What Is the JUMP Math Program?

An Introduction to the JUMP Math Program

Schoolgirl doing homework
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JUMP Math stands for Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies, and the program's philosophy is that any student, be he gifted, average or with a learning disability, has the potential to excel in mathematics.

Typical math programs favor students who come to school with a strong mathematical background and rudimentary skills. For students who come to school with less preparation, the typical math program accelerates rapidly beyond their reach.

JUMP Math aims to level out this gap between students by looking at the cognitive science of mathematical learning. Cognitive science research in the area of learning tells us that in order to truly master a skill or task, the knowledge of what’s needed to complete that task needs to be stored in long-term memory.

In order to transfer that knowledge from short-term memory to long-term memory, the learner needs to find the way to make the information his own, or, more simply, find a way to personalize the information.  

In their paper, Designing Learning: Cognitive Science Principles for the Innovative Organization, Penuel, et. al. describes the cognitive science of learning as thus:

Learning, according to cognitive science, should no longer be viewed as a process of simply transmitting information from a teacher to a learner or from an expert to a novice. Rather, learning should be viewed as an active, constructive process, involving collaboration and reflection among people who learn through the course of their everyday activity.

JUMP Math provides this to students and teachers alike by breaking down mathematical learning into small “micro-steps.”  As are the rungs of a ladder, each step may be small, but all are necessary. If you miss a step in the ladder, you’re not always able to keep climbing.

The JUMP Math Story

The JUMP Math program is the brainchild of John Mighton, a social entrepreneur and former playwright who founded the company in 2002.

Mighton's work tutoring children in math forms a basis for this evidence-based program. He found that children who struggle and children who grasp concepts quickly were all able to follow a program that was equal parts discovery and memorization. Crucially, the children who struggled were able to keep pace with the more mathematically prepared, and by the conclusion of the program, all students worked faster than the fastest student did at the beginning of the course. This kind of success shatters the notion that "some kids are just better at math" than others, as well as the hierarchies in learners that Mighton found largely to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

JUMP Math has been implemented extensively in Canada and is making inroads in the U.S. and around the world. After a grant-funded study in the Lambeth Borough of London showed great results in disadvantaged students who were struggling in math, the UK Department for Education and Skills included the program in their publication “What Works with Children with Mathematical Difficulties.”  South Africa has echoed the UK’s conclusion of the program’s efficacy by using it as a tutoring tool for disadvantaged students.

In the United States, an April 2011 column in New York Times brought forth a slew of conversation and inquiries from readers wanting to know more about the JUMP Math program. As schools are just beginning to search for different teaching models as test scores make it more evident that students’ math skills are suffering, it remains to be seen whether JUMP Math will gain popularity in U.S. public schools. 

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