Changing Lives: 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 50 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

∞  HOW TO SHARE WITH MAKING MATH REAL: Please use our online submission form.

Changing Lives: Stories From The Front Lines

Hello David,

I trust this finds you and your family well!

I thought I would share with you the latest milestone in Nick’s journey, and heartily thank you for the role you played in it.

Nick graduated from high school last month, and as he and I were talking about school and all of the learning steps it’s taken to get here, we wanted to acknowledge how pivotal your role was in showing Nick what a gifted teacher can do for a student.

The importance of picture making, asking for clarity, and understanding the way his brain learns, all contributed tremendously to his success.

Thank you again for the impactful, vital work that you do with students. I know Nick holds you in such high regard, and values all that he learned from our time in your program; so I just wanted to share, and hope that this is just one of many such letters you receive from your grateful students.

Nick & Gina

PS: Staying local (and online) for college next year, interested in studying business/entrepreneurship

Sophie just completed your high school geometry MMR binders. She did an amazing job, and I feel like she learned all the material really well. Even when we got to the end of your geometry binders where she was doing the tricky geometric mean problems and the similarity word problems, it all went very smoothly for her and made sense to her. She works her problems confidently and applies what she has learned. I am so proud of her hard work and all she has accomplished.

At the end of first grade (before we started doing MMR at home), Sophie was so worried that she wouldn’t be able to do her second grade math. Her school started Common Core math in second grade, which caused even more stress and less understanding for her. It is truly remarkable how far she has come since she left the school math program and started learning with MMR.

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David might like to know that I’m using his material in several classes and it is very helpful. The 5th graders I teach are enjoying learning decimals via kit kats, brownies, and sprinkles (they preferred sprinkles over slivers). My pre-algebra students are finding battles and teamwork helpful when learning about combining integers. And my precalculus students are benefitting from the color-coding I’ve adopted from David’s teaching as well as me making up my own homework problem sets instead of using the book’s hit-or-miss problem sets. I’m inspired greatly to teach well due to Making Math Real so thanks again!

— Dan
4th-12th Grade Math Teacher

I’ve been using the Making Math Real approach and curriculum materials in my math classes since 2013. One of the most unexpected surprises came in my work with 5 of the most severely math-challenged students I had encountered in 15 years of teaching. These students could count to 10, but that was it. They couldn’t say what number came before 5 or after 8. The problem was even worse when they got to the ‘teens. No clue. It was not by any means clear to me that they could ever learn how to do math.

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Some children easily learn theirs numbers and perform Math operations. There are those, however, where the concept of the number 11 or the multiplication table of 7 needs to be explicitly taught. I have always used MMR’s multisensory approach in these cases. My students have a strong grasp of number concepts because of the importance that MMR puts in teaching place value. They also have the confidence in adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing after using MMR’s 9 Lines.

— CJ

A powerful story of advocacy…

From: Barbara
Date: Wed, Apr 3, 2019 at 1:12 PM
Subject: Resource notes, accommodations
To: Tracy <[email protected]>

Hi Tracy,

I am meeting with one of my student’s teachers and administrators tomorrow.  I have had ​this​ student for many years, first as a Barton student, and then later (last 2 years off and on) for math once a week. We have imaged 9 Lines and worked on as much Making Math Real as possible with the time we have. He is in 6th grade.

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Just wanted to say how impressed I am by the 9 Lines system! I have taken a group of students who hated math and felt “stupid” and transformed them into confident math lovers. Well, maybe “lovers” is an exaggeration, but they have smiles on their faces. I have a group of fifth graders that come to my office to play Math Uno at lunchtime!!!!

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On a good day, Alison, a middle school student, was indifferent about math.  On a bad day, she could not stand it.  After receiving prescriptive math instruction utilizing Making Math Real methods, she sees math in a whole new way.  Check out this short animated film where she expresses her feelings about the difference a good picture can make.

In 3rd grade my daughter struggled with learning math facts, by 5th grade she declared she was just bad at math and in 6th grade she resigned herself to sitting through math class without learning much. After just several months of MMR instruction, my child declared, “I get it now! And, actually, it’s kind of fun.” Music to a parent’s ears! So grateful for MMR!

— Melinda, Burlingame

I started MMR with the Overview and 9 Lines to help my son, who had not been able to learn the math facts, after a year of trying. I immediately tested it out as I was learning, and I was shocked to see how easily my son could learn! I was lucky that I could take the courses right before my son needed them, for the next 5 years, and he received nearly all of the MMR content.

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I am a private tutor working with kids with dyslexia in math and reading. Well, I teach math now, but I had actually given up on teaching math for a time because it seemed my highest hope was to help my students memorize procedures and somehow remember when to use which one. I had a Master’s degree in Special Education, but never had a class on how to teach math. I had spent thousands of dollars on curriculums and programs that claimed to be multi-sensory and life-based, but was still turning out procedural math students, at best. I had resorted to teaching kids skip-counting songs and cute stories to help them remember their math facts. I really wanted to find a way to help my students understand math at a deep level. So, I gave up, to be blunt.

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Without David Berg’s class, I’m quite sure my daughter would have no self-esteem, yet she is now a happy and well adjusted teenager. After years of struggling and psychological testing, our school psychologist told me that I needed to simply home-school my daughter because she simply could not learn in the academic setting. Many of her teachers told me that “she simply couldn’t do math” and that “she just can’t do it.”

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Living with Dyslexia: Are Math Programs the Answer?

My son was diagnosed with a “math disability” and dyslexia at the age of 8. Like most everyone I talk to, we spent way too many years struggling. I’d been Googling reading and math issues for three years trying all sorts of things to help him. Finding reading intervention was a lot easier than finding math intervention.

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The following stories are from Room 2121 of the Atlanta Speech School, Atlanta, Georgia.

Dear Tracy,

I thought you and David would enjoy this —

My son was so excited to see the new math workbooks arrived. Once we opened them, he told me he was going to ‘steal’ them so he can look at them in his room.  A half hour later, I go upstairs to find him happily still peering through the books . . . Clearly he has connected with the math content!

Thank you!


Click here to read the text version

From: David Berg
To: Sunny
Sent: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 8:51 AM
Subject: James’ letter

Hi Sunny,
Thank you for coming by to give me James’ wonderful letter, and I’m so sorry I missed seeing you. Please give this email to James for me.

Dear James,
Thank you so much for your wonderful letter. I am so pleased to hear of your successes in math, especially your ability to make a picture in everything you do all the time. I am very impressed with your understanding of how important making a picture is, and I want to congratulate and encourage you to continue your excellent work.

James, your letter is so good, I would like to ask your permission to publish it on the Making Math Real website so others may be inspired by what you have achieved, because what you describe in your letter is exactly why I created Making Math Real. Please let me know.

All the best to you,
David Berg

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How do I know this? It’s a picture I was asked to tack to a spot in my mind over and over until it stuck. Now that three digit number lives on a skinny black platform right above 117 and right below 91. If I had learned my 7’s 8’s and 9’s this way, who knows where I’d be now?

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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