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 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 . . .
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.
Best, 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.
Once again, thank you for all the time and effort you put into training me and answering my questions so that I could do MMR with Sophie at home. MMR all fits together so well and each step prepares students for what will come in the future. Sophie and I saw that play out so many times and would sometimes pause to reflect on all the prior MMR learning she had to have in place to work out the problem at hand (and how well you had thought that all out).
I do have a question about probability. Sophie learned and can easily use all of the probability things you taught us in your Pre-Algebra class. Her charter school, though, includes probability with high school Geometry. They seem to expect things like permutations, permutation and combination notation, finding probabilities using permutations and combinations, conditional probabilities, geometric probability, and similar topics that we didn’t cover in MMR. Do you think these topics need to be addressed at some point in high school, and if so when would that be?
We are planning to launch your Algebra II in the fall when Sophie starts her sophomore year.
Thank you for everything, Linnea
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.
However, just to see what was possible, we began working through the Base-10 puzzle pages, beginning with page 1 and continuing with each page in succession, never skipping a page. After a few lessons, they began to catch on to the idea of before and after. It didn’t happen instantly, and they could easily forget what those two words meant. But eventually, after many weeks of work, they were able to do more and more of the puzzles up to 100. Only after that could they begin to learn addition. It was clear that the number sense gained by working through the sequence of Base-10 puzzles was what opened the door for these students to do elementary math. It was also clear that this could not have happened without the puzzles. The puzzles were not just their door to math, but also their only door to math. Because of this experience, I’ve told my colleagues that if our building catches fire or if there is a nuclear holocaust, run to the shelf, grab the 2 Puzzle books, and guard them with your life. It’s he only way you’ll be able to teach certain students when you have to rebuild the school or when mankind has to rebuild civilization.
— Stuart Demmy Partner and Co-Founder Loomis Gateway Academy Loomis, CA
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.
A powerful story of advocacy…
From: Barbara Date: Wed, Apr 3, 2019 at 1:12 PM Subject: Resource notes, accommodations To: Tracy <[email protected]>
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.
This student is able to articulate why he struggles on his math tests at times. When dealing with fractions in particular it is the constant back and forth between the different types of problems, the 4-operations, if you will. We wrote out some support notes just to help him “get his picture” when switching tasks. He put it together himself with my support. The school is asking that I help them understand why he needs this picture maker during test taking. Is there any information/research that I can pull together for a meeting tomorrow to help support his self directed advocacy requests?
I know it is a lot to ask, but I thought I would swing it by you all.
Thank you, Barbara
From: Tracy <[email protected]> Date: Wed, Apr 3, 2019 at 5:30 PM Subject: Re: Resource notes, accommodations To: Barbara
David Berg was able to spend some time on your email at the end of his day and here is his reply, to assist with your important meeting tomorrow:
The principal reason students show struggles with math is directly related to underdevelopment in numerous executive processes that enable the ability to independently activate and sustain working memory. The purpose of the educational intervention is to promote the development of these executive tasks in support of the student’s eventual independent ability to self-initiate, self-activate, and self-sustain working memory from long-term memory files. During this developmental period, students will range from needing an external scaffold provided by a well-trained educator all the way to being almost fully independent by only needing a “tool kit” such as her student currently needs to support his ability to activate working memory for the 4 operations with fractions.
The fact this student can successfully activate working memory with such minimal support is a profoundly positive sign, indicating the imminent development of being fully independent in activating working memory, and as such, should be provided for him to successfully show what he knows. If this penultimate level developmental support is denied him, he will likely be unable to activate his long-term files, even though the actual ability to solve these problems is stored in his long-term memory. It is imperative to understand the executive-based ability to fully activate one’s long-term files has nothing to do with math, but if this student is not allowed the support he needs to activate these files, it will “look like” he doesn’t know the math.
I hope this is helpful, and the accommodation of having a tool kit to support working memory activation on tests is one of the most common.
~David Berg, ET
Don’t hesitate to revisit your Overview binder and notes for further support. We hope this is helpful and good luck tomorrow.
