Personal Transformations: Stories from Educators, Parents & Students

In celebration of those steadfast MMR practitioners, who in addition to changing the lives of their students, have also experienced their own personal transformations, I am sending out the request to share your stories of having experienced powerful, personal transformations as educators, clinicians, math learners, and as human beings. Your stories of personal transformation, like your stories of changing your students’ lives, will again provide invaluable inspiration and motivation for countless others seeking to help their children/students. Please feel free to remain anonymous as your stories need not include any identifying information (unless you want to). I hope to continue publishing your stories for years to come.

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

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

Personal Transformations: Stories From Educators, Parents & Students


A note of thanks for David

As I sit in the parking lot of the school waiting for my son to pick up his football gear, I want to take some time to write a long overdue thank you.

Because you work tirelessly to teach those of us who are willing to learn what we don’t know, my students are achieving in ways I could never have imagined a short year ago. Each of them understands executive function and working memory and can readily tell me if their bus driver is on the job or on a break. Their parents have learned that developing a stable picture is more important than the right answer on a worksheet. And I have the daily joy of watching kids reignite their confidence with genuine success.

I can go on and on. I won’t. Please know that for all the frustration and misunderstanding you regularly encounter, there are practitioners like me who strive to apply what we learn with integrity. We change lives because you make the investment to teach us. Thank you for staying the course and continuing this critical work.

With a grateful heart,

N.S.


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


On supervision and mentoring…

Dear David,

I am really enjoying and appreciating your supervision and mentoring, and it is definitely bringing me up a level, which is needed. It is a gift, and I am thrilled with your decision to offer this opportunity. I cannot believe I am now getting a special education teaching credential (for paper reasons), with the intent to teach in a more formal way. I have had many other careers (environmentalist, engineer, activist, clothing designer and online retailer, project manager), and math teaching in this way is the only one I want to continue.

You have made a huge contribution to math teaching, and I encourage you to leave as much of a self-sustaining legacy as you can, even though it will never be as good as what you deliver yourself.

-Annie K.


I found David and MMR through a MMR trained practitioner who donated an hour of her time to a school charity. My initial motivation was to help one of my children by learning the ways of successful tutors, and bringing it into my home so I could more consistently apply it. I attended the Overview and became fascinated to learn more because I found the class to be a refreshing, authentic, well-researched and practiced. MMR was highly effective with my kids but also answered broader questions. In my work on Wall Street i saw it wasn’t the most Intelligent who were being promoted, but rather those with the most developed executive functions. The connection between a math picture with executive function development was a major epiphany for me.  I have now taken every class but Kindergarten at least once while also spending time one on one time with David under the mentoring program. My previous experience as an options trader was math intensive but MMR taught me I was never correctly taught math. Applying principles from MMR, I was able to turn a company around which ended up saving many jobs and is now operating successfully. More importantly, MMR has sharpened my own analytical capabilities so much I can actually feel it in my brain. This helps me everyday in life and in understanding the truth. I am extremely grateful for MMR and its power.

— Robert M.


On Algebra II…

I paid the deposit ages before, but as the Algebra II class approached, I was on the fence about it…I knew how many hours and how many week-ends would be eaten up in the pursuit of better math teaching, and I wasn’t even sure if I would ever have the opportunity to implement the lessons given my oldest son’s recent progression to precalc.  Ultimately, commitment to the cause won out.  I had to support the group, and the effort David made to develop the course.  Once class started, the familiar classmates and routines and notetaking fell into place…soon, it was like no time had passed since the Geometry class – the class I thought was going to be the last MMR class ever, after the Algebra class that was supposed to be the last MMR class.  

As with the other courses, it has been fascinating to explore the incrementation, the sequence, and the development of Algebra II, presented by David, alongside many of the same MMR class veterans who have been in these classes together.  I am once again inspired to find and teach some students what I have learned.  And I continue to share my enthusiasm for this painless and effective way of math teaching with as many people as possible.

On my own kids…

I started teaching the 9 lines to my own son 8 years ago, when he had just completed third grade.  When I saw firsthand how much easier it was for him to learn, I kept going…lucky enough to stay one step ahead of him through Algebra, and I was able to teach him every single bit of MMR content I learned through Algebra.  I did a few things with him in Geometry, but this is where he started learning math more from the teacher at school.  I was worried, but I sat back to see what would happen.  Interestingly, Trevor didn’t need MMR anymore.  He had built up such a solid picture and ease with all the foundational elementary and middle school math that came before…in Algebra II, he could successfully make his own picture with the new math content, and it made sense to him.  Once in a while, I still check in with him, and I can see in trigonometry, this is still the case.  He sometimes needs reminders to study for tests early enough, and to honor the way he learns, but he is fully independent in Honors high school math classes, as well as Honors/AP science classes.  I am fully aware of the critical importance of MMR and the higher level science and math it made available to my son.

