Stories from Students, Families, and Teachers

In addition to sharing the following stories documenting the positive changes occurring in the lives of students, their families, and teachers, the main purpose of this section of the website is to inform that there is a solution to the problems children (and adults) encounter in learning math, and most importantly, even though it may feel like it, you are not alone — there are untold numbers experiencing the same issues.

Therefore, this is not intended to be a testimonials page. It is my hope this section provides relief for those who have been searching for answers and a forum for sharing experiences to help those who feel isolated and alone to know how common the struggle is and how difficult it can be to find the solution.

In the more than 40 years I have been doing this work, I have witnessed thousands of students struggle to learn math, and in most of these cases, students have experienced significant distress and loss of confidence, frequently culminating in academic wounding; and in all of these cases, the students’ struggles have been unnecessary. In my experience, the challenges students face in learning math have never been the fault of the student, since it is always up to the educator to learn and understand the processing indications of the student and provide instruction aligned accordingly. When provided with correct and appropriate instruction, all students can be successful and learn math.

Therefore, I hope the following stories of success inspire you to find your solution and to never give up hope . . .

David Berg, ET
Founder & Director, Making Math Real Institute

 

Math is about thinking. Math can be fun and make kids smile and laugh. I know this, now, I have seen it, experienced it, over and over in the 16 years I have utilized Making Math Real methods of teaching. This was the complete opposite of what I was experiencing in 2002—then it was tears, anger, frustration and a growing sense, within my 9-year-old son, that he was stupid. He was not fast in math, not like most of his classmates. And slow means stupid, at 9 years of age, unless you can think your way through.

Making Math Real helped me to help my son learn to utilize all his senses to become a stronger thinker and a more confident learner. Math was the catalyst—the most efficient and effective way to learn this. Now that 9-year-old is 25 and working his dream job as a computer game designer in Chicago. He was rescued from severe academic wounding through our application of the MMR methods. As he began to understand the concepts, built carefully from concrete, to semi-concrete, then semi-abstract to abstract, his confidence in himself and his thinking grew. He was rewarded with being right. And success spread to other subjects as he utilized his growing executive processing skills. And my two other sons, 7 and 3 back in 2002, are now 23 and 19. They both benefitted measurably in high school and college for their strong foundational understanding of math and their even stronger grasp of logical thinking and solid teaching. They know when they are learning, when they are being taught, and when they are not. Making Math Real was the platform on which this knowledge grew.

Me, mom, was rewarded with years and years of peaceful, productive evenings. Yes, there was work, but we had an approach and a plan and measurable success. I did learn all I could about Making Math Real once I saw the change in my oldest boy. I never cared much for math as a child, myself. Math was not overly interesting or appealing. And I did not know, intimately, about the complete lack of coherent instruction anywhere with regard to math. At the time I was simply pragmatic. I needed a way through the tangle of emotions and issues in our family. However, success is attractive. Laughter and lightheartedness are compelling.

In 2006 I helped teach a son of a friend the Nine Lines system, then another, and 11 years later I “do” math every day. Students and their families come to me like refugees—starving for understanding, scarred from experience and scared about their future as math keeps barring the way to other opportunities. I think deeply about how to help students find a sense of balance with the math they must do and the confidence they must find within themselves. I am committed to changing the course of others’ lives like Making Math Real and David Berg have done to ours. Happy 20th MMR! We are forever grateful!

— Kris

Making Math Real has literally changed my life and forever altered my feelings towards mathematics. It began quietly four years ago when I first met David Berg and learned of Making Math Real. Then I was a 38 year old mother of three young boys, who was schooling my oldest from home and finding a different set of problems than I’d anticipated. Kevin had been struggling with something–grades were fine, tests were exemplary, but he was withdrawing from everything around him; so my husband and I decided to enroll him in a non-classroom charter school, making me his primary 4th grade teacher. The year began with me learning right alongside Kevin. Among other things, I discovered he HATED math and felt he was stupid—two strong opinions he’d formed on his own, over time, that were deeply entrenched in his thinking.

