Kids Learn Best When They Want To Learn

by Peter Atakpu, Ph.D

When students can't see the point of learning -- they almost certainly won't.  Motivation is therefore very important for effective learning. If we can create an environment in which students want to learn, then we have done the hard part: the learning will flow quite naturally.

Far too many students today will list math as one of their least favorable subjects in school. The glaring reason is because they struggle and don't seem to have conceptual understanding for most of the topics generally taught. Therefore, there are gaps and holes in their further learning of the subject. And this leads to more frustration and disconnect with other more advanced topics in the subject. This is an example of the problem that all math teachers face on a regular basis – how to encourage students to learn when they struggle to see any relevance in the topic; how best to motivate them when they are about to give up.

Motivation is highly personal. Kids learn best when they know why they are learning what they are learning and the relevance of this information in their personal lives and other applications of the concept both in the immediate future and in the distant future as well. At Mathnasium, we teach children math in a way that makes sense to them. Mathnasium is a learning center where kids go after school to boost their math skills. Mathnasium bridges the gap between traditional and newer math programs by helping students master number facts, build computational skills, and improve number sense. Beyond helping children earn good grades and achieve top scores on standardized tests, Mathnasium cultivates an intuitive understanding of math, teaching kids to become strong problem solvers and preparing them for bright futures.

Before we start working with a student we do a comprehensive assessment – a comprehensive written and oral assessment to find out what your child knows and does not know. The result of your child's assessment provides the foundation from which we construct a customized learning plan that targets skill gaps and develops number sense.

Also, while our instructors helps students get through "tonight's homework", our primary role as a learning center is to uncover and directly address gaps in students' knowledge that are the underlying causes of their current difficulties in school. Since math is a cumulative subject, it is extremely important to make sure that students have mastery of prerequisite knowledge from previous grades if they are going to have success in their current grade and beyond.

The Mathnasium method employs five modes in delivering our program:


Questions like "99+99", "6% of 250" are best done mentally. Strong mental skills help students develop confidence which is at the heart of both self-esteem and a willingness to explore math, in addition to being a much more efficient way to handle more advanced math problems.


Direct Teaching and Socratic Questioning are verbal modes of delivery. Also, asking students to explain how they got their answers is a verbal experience.


A significant number of Mathnasium learning prescriptives contain pictures that help students to focus on the critical attribute(s) of the question at hand.


When appropriate, our instructors use manipulatives (coins, dice, cards, scales, clocks, fraction circles...) to guide and reinforce student's thinking.


Mathnasium teaches all of the standard algorithms for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, as well as when written procedures are preferable to mental ones, and vice versa.

For more information on Mathnasium of White Bear Lake:

4711 Highway 61 North
White Bear Lake, MN  55115
phone:  651-888-2541

There are other Mathnasium locations in the Washington County area, including Stillwater and Woodbury.