My younger son never had too much patience to do tutoring at home, but I still was able to get most of Algebra and what came before in…I wanted to do Geometry, or at least check it, but his age and need to be independent made it impossible.  His anti-parent attitude made me think we were done working together for good.  I half-heartedly offered to tutor him in Algebra II as my “practice student,” figuring for sure he would refuse.  Interestingly, he has been able to observe a little what it’s like for me to be in class with David, as Algebra II was transitioned to Zoom.  He has overheard a few bits and pieces, and to my complete surprise, he announced to me that he wanted to start learning Algebra II this summer.  I am unsure if he will stick with it (hoping!), but what I know for sure, is the main reason this independent teenager is asking for tutoring is because he is so aware of how much all the other MMR lessons helped him.  And that is a beautiful thing.  

David, thank you for sharing your MMR gifts with us, so that we can share superlative math teaching with students.  I will miss taking your classes, but I will never.  Ever.  Forget.  

In fond gratitude,
Annie K.

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Seven years ago I was a classroom teacher for an independent school dedicated to kids with dyslexia and other learning differences.  That year the local Oregon branch of the IDA invited David to come give the Overview for their annual conference.  My school at the time offered free registration to any teachers who wanted to go.  I was the only teacher who was interested.  

I remember hearing people murmuring about how unusual it was for math to be the topic of an ORBIDA conference.  I remember arriving late and in a hurry (time management was and still is hard for me) but going up to the very front row anyway (because while math and being on time have never been easy interrupting people always has).  I remember David’s suit and tie and thinking about how his shoes were really clean and very fancy.  I remember being certain I would not really understand this dude; I had gone to the big IDA national conference the fall before and had struggled to make sense out of nearly every presentation I attended.

I remember feeling a warm glowing ball of hope gathering in the center of my chest as I listened to David speak.  By lunch I had realized three vital things: everything he said made sense, Making Math Real was what my students needed and deserved, and that this man was willing to be my teacher if I was willing to put in the work.  I remember sitting at his table at lunch on the last day, feeling like I was in the presence of an oracle but also trying to eat salad which is just inherently awkward.  I remember people becoming disgruntled when they asked how to learn more and he mentioned his in person classes in Oakland scheduled for that summer.  I remember laughing about that, amazed that people wanted the oracle to both speak truth and make it easy for them.  If it’s easy it’s not worth it, but I digress.

I took 9 Lines and Four Operations that summer of 2013 and those classes completely changed my life.  I remember yelling out, “TEN!!” when David asked how many ones are the most that could ever live in the one’s house and feeling my face flame when it was revealed it was, uh, nine.  I remember sitting next to Kara every day–dear sweet amazing Kara, who already understood every bit of the math that was being presented but never made me feel dumb for thinking that ten ones could live in the one’s house.  I remember completely losing my shit the very last day, during the double digit divisor long division, because I was exhausted and homesick and was still struggling with single digit divisors when I did problems on my own.  I had to leave class early because I was so upset I realized I was becoming a distraction and making his job even harder than it already was.  I left sobbing and feeling like the math had hurt me, like actually cut me open, the truth and the real picture doing the difficult and painful work of cleansing the old wounds that I had been carrying my entire life.

But then, the next year, I started teaching from my notes.  I got my school to agree to give me the kids that just could not math at all and I taught exclusively Making Math Real and it was one of the most validating experiences of my life.  I realized that *I* was learning and developing too, right alongside my kids, which I oddly had never considered.  All I had thought about was how to get this medicine to THEM, how to help THEM with THEIR picture…I never realized that meant I would get my own picture, too.  For the first time in my life I was able to remember multiplication facts.  I found myself actually knowing if someone gave me the right change back at the Farmer’s Market.  I also found myself able to remember things better, juggle more things in working memory and was suddenly way more on time.  Like mostly on time for the first time in my life.  It was weird but also cool to see myself change, to see my own brain develop, and I took that development as a sign that I was on the right track.  

I went back down for Fractions and had a blast.  It wasn’t as rough as the first summer, thank God, and I had the benefit of a whole year of development on my own.  That spring I took Pre-Algebra, flying down five times every other weekend; I vividly remember fellow teachers up in Portland thinking I was nuts.  I kept teaching everything I learned, being patient with myself when I didn’t get it, and being so grateful for people in the MMR community who would always help me when I reached out.