Making Math Real Institute vm: 510-527-0720 ext. 1
From: Barbara Date: Fri, Apr 5, 2019 at 10:04 AM Subject: Re: Resource notes, accommodations To: Tracy <[email protected]>
I wanted to let you know how our meeting went. The teacher came in slightly apprehensive until she saw the progress and work this student has done over the last several years. She was really touched by David’s email. When she saw the ‘notes’ the student had created she whole heartedly agreed that he deserved that support. The school (private) created a 504 plan for him, which prompted some homework reduction that was much needed as well as delineated his need for support around academics.
I want to thank you both and let you know how many lives where touched yesterday by MMR.
In total gratitude, Barbara
From: Tracy <[email protected]> Date: Fri, Apr 5, 2019 at 11:34 AM Subject: Re: Resource notes, accommodations To: Barbara
Thank you so much for sharing the outcome of your meeting with David and I. This is really wonderful to hear and such a powerful story. It isn’t often that the learning specialist, the teacher, and the school come together in agreement to really support a student’s needs.
You made my day! I hope you have a great weekend and thanks again for your thoughtfulness. Success stories like these really help keep us all going forward in our good work.
In appreciation, Tracy
Making Math Real Institute vm: 510-527-0720 ext. 1
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!!!!
Please thank David Berg for creating such a wonderful system! I’m trying desperately to get more teachers to do the training. I hope to get funding for the 400 Math Facts in the Fall. I am looking forward to learning much more!!
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.
Once in awhile he didn’t feel like working with me and gave me attitude, but when I threatened to quit, he immediately straightened out – MMR is just such an easy and positive way to learn math, and he loved it!! There is no question in my mind that my son’s executive function capability improved dramatically with consistent MMR tutoring. Other weakness were greatly improved, so that he is now an advanced math student, getting straight As, and he actually understands what he’s doing (instead of “just do”). MMR was a life changer for my son, and for me…MMR is an absolute gift, and I feel a responsibility to share it. Thank you, David!!
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.
Then, a fellow tutor told me about Making Math Real. I really almost cried at the overview class. After 40 years of searching, I had finally found someone who knew how to teach math, and was willing to teach me. Having tried so many things previously, it was easy to recognize that this was not just another math program! I never understood, before meeting David, the connection between math and executive function. I never understood that every increment of understanding is a neuro connection. I never understood that my job was to help a student activate his or her working memory, access their picture of the concept, and sustain that picture as long as needed, intervening as needed until they could do all this independently. I cannot believe how much fun I am having now teaching math! My students are so surprised at their own success. They usually come to me discouraged and without hope, and many are pretty emotionally beat up from their school experience. Then, they see that they can do math, and begin to sit taller in their chairs and even smile in delight as we recognize and celebrate their growth together. There are so many stories I could share, and I have only been using Making Math Real for a couple of years. I’m just going to share a few of my favorites from students I have worked with: Eighth grade girl who was failing math. She could not multiply with regrouping at all, although she knew her facts. Before I took the Four Operations class, I was trying to teach her using popsicle sticks to show her how regrouping worked. We were literally counting out groups of ten sticks, bundling them together with rubber bands and moving them to the ten’s place, and so forth. None of this manipulation of manipulatives was resulting in actual understanding or translating to the problems on her page. I was finally able to help her memorize the procedure for multiplication and do 2 digit by 2 digit problems by writing all the sub-products down and adding them together. Then I took the 4 ops class. I came home and showed her how to multiply using houses and chimneys and transferring the understanding increment by increment from concrete to semi-concrete to semi-abstract to abstract. I am not exaggerating when I say she was multiplying with regrouping 1 digit by 2 digits in an hour. In no time at all she was multiplying whatever I put in front of her. So, I made a deal with her parents. I would teach her everything I had learned from Making Math Real. When she was caught up to what I had learned, we would take a break until I got more training. I was eventually able to help her come up to grade level! Happy kid, happy parents, happy me! Fourth grade girl failing math. The school had threatened retention, because of her math grades. I saw her four days a week for