The JUMP Math Philosophy
The words that make up the acronym in JUMP Math explain the program’s philosophy succinctly. The underlying philosophy of the Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies program is simple. It’s the belief that any student, be he gifted, average or with a learning disability, has the potential to excel in mathematics.
Founder John Mighton feels that the design of most math programs increase the skill divide amongst students. Those who come to school with a strong mathematical background and rudimentary skills have a leg up on students who come to school with less preparation. Typical math programs, he believes, multiply this gap instead of helping to level it out.
JUMP Math and Cognitive Learning Theory
JUMP Math approaches this problem 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.” Mighton alikens this process to 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.
Who’s Using JUMP Math?
A number of students are getting a chance to build those mathematical ladders using JUMP Math. The program’s website estimates that around 85,000 school-age children are using JUMP math, in the classroom, at home or through tutoring sessions. Many schools in Canada have implemented JUMP in their classrooms, including schools in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Toronto.
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 inquires from readers wanting to know more about the JUMP Math program. As schools are just begining to search for different teaching models as test scores make it more more evident that students’ math skills are suffering, it remains to be seen whether JUMP Math will gain popularity in U.S. public schools.