because when you miss a step in math it is usually impossible to understand what comes next. The more a child fails, the more her negative view of her abilities is reinforced and the less efficiently the child learns.” – John Mighton

JUMP is the acronym for “Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies”. It was dubbed so because Mighton believed that children had far more potential to learn math than was typically exhibited at school.

JUMP Math follows an approach called “Guided Discovery” or “Micro-Inquiry” where the study of math is broken down in to small manageable steps to help students understand the basic concepts before moving them on to the next level. The lesson plans ensure that students are not overwhelmed by too much new information and students are provided with the necessary practice to consolidate math skills and concepts. Mathematical ideas are carefully scaffolded to ensure students have a strong foundation to build their mathematical knowledge upon.

“Confidence begets attention, which begets rich learning.” – NYtimes

The JUMP concept is a simple one – by breaking down mathematical concepts into tiny, easy to follow steps, students are able to develop a real understanding of the subject they are learning. As they begin to understand the concepts, they invariably experience success. Their successes lead to reduced anxiety and increased confidence in math. Once their confidence level soars, they get excited about math, and they start to ask for harder challenges.

See an example of how long division is taught through JUMP Math’s Guided Discovery.

Try the Free Sample Lessons from JUMP Math

Is JUMP Math Effective?

The JUMP Math program is still relatively “new”, but what little that has been seen is truly impressive.

From the public schools in Lambeth (London, England):

  • 353 students entered the JUMP Math program in fifth grade
  • 12% began at grade level
  • most students were at least two grade levels behind
  • the vast majority of the students were not expected to pass England’s grade six national tests
  • After JUMP Math, 60% passed

In a randomised controlled study in rural Ontario:

  • after 5 months, the JUMP group achieved more than double the academic growth in core mathematical competencies evaluated using standardised tests
  • developmental pyschologist, Tracy Solomon says, “Kids have to make pretty substantial gains in order to see this kind of difference. It’s impressive over a five-month period.”

In General Wolfe Elementary School, Vancouver:

  • teachers teaching the JUMP curriculum found all their students had moved into the “fully meeting expectations” category

In Mabin School, Toronto:

  • teacher Mary Jane Moreau saw a shift in her students results from the usual bell curve to all her students achieving between 90 and 100 % on tests
  • on a standardised test of mathematical abilities, class percentile average jumped from 66% to 92%; another group increased from 54% to 98%
  • students entered a math contest usually entered by “mathematically gifted” students; 14 out of 17 beat the contest average

JUMP Math Curriculum

The JUMP Math Website

JUMP Math Workbooks

JUMP Math at Home:

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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