a month in the summer, then just 2 days a week once school started. She knew no math facts. She could add, but subtraction was challenging and anything beyond that was impossible. We started with 9-lines. We also systematically worked on operations. By the end of the school year, she was able to do all operations with whole numbers, as well as add and subtract fractions with unlike denominators. She knew all her multiplication facts without skip-counting. She was so proud of herself! She loved to do her work all over my big white board, then she would insist I take a picture and text it to her parents. They said she was so disappointed if ever she had to miss tutoring. She told me, “I am the best kid at math in my class!” Another student started with me when he was in fifth grade. He really had no math understanding. How did he get to fifth grade without knowing place value?! So, we started at the beginning. I’d love to say he progressed quickly, but he really had to work for each increment of understanding. At first, he was resistant. But, as he began to see that he could understand, and he began to experience success, his attitude changed. The best advice David gave me for working with a kid like him was to measure how far along he could get in a complicated problem before he needed help. How long could he sustain his picture? When I explained to him that the most important thing that was going on when he was doing math was he was building his executive function, he became more willing to hang in with me on long, complicated tasks. He began noticing that he could sustain his picture longer, and was encouraged by that. When the focus moved from correct answers on seemingly irrelevant problems to brain development that would serve him in LIFE, he bought in. I truly never knew that was the true gift of math before meeting Making Math Real. Thank you, David, for changing my life as a teacher, and the lives of the amazing kids I am privileged to work with! I promised my husband I would retire when I was 85 years old, but I don’t know…I’m pretty addicted to what I do!
— Kris, Private Tutor
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.”
We even applied to several very parochial schools and expensive private schools, all of whom rejected her. The entire process was devastating to an elementary school kid, to have to take tests and “audition” at each school. I was in a deep dark hole, searching the internet for answers when I came upon some comments about David’s MMR class. Then, I went to his free-introduction class. I was encouraged, but I didn’t know whether I could invest not only the money, but the time to take his classes. Months later, I found his introductory class on YouTube, downloaded it for $20, and decided to try it on my daughter. Well, I decided to go for a walk with my daughter and just talk about the imaging of the 8’s multiplication. Unbelievably, after a 40 minute walk, she knew her 8’s better than I. Then, we tried again the next day, the 9’s…again success. I was sold.
Yet, she still couldn’t subtract and I didn’t know why. I took her to David for a consultation and in five minutes of watching her, he knew why. He showed me what she was doing wrong and she instantly could subtract.
Now, she’s in geometry and has a B+ in the class, in public school. I’ve taken all of David’s classes, up to geometry, so that I can guide her. She needed constant support, so I decided to jump in. It’s been an amazing experience, with the added bonus that I can also teach my other daughter who has no learning difference. All of her friends and she say that my explanations are far better than their teachers, though I should say they are David’s instructions, not mine. Furthermore, I’ve referred students to him for direct tutoring and they couldn’t be happier. One grandparent told me that it was a life-changer for their family. I couldn’t agree more.
Thank you David, for giving my daughter the skills and courage to be happy and confident.
Fondly, LS from San Rafael
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.
In all that searching I learned the best way to teach math was through a multisensory program. I literally spent thousands of dollars on very popular multisensory programs. I bought at least four of them as well as several online game-based “drill and kill” subscriptions—each new program promising to fix the issues with cute dots, number lines, gimmicky games, you name it, and I believed the promises. I. Was. So. Naive.
∞ Read more by Karen Cavallaro, a parent to three children who struggle with math, dyslexia and ADHD. She was a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia, Nevada and has nearly 300 hours of Making Math Real coursework, and training in Orton-Gillingham
The following stories are from Room 2121 of the Atlanta Speech School, Atlanta, Georgia.
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!
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
From: Sunny Date: Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 2:14 PM Subject: Re: James’ letter To: David Berg
Thank you so much for your email. James was thrilled and had a big grin on his face for the longest time :). I hope it’s okay that I had him email you back directly.