. . . read more from Kris

Three years ago I wrote a letter explaining how Making Math Real had changed my oldest son’s life dramatically and consequently the rest of our lives as well.  Now, three years later, MMR continues to dramatically impact our lives, so I thought I should write an update.

. . . read more from Kris

An Epilogue is brief, so I will try to be.  Here is how my story of meeting and embracing Making Math Real ends.  Kevin, is 21, graduated summa cum laud from DePaul University in Chicago with a bachelor of science in game design and an emphasis in programming.  Yep, math was key in the latter stages of his educational path.  A quote from Kevin last month, “Mom, anything that humans can do is made better and easier with math.”  After clamping shut my dropped jaw, I found myself beginning the words of this final chapter of our MMR story.  I am still amazed how far we have come 13 years after learning of MMR and rebuilding our learning foundation.

. . . read more from Kris

Hi Mr. Berg,

I wanted to share a life changing update with you. I met you about 7 years ago when I started taking MMR courses and was inspired by your knowledge of the brain and the ability to acquire math concepts through mnemonics and color-coding. Many of the struggles you saw students have in math were what my daughter, Gabrielle, had experienced. As her mother and teacher, it was heart-wrenching to watch her fail repeatedly and not have the tools to help be more successful. There was no way that I would have been able to master your concepts in enough time to rescue my daughter from drowning in confusion. After having assessed her in your office, she started weekly tutoring sessions year-around for the past 6 years with a MMR tutor. This has elevated Gabrielle’s confidence and skill-set. She still has some anxiety around performance but also has the tools to perform at the most optimal level. She is now in 8th grade and your approach to math and her effort and willingness to succeed has earned her an A in math for the past 3 years. She is very proud and I am eternally grateful for your life-changing approach to math. Thank you for taking a chance and letting us in on the best approach that I will continue to share will all of my students.

Eternally Grateful,
Ebony M.

Hi Mr. Berg,

Just wanted to share that my daughter kicked my butt in speed tonight when comparing three fractions: 3/4, 5/6, and 5/8 to determine which was the greatest and which was the least. She got it in lightning speed. The comparing fractions piece of the course was where I sat there, mouth agape since I had never developed the perceptual understanding of fractions. I thought of myself as a strong math student because I could remember how to make like denominators and compare the numerators once I had done that.

It is with awe and gratitude that I say that my daughter kicked my butt. The wall between her and math has truly started to crumble, and that never would have happened without MMR. The world is pretty much her oyster now.  She is beginning to enjoy the math work!

With joy and gratitude,
B.F.

Dear David,

“David Berg is a genius!” said one seasoned Slingerland-trained SLP. Her daughter recently became a client of mine.

That was actually an understatement. Truth is there is no word that describes the tremendous contribution you have made to the understanding and teaching of math and human development. I can only perceive a fraction of it and I am in awe, on a daily basis. It probably takes a cross-disciplinary team of experts to truly appreciate what it is if such a team could ever understand each other.

I really need you to know that you are very, very much appreciated in my small circle of clients and families. (I am struggling to keep the client base small as I have my two boys after school. MMR is in huge demand on the Peninsula where I live.)

In my own home, we are having a BLAST with the mental fractions problem solving, basics and ALL of the expansions. What can possibly be a better tool for developing executive functions?! My soon-to-be 6th grader is a linear processor with significant attention deficits (zoning). Talking about driving blind! Getting the picture first before expressing is what we work on every single day. Wow, and the power of pre-imaging! I did not believe he could do 30 problems on a page without getting about half of them wrong since 60-70% accuracy was about his average. Man, did I see a solid, unbelievable growth in managing details! Now only 1 or 2 mistakes per page on average even with the random mixed format! We are at finding parts, and he has already gained so much confidence. He thinks you are the smartest person in the world. What a precious gift you have given us. THANK YOU.