Every Making Math Real class made the small glowing ball of hope in my chest grow.  I started lifting weights, I started a business, I started believing that I could actually do anything.  That I was infinite just like math.  Somewhere along the way I stopped being afraid.  I watched myself change into someone I thought was actually really cool.  I got to stop being the ignorant girl who would just shrug when someone asked how much the tip at a restaurant should be and instead the neat weirdo who could casually say, “just jump the whole thing one jump smaller and then double it.”  I got to walk into IEP meetings and make points so well argued and valid that twice principals pulled me aside afterwards to ask me if I would consider tutoring their own kids.  I got to live life fully, on my own terms, for myself and I gotta tell you it’s all directly connected to the fact I can math now.  Everything in math is connected and meaningful, but it was Making Math Real that helped me generate the power of real meaning and connection in my own life.

David, I will always be grateful to you.  I can’t express to you in words how much you have done for me.  I can never thank you enough.  But you know what I can do?  I can do for my students what you have done for me.  I can help people get their picture for math and I can watch that change their life and I can pray that someday, maybe in 45 years, that will be enough to repay everything you have done for me.   

— Emily

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Thank you David for mentoring me as a math teacher and educational therapist. For me, these classes have been about so much more than math. You have created a method that looks at each individual student which has transformed my understanding of how students make meaning from what we offer them. I use these tools daily in all situations and empower students to use them as well to better understand their lives as students and also their relationships in the classroom and beyond.

The stories of students who have joyfully responded to math finally making sense are too numerous to count. A student earning 100% on a test after being absent from school for 2 weeks. The aha moment when a student realizes how easy it is to recognize an equivalent fraction and simplify it after learning her 9 Lines. One student exclaimed, “It all connects!” A shift begins to happen. This work has brought healing to so many students who experienced frustration in class and thought it was somehow their fault. One of my favorite parts of teaching Making Math Real is letting students know that it is my job to support them in making their picture. If it’s not working, it is up to me to figure out what it takes. Having hit a wall in my own math education during my junior year in high school, it somehow didn’t occur to me that the teaching had an influence on whether or not I was “getting it”. Children often don’t question and blame themselves. There is liberation in the idea that I, as the teacher, am responsible for the quality of their understanding. Deep trust is built, and they believe in themselves again. 

David Berg, one of my students once asked me, “Why doesn’t he run for president?” You are influencing the lives of so many beyond your classes. I humbly hope to continue to bring this powerful way of teaching to students for years to come with the knowledge that this is about so much more than math.

With gratitude,
Gabrielle

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My life changed in 2014 when I began what was to be a summer long drive into the world of Making Math Real. That first summer I took the Overview, 9 Lines Intensive, The Four Operations, and Fractions, Decimals and Advance Place Value.

I really don’t know how I did that, but I’m glad I did. I met wonderful teachers who loved helping children like I did, and the knowledge I took away changed how I saw my role as a math teacher/tutor. David’s passion to help children love math is evident. His strategies take a child’s development into account, and the increments he breaks concepts into is brilliant. I have repeatedly witnessed children who, when they began with me, were so discouraged with math, they didn’t have much confidence they could ever understand it. However, after a few months these same discouraged children would stop me in the hall at school to tell me how much they loved math! Those results sold me and I have spent the last six years taking every MMR class offered and even being a part of several  If You Build It campaigns. I will never be sorry for the time I have spent traveling, sitting in class, or meeting in study sessions between classes. Virtually or in person, I have learned so much and I will be forever grateful for the training I have received. I will miss my cohort of fellow MMRs, but I know we have a connection and we are here for each other.

Dave, thank you for your passion, thank you for sharing your insight on how to teach math to children so they thrive and can ‘feel the math”. Thanks for helping understand the importance of having a ‘picture’ in math, and finally thank you for sticking it out with us in the alien environment of ZOOM! You Rock David!

With gratitude,
Cheryl S.

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How Making Math Real has changed my life

I have always hated math, couldn’t do math and was the worst math student.  But everything has changed in 2002 when I met David Berg and got acquainted with MMR — Making Math Real has totally transformed my life.

I understood why I was struggling with math all my life, I could see why my daughter wasn’t getting it either, and I just knew how to remedy that with the brilliant insights and strong tools provided by MMR.  

 It was then that I vowed to teach math to struggling students – hoping to change their lives as math students from  feeling failure and fear to feeling success and confidence.