We dropped by the workshop yesterday since James wanted to give you his card in person. Had I not made a mistake about location (I thought the class was at Cal State East Bay), he would have been able to do so. Sorry we couldn’t wait because I needed to be back in Belmont by 3, and left the card on your table.
The simple fact that James will be placed in algebra next year is incredible given his learning profile (see attached assessments if you are interested). We won’t stand a chance of improving the quality of his school life without you and Making Math Real. THANK YOU!!! James has mastered basic concepts and skills of Algebra I, and most importantly, he has become aware of his own processing style and challenges in executive functions. MMR has given both of us the possibility to advocate for what’s the best placement for James. To have that opportunity is truly a life-saver, as it will reshape his learning environment, peer group and his social emotional well-being for years to come.
It was not an easy decision for me to advocate for an advanced placement for James. As an MMR inspired parent and teacher, I understand this choice widens the developmental gaps between James and his classmates, other factors aside. This is a choice, believe or not, for survival. James’ middle school has 4 different tracks for 8thgrade math: Common Core, Algebra, Advanced Algebra, and Geometry. 3 different tracks for 7th grade. Imagine a 7th grade common core class with bottom quartile performing students, and a not-yet-credentialed teacher who has no classroom management skills, taught all 6 periods in the day and all 3 grade levels without any prep time. James could not stand the behavior in the classroom, and after exhausting all of his bathroom passes, he started to hurt himself physically and mentally, pinching and scratching his arms and saying all sorts of negative things to himself during math class. He was beyond miserable and was in a mental health crisis. How can we ever thank you enough for empowering us with MMR, so that we have a chance to get out of that situation?!
THANK YOU David. MMR undoubtedly has changed our lives for the better.
From: James Date: Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 1:40 PM Subject: Thank you To: David Berg Cc: Sunny
Dear Mr. Berg,
Thank you for the opportunity to have my thank you note on the Making Math Real Website. I really appreciate it. By the way, I would like to have the thank you note on the Making Math Real Website.
I am very grateful to have Making Math Real in my daily life. I am grateful because it helps me get around with my daily life in everything I do, not just math. For example, when I am at school I need a picture of which supplies to get out, which textbook page to turn to, and what homework is due.
Another reason that Making Math Real helps me is even though I still go random, I know that the math is not the problem. Not using the picture is the problem. I am working on using a stop sign to slow down and get the picture before the pencil hits the paper.
Thank you for all of your help. I look forward to meeting you in the future.
From: Sunny Date: Fri, Aug 4, 2017 at 5:10 PM Subject: No Small Miracle – THANK YOU! To: David Berg
We’d like to let you know that James has mastered Algebra I word problems (Rate Time Distance, Mixture, & Work) with the help of your “bucket” system. He feels so very much empowered now and we can’t thank you enough!
This would have been a near impossible task for James, who has very low working memory (4%), language processing/comprehension difficulties, linear processor/lack of central coherence, very low visual perceptual/spatial skills and executive dysfunction (especially sequential processing, selecting out and focusing in), etc.
Your “bucket” system creates a beautifully still, consistent working memory picture, and the MMR training has taught me to be aware that teaching is a developmental intervention. Those factors have made the otherwise impossible learning possible. Yes it is the teaching, never the program. I can’t wait to read your upcoming series of articles!
The best that has come out of all this for us is not just math, or even the various aspects of development we worked on while learning math, which in itself is no small miracle (eg. his accuracy is in the 90%’s consistently compared to 60~70% a few years ago). James has learned about the way his brain processes information, what’s easy and what’s difficult for him through day in and day out concrete math examples. This self-awareness is going to help him self-advocate in life in the future. The core cognitive deficit of ASD has made it incredibly difficult for many to “get it” in life in general. I feel that we are making strides in the most difficult yet important area. No small miracle in deed.
I’ve read the article by Cavallaro. I wish I could be just as articulate and have enough experience to let the world know what a profound impact MMR can make for kids on the ASD spectrum. I think for many, math could be their relative strength.
We certainly would not be where we are today without you and MMR.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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!”
“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.”
A letter from a parent to her child’s 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.
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.
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.