On a side note, I’ve received a “software update” on my very own mental percent solving ability by working these problems out, and really have gained much appreciation for the structure of the increments. They work wonders. I am gaining appreciation everyday for MMR, many things I did not even think twice while taking the classes.

You should be given whatever amount of wealth, fame and recognition while the world learns MMR for free. You made math possible for all learners. What an achievement that is! It is no less than that of Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs, etc. The only difference is the inventions by others do not require intellect, background knowledge or hard work to be appreciated. But yours does.

Gratefully,
Sunny

Dear David,

I have had more positive student feedback about math this year than I honestly ever thought possible.  I just have to share some of it with you, because it is too good not to share.

On learning multiplication the 9 Lines way:

“Mrs. O’Connor, I think you should make this kind of math into a YouTube channel.  I would follow you if you did.”

“Mrs. O’Connor, this is getting into my head.  It feels good.”

“Hmmm…Mrs. O’Connor, ever since you taught us the 4 table and now the 6 table, I realized that 6 x 4 and 4 x 6 actually equal the same exact number.”

“Mrs. O’Connor, I think you should probably tell everyone you know about this, especially the teacher at my old school.”

On learning Click & Show:

*whispered to just me* “Finally…..some math I have enough fingers for.”

On the Transformation to 100:

“OMG it IS 100! I never knew.”

“Hey! Those zeros are there for a reason!”

Also, may I just add, that as an adult it is so helpful to actually know my multiplication facts.  Thanks for that.  Because seriously, I really did think something was wrong with me for my entire life that I never knew them, and I am pleased to report that I was very successful in teaching them to myself.

Sincerely,
E.O.  [Teacher at LD School]

Written by By Teachers Across the Country:

“Teachers at Bluebonnet Elementary are passionate about Making Math Real for their students.   The Difference:  Making Math Real empowers teachers by giving them ALL the tools they need to make students understand math. Using a very specific sequence, kid-friendly language, and multisensory approach, teachers using MMR help students “get their (math) picture.”

— The teachers at Bluebonnet Elementary in Bastrop, TX

“This is truly revolutionary in its thinking! I can’t wait to try using this as a teacher/tutor!”

—Lydin B, student teacher

“Seeing the program modeled by the instructor was the most valuable. I was able to work through the activities just like my students will, which made it easier for me to understand.”

—Stephanie M, teacher

“Made me hungry for more.”

—Amy C, teacher [on the Overview course]

“David Berg is unbelievable and magnificent. His energy and insight are incredible, leading to the most spectacular class I’ve ever taken. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am tremendously excited about beginning to incorporate this into my classroom.”

—Sam F, teacher

“Thank you! You are the most gifted educator I’ve ever imagined.”

—Nancy M, educational therapist [on David Berg]

“Being exposed to Making Math Real has dramatically changed how I see math instruction. I have learned a great deal this summer and I feel fortunate to have had such a paradigmatic shift around approaching my teaching, especially as a special educator. Thank you.”

—Cassie F, special educator

“Thank you so much. I have learned so much and the time went quickly. Math now seems so much easier, not to mention more fun.”

—Kathy F, teacher

“Dear David, Thank you so much for coming up with a program that so well fits the learning needs of our children. Thank you for the energy, thoughtfulness, humor, and caring you import in your class for us.”

—Pat O, educator

“I just wanted you to know that I’ve started applying what I’ve learned from Making Math Real. I’m back in the Philippines where I am working in a center for students with reading disabilities. One parent requested that her struggling seven-year-old son be taught math as well. The boy has been enjoying out math sessions and is learning fast. The cheese bits, fries, waffles, and chimney (chimneys are not really common here) have been very effective.”

—Cecillia J, educator

“The most valuable part of the Making Math Real course was the organized, consistent language and images, examples of instruction, fantastic binder, articulate instruction, and connection to real classroom situations.”

