The Myth of Ability

A book review of The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child by John Mighton

A book review of The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child by John Mighton

Stars: ****

Bloomsbury Publishing (2004)
216 pages

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

Summary: 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.

The Myth of Ability

The book opens with the author talking about how his interest in mathematics waxing and waning because of what people said or he read about mathematics. He ends up taking a job as a math tutor and sees kids struggling with basic math concepts that while basics, trip up even some adults.

He eventually makes some discoveries of how best to teach kids math and starts a JUMP (Junior Undiscovered Mathematical Prodigies) program in 1998. With as well as the program works, I’m surprised all children aren’t taught math in this way in at least some countries.

What I appreciated about the book was that it’s not just the story of how the JUMP program came to be. John also EXPLAINS the program basics with enough detail that you can try using it with your own children (or the children you teach.) Actually that doesn’t explain it well enough. It’s not just conveniently in enough detail. He gives you actual math questions and worksheets and everything. He walks you through the order to teach it as well.

Half of the book is the JUMP method!

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