JUMP Math helps students unlock their academic potential in mathematics by providing resources, support and special research to teachers and educators.

This short profile is part of a recurring series on Ontario’s case studies in social innovation and entrepreneurship.

The founder of JUMP Math believes it is a human right to have a a healthy and strong mind as well as healthy and strong body.

Dr. John Mighton, an author, playwright and mathematician, started a tutoring club in his apartment in 1998 after noticing that mathematics education in the school system was not unlocking the real potential of its students. He developed the first set of materials for his tutoring club and very quickly found a group of volunteers that helped build a set of materials, resources and tools that taught math in a way well-suited for the inquisitive minds of young people.

Now, JUMP Math provides a set of tools and resources to mathematics educators around the world. Their research drives cutting-edge pedagogy that challenges the previously-held norms of the classroom.

In essence, this is the innovation behind JUMP Math: that long-standing assumptions about teaching mathematics can be put aside for a better model. Discarding the notion that every classroom has a distributed hierarchy of performance, the JUMP Math model works to eliminate that hierarchy and promote a learning environment where all children learn and perform at a high level; the distributed performance hierarchy isn’t necessary or conducive to student success.

While the idea of eliminating disparity between students and working to get them all performing at a high level is innovative, but the real social change comes when that model is replicated across classrooms. The JUMP Math model provides teaching tools (such as practice books, assessment tools, online guides for teachers, lesson plans, extension work and professional development) that build upon new pedagogical research and can be used by any teacher in any classroom around the world. Based on research, feedback, case studies and the results it achieves, the model is continuously evolving.

The results so far have been impressive. Performance disparity in JUMP Math classrooms has shrunk and the process has ripple effects: teachers who use the model have an impact on the other teachers around them in their schools and professional circles.

Getting the results haven’t been easy. JUMP Math began by working with a small network of volunteers and a few classrooms. By working closely with teachers and educators, its developers were able to test, refine and evaluate the program. The volunteer network was instrumental in tracking, monitoring and providing the research and expertise that went into the refinement of the materials.

Mighton realized quickly that running a tutoring program was too exhausting and inefficient; in order to make significant social impact, he would need to focus on building materials and resources for educators. He also realized that his model would be disruptive and that he would face a lot of resistance. So he and his team quickly identified the experts in the field and learned how to communicate effectively with them to get the message and model across. The JUMP Math team also recognized that just issuing workbooks was not enough. As they tested and evaluated, they realized that they needed to support teachers with lesson plans, guides and other more tangible resources that would help them in their daily teaching.

To do all this and scale rapidly, the team had to address many organizational issues, including how to deliver these resources, navigate these relationships and continue to research and improve while remaining sustainable. JUMP Math now has a unified board of directors, which helps them through many of the organizational challenges. Additionally, it has as dedicated staff to help with knowledge transfer (having Mighton and one or two others conduct all the training was ineffective ) and financial sustainability.

JUMP Math currently operates as a hybrid between a corporation and a foundation. That structure allows it to solicit donations as well as other sources of funding and subsidy, while still allowing it to build capacity for growth and sustainability.

Why is JUMP Math a best practice? It is one for many reasons, but the most obvious is that it found a need—better mathematics teaching—and addressed it through a systematic method that could be replicated and grown to scale. The impact of the model has been impressive and can be even bigger. The concept that good teaching material can eliminate performance hierarchies can help Canada and other countries not only to foster better students, but also to reach the groups and communities that need to be reached the most―groups that are often ignored because of these very hierarchies.

John Mighton and his team at JUMP Math know they have a lot of work to do to keep growing and to reach the greatest amount of students and educators. For now, they are well along the way.

For more information about JUMP Math, visit: http://jumpmath1.org/

The Case Studies in Social Innovation database is a joint initiative between SiG @ MaRS and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.