—Toni O, teacher

“The most valuable part of this course was: Everything! It has given me the tools I need to present my math curriculum that is developmentally appropriate and universally accessible to my students.”

—Caroline K, teacher

“The games and other activities to reinforce the concepts are loved by all the kids.  Of course, you have to teach the math concept before game but it is such great reinforcement of key concepts throughout the whole year.   It does take time to make the games and cards, but it is definitely worth the time and once they are made you can use them for many years.  Many of the activities can be used as a warm up to review concepts.   It is a great way to get them out of their seats and get the blood pumping.”

—Beth R, 3rd grade teacher [on Games! course]

Written by Parents Across The Country:

“I am a fan! I used the materials with my twins. Because of the confusing textbook presentation, they were having trouble with addition and subtraction. Using the Making Math Real materials and concepts, I’ve helped them become fluent in both, and plan on teaching the 2nd grade curriculum to them over the summer. They’ve gone from “I don’t like math” to being excited about knowing more math than the other kids. Thanks!”

—Patricia L, parent

“I had such a wonderfully enlightening weekend at the Overview course! I was so excited to come home and put into practice a little of what I learned. So I did the 9 Lines with my daughter, like we did in class. SHE LOVED IT! I saw a look on her face that I’ve never seen before. She was beaming. Could it really be this easy? I could tell it gave her such an empowering feeling, which is so nice to have after having three years of feeling completely defeated in math. (Just the mention of math, especially a timed test, could reduce her to tears!) She kept wanting more of Making Math Real! (I better hurry and make my games!) I’m just thrilled!”

—Nina, parent

“The Making Math Real instructor was very clear in getting the material across. The best part of the experience is that I have learned a conceptual multisensory teaching method for math. I feel that I can teach this material to almost anyone.”

—Rosanne, parent

A letter from a parent to her child’s principal:

Dear Principal,

I am writing this letter to share a wonderful opportunity to attend a free seminar presented by the Making Math Real Institute at the UC Santa Cruz Extension in Cupertino.  I have invested my own time and effort into learning the program, having taken the Overview, 4 Operations and Fractions, and am looking forward to taking Pre-Algebra in the spring.   I cannot give this teaching method enough praise. The beauty of the Making Math Real program is that it is multi-sensory and developmental.  They teach every concept in a concrete way making it accessible to all students.  Then they progress through the semi-concrete, semi-abstract and abstract levels. It is very creative and much more engaging that the typical math curriculum.  What I think is truly unique and invaluable about the program is that they build symbol-imaging, detail analysis and sequential processing into each of the lessons and levels.  These essential skills allow the students to be successful in math but, are applicable to learning across all subjects.  I have recently started using some of the methods when I volunteer in the classroom, both in centers and one-on-one instruction. The students are engaged, successful and genuinely seem to enjoy learning.

I am the parent of a student with Nonverbal Learning Disability.  That is how I came to learn about the Making Math Real program, however, this is not a remedial program.  It is geared to the general education classroom, but works incredibly well for all learning styles and is adaptable to suit children with learning disabilities. The reason I feel so passionately about the program is that after volunteering in my son’s classroom over the years, I have watched students struggle with math.  Even those who are procedurally adept don’t seem to comprehend many of the concepts behind the procedures.  Most are learning by rote.  The texts and methods which are used do not reliably teach in a developmental or incremental way.

Many of the people who took the course with me were educators (classroom, RSP, and educational therapists) and all were really excited and positive about the course.  Some of them, “math-phobic” themselves, experienced their own moments of enlightenment as they fully appreciated some math concepts for the first time.

I would be happy to assist you in any way I can and you are welcome to contact me if you have any questions.  The program director, Tracy Curry, can also assist you and mentioned creative ways for schools to finance the program.  They do on-site training, at a daily rate, that allows an unlimited number of attendees.  Alternatively, the Home and School Club or the District could provide vouchers for teachers who wanted to attend any of the training programs scheduled at the extension.

