Heather (far right) with her three daughters whom she homeschooled

How MathHacked Came to Be

By Heather Linchenko

MathHacked was born after many months of hearing from my child that she HATED MATH! I was home schooling my children at the time so finally in desperation, I decided to quit pushing her to Just do it anyway! and began investigating as to just why she hated math so much.

Up to this time, I had ignored her complaints (as I had ignored the whining of my older children), because having grown up in the public school system, I understood that “hating math” was a nearly-universal sentiment among my fellow schoolmates. Math is hard. Math is boring. Well, of course! It’s math! But (and here’s the rub), you’ve got to do it anyway!  

Growing up, I happened to be one of the few at my school who was “good at math” so from that, I made the false assumption that I was one of the best and brightest students. Many more came to the equally false belief that they were among the mediocre masses or even amid “the dumb.” I’ve known numerous adults over the years whom I thought to be very intelligent who believed—owned, in fact—that they were just the opposite, despite my utter surprise at their feelings and subsequent efforts to dissuade them. Through these and other experiences, I have come to the conclusion that a great many of the false labels and self-doubts—and the unnatural self-esteem—that we have as human beings attach themselves to us during our educational process, and that once established, those labels are very hard to shake.

So…I got down on the floor with my daughter and began asking questions. I realized that even though she easily understood the math concepts I taught her, she approached nearly every problem as if a huge chore. It struck me that she was dependent on using her fingers or dots on the page to do her figuring. Though this seemed incredibly inefficient, I realized that I, an honor student in high school and tutor in college, still used my fingers to count!  I had just become efficient at it and much more discreet. I’ve since learned that I’m not necessarily in the minority. Many have confessed to me the same. I laughed when I heard that a friend’s middle-aged sister admitted to still using not only her fingers, but her toes, too!

Hmm…there had to be a better way!

I decided that for starters, we were going to go to work on my daughter’s times-tables and her ability to figure not with her fingers, but with her mind. I had come to desire that for myself as well.

I don’t know who coined the phrase, but I believe the idea that “learner inability is generally nothing more than teacher inflexibility,” so I spent time and effort trying to think outside the box—that is, outside of my own experience learning math—to come up with a fun and interesting way to learn it. My daughter was thrilled to hear that she wouldn’t be required to do any math lessons for a while, while “Mom” did some thinking!

This is how MathHacked came to be!

After going through this newly-devised process with my daughter, and having a great time together doing it, we returned to doing a math lesson every day as before. How excited I was to realize that her attitude was not just improved but completely reversed! Now what I heard was, “I LOVE MATH!” I did the same thing with my older children and then my younger child as well and had the same great results.

I came to understand that learning math facts early in the math training of a child and well enough that their knowledge becomes automatic and effortless, makes their many years of subsequent math training a whole lot more fun! Too often in education, we attempt to build on a foundation that hasn’t even had time to harden! Simply put, having that solid foundation makes children feel smart and capable and that feeling sticks with them as their math knowledge grows.

This idea was borne out years later when I went to work as a teacher’s aide for 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders. The teacher with whom I worked, Angela Johnson, was intrigued by my philosophies about education, which differed greatly from the mainstream, and graciously allowed me to implement many of my ideas in her classroom. She mentioned over and over how she had never before learned, throughout the years of her own education, many of the things I was sharing with the children. I assured her that I had received no better education than she and that these new ideas and skills were developed only through home schooling my own children—through repeatedly finding a better way. To her great credit, she decided to break from tradition, convention, and training, and allowed me to implement my math system with her students to see how it went. What a forward-thinking woman!

The results were astonishing!

We had kids giggling intermittently, “This is fun!” as we took them through the process. Regularly, I heard comments from the kids like, “You made a really good way of learning math, Mrs. Linchenko,” or “I love how you have all the easy ones in here.” We had to work very hard at making sure they didn’t neglect their other subjects as math became their only interest.  We had gasping eighth graders, as they came to our classroom to read with our students, when they saw the ability of even our six and seven year olds being able to whip through their math facts with incredible speed and perfect accuracy. “How old are you?! I can’t even do that!” they would say.

We had parents asking about our system because they couldn’t believe how motivated their children were to practice at home, sometimes late at night (though our school had a “no homework” policy). I had co-workers asking that I tutor their children after school and parents asking their younger kids to come home and teach the older siblings what they had learned (which they were more than willing to do). We saw students applying the ideas to other areas of their education and simultaneously improving in other subjects. We saw false labels disappear as children realized that learning could be a blast and that they were chuck-full of dormant brilliance! (So as not to discourage the students behind them in the process, I had to train them to replace, “That’s eeeaaasy!” with “I know that one!”) They learned that the teachers weren’t the only ones with power over their education, and that the real power lay within themselves!  

We saw the children visibly disappointed when the process was over and they were reminded that they knew ALL their times-tables, only to watch them light up again when they returned to their regular math and found it easy and fun! One of the most amazing things we saw was watching “goof-offs” or those completely disinterested in school, come up and gingerly ask if they could go through the process, too. They simply couldn’t resist the enthusiasm of their classmates any longer!

So, due to the universal and consistent success we’ve had using this program, we at MathHacked are making it available to you! We trust that you and your student(s) will have great fun together as you go step-by-step through our system and that it will create a solid foundation for success, not only in math, but in life. Helping a child have confidence in who he is, is a gift that will keep on giving! And that, for a lifetime! Oh yeah, and he’ll love math, too!

Here’s to the genius of being human!

Heather Linchenko

 

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