I’ve been studying MMR and working with my own students accordingly ever since.  All of them achieving their goals.  

I live in Israel and am trying to find a way to bring MMR here.  Maybe someday…

— Sarah Sharon


David,

You have touched so many lives, directly in all of your classes, as well as through each of us when we interact with our students.   An amazing reach!

I am ever so grateful to have been introduced to MMR in 2004.  Every bit of your classes made sense to me.  Each approach, each reasoning why something is taught the way it is, is so detailed and thought out, and most importantly, makes sense.

Growing up, I always had the need to fully understand the “why” behind everything (which luckily many of my teachers supported magnificently in grade school through high school), and you have incorporated that into your MMR classes and into all that you talk about.  

Your teaching, the results I started seeing in my classroom using these methods, and the invaluable support of Michael Curry at Star, inspired me to focus my teaching on math.  I knew that I couldn’t become great at every subject, and if I wanted to get good at using the MMR methods in my teaching, math using the MMR approach needed to be the primary focus of my work.   

Every time I take one of your classes, I come away feeling newly inspired.  I have learned to incrementalize any topic I teach to the tiniest detail if needed.  You have made me a better teacher and a better guide for my students.

Thank you is not enough, but it’s hard to express the impact you have had in our world.

Thank you,
Deb B.

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The best parent education I have received thus far has been learning to teach Math with David. Understanding processing styles in particular has made me a wiser person in all my relationships.

— Margot


Making Math Real: An Appreciation

The thing is, it’s only partly about the math.

Sure, I absolutely love using MMR with students: watching them relax; watching them enjoy the process (many for the first time); watching them treat each increment like a fun puzzle they totally know how to solve. Watching them really learn the content! Witnessing how kids who have deeply hated math can now gain mastery, and how that heals some old internal wounds. It’s been a great relief to learn this methodology, to understand the absolute best scope and sequence. I know what order to teach concepts in, and I know the gold-standard way to bring the concepts so that kids can get their pictures back later on their own. I understand where to back up to if a student is missing something from an earlier part of their math development. But there’s more….

It’s only partly about brain development, too. 

Yes, I’ve seen the magic of a big-picture student learning how to attend to details. I’ve seen the linear processor make broad connections for the first time. I’ve seen kids with all processing styles develop executive function in ways that will translate into success in every facet of school and life, boosting their self-esteem. And I now have an answer when reluctant students ask why they need to learn algebra, since they are planning to study humanities: “This is your brain before Algebra, and this is your brain on Algebra”. MMR supports brain development like nothing else. But that’s still not the whole story…

It’s only partly about students’ processing styles, too

Yep, I have learned phenomenally useful info about processing styles and neurodiversity as a by-product of these years of MMR courses. MMR has taught me how to observe the student’s processing to discover how they are interacting with the material – and with the world –  and to find a way in. This has profoundly deepened the compassion I have for students.

Because it’s also personal…

One doesn’t expect to learn about oneself in a math course, and this has been the biggest surprise of all. MMR has taught me so much about my own big-picture processing; why I want that personal connection and why I tend to “feel” everything so deeply in life. I even figured out, thanks to MMR, that when I’m stressed-out I focus on details and lose the big picture completely. All this insight has impacted my relationships with people around me. I now understand, for example, why certain colleagues don’t react emotionally to a student’s struggles the way I do, and I’ve learned to respect their clear-headedness. I also understand the ways in which my linear husband and I sometimes miscommunicate due to our processing styles, and yet how we perfectly complement each other. My whole family now laughs when my husband says, in his heavy German accent, “Am I being too linear right now?” We all laugh just as much at me and my big picture, loads of feeling, all-embracing way of moving through the world. 

And there’s one more thing..

David, I once said to you that you are more of a “prophet” than an educator. And I told you I knew that because of the love and compassion behind every single increment of your work. I called you a “channel” or conduit, and you said it felt that way sometimes. No one can intellectually understand the mystery of where this comes from. But suffice it to say that there is a great deal of presence and consciousness in your work. 

Thank you so much for all these gifts!

Best wishes,
Margo E.

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David,

You have been my unofficial mentor for 20 years. I quote you often to others and always to my students. Thank you for your passionate devotion to teaching and to helping me understand that “getting my picture” is everything.

— Kris K.


Dear David,

Thank you for the great methodology classes. Your classes do not just make math real for all learners, your classes save and heal souls. Learners who thought they were “dumb” realize they were not taught properly and were not given the tools necessary to be successful. MMR is the only way my kids get math. Thanks!

— Patricia