I have enclosed some flyers and contact information for Making Math Real.  I hope this is of interest to you.  Thank you for your time.

—Roseanne T, MD; Parent

Making Math Real provides the missing link in math instruction for students who struggle with the transition from concrete to abstract. The understanding and care that has gone in to breaking down each task into its component parts and building success at each level is inspiring and a huge contribution to teaching in general and teaching students with learning challenges especially.

It is by far the best math methods class I have taken.

—Peggy S, learning specialist

“It’s the teaching, not the program.”

A program alone cannot become an effective method for a student if the teacher does not understand both the program and the concepts to be taught.  A multisensory structured program helps educators become more effective teachers because it breaks down the concepts to be taught in small incremental steps.  If these steps are followed and not skipped, the student will be able to receive the information, understand it, store it, and be able to retrieve it.

A multisensory program gives the teacher the tools to present information in auditory, visual, and kinesthetic modalities so it can be perceived, and will provide the teacher with the language to help form a bridge from the child’s language (informal) to the symbolic language of math.  It will help provide all the scaffolding to take the students from concrete, to semi-concrete, to semi-abstract, to abstract levels of understanding.  But it is the teacher who needs to take all these tools and make them work.  The teacher not only needs to understand the program and the concepts, but should be interested and enjoy teaching it so (s)he can make it fun, enjoyable, even exciting.  Furthermore, the teacher must enjoy working with children and be able to build rapport with students.  When students trust their teacher they are more open to learning!

—Suzie M, teacher

Written by Making Math Real Students of All Ages:

“I hate math! I’m telling you this because I have to go to a MATH CAMP! If I were president I would have all math books burned; but if math was like Making Math Real math, I probably wouldn’t mind it. But all math isn’t like Making Math Real math. No! Most math is HARD, PAINFUL, STRESSFUL and Mean. Like I said, math is horrible. Math is easy when someone is there to help you. Math is easy when I don’t have to do it. Math is easy when I have a good teacher who explains the problem well. Making Math Real is a type off math that’s put into stories; math is like a foreign language but Making Math Real puts it in English. If Making Math Real were a school I would go there.”

—Marissa, 4th grade student

“The person who has helped me the most with math is Mr.David Berg. He is a math person. He comes in every Friday. I really like math when he does it. It’s not boring.”

—Alyssia, 5th grade student

“I have learned so much about math AND teaching developmentally. I am feeling so good about finally “getting” math that I’m going to study for the GRE! You are an inspiration. I want to be a teacher like you when I grow up.”

—Joan, community college student

Dear David Berg,

I would like to thank you very much for opening the math camp, and giving me the opportunity to learn math in a whole new way. During these first two weeks, I have gotten to learn lots of new math games that I hope will continue. I have had a great time learning new math tricks and hanging out with interns and teachers.

As a teacher I was drawn to Making Math Real because it addresses the issue that students become successful learners in many different ways. Educators have been struggling with how to successfully teach math for many years, but there is definitely not one way that works for all students. MMR addresses this issue and helps educators become more tuned into the learning style of each child.

When I have explained to other adults about the fun activities that the children and I do with math, using the MMR procedures, they get very excited and say that they wished that someone had taken the time to help them understand math. Math was always a bit mystifying and frightening for them. MMR is interactive. The learner is totally engaged in the process. MMR helps the students to develop the detail analysis that makes them successful. The biggest delight that I have when working with children is when they look up and announces that they “get it” and want to show me. The program integrates easily into math games so that the students get the practice that they need.

—Becky G., retired educator, principal & now a school volunteer

Dear Making Math Real,

I am so impressed and grateful for your wonderful work!  It stands out as a special beacon of hope
especially for those who would have been served by the UC Berkeley Extension Learning Center.

Keep up your enthusiasm and good works!  Every wish for your continued success.

Sincerely,
Rasjidah Franklin, Ph.D.
Retired Continuing Education Specialist
Chair Dept. of Education, UC Berkeley Extension

Teaching sixth grade math has changed dramatically over the past several years and it has been quite a challenge for teachers to keep up with the demands brought on by standards based education.  Every five or six years math books are piloted and adopted, but all are pretty much the same in how the content is presented.  Therefore, selecting a new book for a school district is pretty much choosing the best of the worst.  Math books primarily teach math through a set of procedures and do a mediocre job at best of teaching it as a comprehension piece.  I did my best to supplement our current math program by using math manipulatives, showing different methods for problem solving, writing about math, etc., but none of these strategies gave me the results I truly desired:  a deeper understanding of math.  I still felt that my students were just learning the how and not the why of math, and those students who had always struggled with math kept on struggling and those who could memorize steps continued to do okay, but really couldn’t articulate what they were doing.

. . . read more from Ellen Hatcher
Sixth Grade Teacher, Twin Oaks Elementary School
Rocklin, California

Over the past two years, David Berg has helped our school’s teachers and students develop a passion for mathematics. It has gone from a feared subject to one of the most creative and exciting at the school.

David Berg’s professional development, consultation, and in-class modeling have been invaluable in creating the capacity in the staff to actually TEACH mathematics, rather than merely assign it.

— Jason, elementary school principal

Dear Making Math Real,

I went through your program when you were tutoring out of the second floor of someone’s home near Berkley California in 2004-05. I was in 8th grade at the time. Karen was my tutor.

Your program changed my life. I got a B on a math test for the first time in my life after just weeks of your program.  I took Advanced Algebra Trig in high school and got an A. I am now in college and was able to get an A in Chemistry.

Your program built my mathematical foundation. I am no longer frightened of math and can use math in my day-to-day life.  Your program teaches children that math is not merely crunching numbers, but has a visible meaning. I still remember learning how to subtract intergers with the “Birds and Sandbags” method, and the “Snob Parties” for Greatest Common Factor. I have kept my Making Math Real notebook for all these years.

Thank you for teaching math to me,
Cynthia Ring, former MMR student

Dear David, Michael & Making Math Real,

Yesterday was the final day of the Pre-Algebra class. I wanted to tell you in person how much I have appreciated your wonderful instruction, but there were many others attempting to talk to you, and I had to leave and catch my plane back home.

But I did want you to know how much my Making Math Real experience means to me.  I started coming to the classes from Arizona three or four years ago when I was home schooling my dyslexic son because our local school district does not even acknowledge dyslexia, (“it doesn’t exist”) let alone attempt to accommodate it in any way.  I had Michael and Evan for most of my classes that Fall, and took my son all of the way back through all of the 4 Operations curriculum.  Very simply, it changed his life.  He had always struggled with and avoided math, and finally, for the first time ever, it made sense to him.  He would jump up with excitement and hug me spontaneously as the light bulb came on for him.  It was incredible!  I have a teaching background, and found myself thinking of several students I had taught in the past, knowing that Making Math Real would have made all of the difference to those kids just like it had for my child.

I know that it is discouraging to live in a world where we see math being taught incorrectly, developmentally too early, at surface level, or in a procedural way.  But with your amazing understanding of brain research and the variations in processing styles, and the gift of your ability to use clear math language that scaffolds mathematical content in manageable increments is directly improving all of those issues each and every day. Making Math Real is empowering teachers and other adults to be able to improve math instruction, calm math anxiety, and create interest and desire to pursue math passionately.

I want to thank both of you for your patience (I am one of those people in class that has to ask you to repeat the prompts sometimes) and for sharing a great deal of your valuable time (lots of weekends and summer weeks) and expertise with me.  I consider it a gift to have been able to learn from you and hope that I will be able to help others as you have helped me and my son.

I may be back, but I want you to know that I feel forever indebted to you for all that Making Math Real has changed in my life.

— Beth Gagnon, parent & educator