Transitioning to Common Core: not just a struggle for students

frustrated childWe know the implementation of the Common Core has caused more than a few headaches. Parents see their children struggling and don’t understand why their child is being taught math so differently. Frustration is especially prevalent in students who started learning the “traditional” methods, and now are being taught differently.

Revamping educational standards has this unfortunate side effect; there are inevitably those whose education suffers during the transition period.  It is equally challenging for the teachers, because they have to completely change the way they teach, sometimes after decades of the same way of teaching.

frustrated teacherIt’s easy to get upset with teachers because of the strain this change is putting on the children. First we notice that our children are being forced to take too many tests, then we see them struggling with the common core. It’s easy to lump these frustrations together. However, believe it or not, one of the purposes of the common core is to reduce the number of standardized tests* issued by states and districts. The choice to revamp our educational system was not made lightly, for all of the reasons our teachers and students are currently struggling.

So what does this mean for the struggling students? If even our teachers are struggling, what hope do we have? Well, Mathnasium of Avon can help.

Mathnasium’s curriculum is designed specifically with the Common Core in mind, ensuring that our students are prepared, confident, and are masters of each topic they are taught. Such a mastery is hugely important for young minds during the transition to the Common Core.

Unfortunately, it seems that this transition period is resulting in students who either get it, or who don’t. There are are few in between.

What that boils down to is that either the student will be able to rise to their new expectations, and gain a mastery in their future math endeavors, or they will fall behind now, and stay behind. It is common knowledge that a student that falls behind a little bit will continue to fall further and further behind as their schooling progresses**.

It falls you, the parents, to make sure your children aren’t part of the statistic. Get your child started on path to Math Confidence today by visiting our website or calling us at (860) 785 MATH (6284) to schedule a risk-free assessment for your child today!

*PDF by the Center for American  Progress:



At Mathnasium of Avon, we take pride in using the Socratic method of teaching math where we always ask, even if a child has the right answer, how they got to that answer. This approach helps them in classroom as well with the Common Core standards. Mathnasium of Avon has been recently voted the Best Tutoring center in the Farmington Valley and we work with students with Autism too! Call us today at 860-785-6284 to find out how we can help your child excel in Math.

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The Importance of Mental Math

In a world where calculators are so ubiquitous, parents may be asking themselves, “Why should my child develop strong mental math skills?”

After all, a calculator tool comes standard on every smart phone, so a calculator is always on hand. Besides, they will learn (if they  haven’t already) the algorithms that we learned in school for multi-digit addition, subtraction, multiplication and addition. So why go though the hassle of learning to do these problems mentally? It turns out, the answers to this question are numerous.

A strong mental math foundation:

  • Harbors a deeper conceptual understanding
  • Creates a better memory
  • Increases accuracy of calculations
  • Improves PSAT and SAT scores

These are some of the most important aspects of a mathematical foundation, and we don’t need to address here the importance of increasing SAT scores. The best time to build mental math foundation is between the ages of 5 and 10, but it’s never too late to start! If you realize you’re late changing the oil in your car, you don’t leave it because you should have changed it sooner, and now it’s too late! You change it right away!

Harbors a deeper conceptual understanding

Mental MathWhen calculating a problem with the traditional algorithm (i.e. carrying the one….), the most common problem is not remembering how to do the algorithm properly. This comes from not knowing why the algorithm exists as it
does. We were taught to memorize this method, often without learning why or how it works. Many students don’t know that “carrying the one” is splitting up our sum into ones and tens (e.g. 8+9=17, 7 ones, and 1 ten, so we carry the 1 ten over to the next column with the rest of the tens and continue adding).


When working with students who are having trouble doing these algorithms, we have found that the best way to help them is not by having them go over it again and again until they have memorized it, but working on both the mental math and the algorithm with which it corresponds. There are countless cases like this one where a student has been struggling with an algorithm, and when learning mental math, has that teacher’s favorite moment of “Oh!, I get it!”

Creates a better memory

Mental math promotes faster and faster calculations, allowing the brain to quickly recall memorized math facts to calculate the given problem. Mental math isn’t about memorization, though, it’s about manipulating what you are able to quickly recall to calculate a given problem. For example, we have students as young as 7 who are able to calculate 194 x 7 by multiplying first 200 x 7 , then subtracting 6×7, 1400-42=1358.

This comes as a result of a couple of steps:

  • The student practices mental math to the point where recalling basic calculation becomes effortless
  • The mental math practice also promotes retaining the results of the calculations after each step (i.e. remembering 200 x 7 = 1400, and that 6 x 7 = 42, so that the student may focus on the resulting subtraction)
  • Understanding the concept, and knowing the most efficient way to calculate the problem.

This translates to better recollection of everything, not just mathematics, and can even postpone the onset of Alzheimer’s

Bank ErrorIncreases accuracy of calculations 

As mentioned above, a very common mistake in algorithm calculation comes from a lack of conceptual understanding. This can result in a young student trying to calculate 610-130, and getting 780! However, by using mental math, a student will often use approximation so they will know what their mental calculation should be close to, and can adjust their calculations, resulting in a higher percentage of correct answers! The applications for this are countless, ranging from raising grades to helping activities that come up in everyday adult life!

Improves PSAT and SAT scores

SAT ChartWe’ve gone over how students typically do math problems by rote memorization of the process (i.e. recalling the algorithm) or by flexing their mental math muscles.

A recent study by the Journal of Neuroscience delves into the results of students who use each method to calculate their problems. The findings were quite conclusive (complete with brain scans). Students who used mental math as their primary method of calculation were shown to have consistently higher results on these standardized tests than those who had simply memorized the algorithms.

For those who like to read the technical jargon, the article describing the study can be found here.

And of course, if you are looking to improve your child’s calculation speed and ‘math fluency’ bring your child on for a free session at

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The Amazing Math Skills Of Olympians!

OlympicaMathOften times in high school kids are put into cliques by others and labeled as Jocks, Drama kids, Academics, etc. However, in most cases there is much more to people than a singular attribute which defines them.

The Summer Olympics are coming up and so we decided to research some of the backgrounds of the Olympians that will be representing the United States. Even though these athletes have dedicated much of their time and effort to their sport, there is much more to them than their physical ability.

amy-cozad-web-nup_172060_0235Some of the American athletes have extensive backgrounds in mcraft2athematics. For example, Amy Cozad (Left), a swimmer from Indiana also has a B.S. in mathematics. Amy works as a math tutor at Indiana University where she gives back the knowledge that she acquired throughout the years. Another example is skeet-shooter, Morgan Craft (Right), from Lindenwood College in Missouri who recently said, ” I’ve always had a love for math and science.” She plans on receiving a masters degree in order to work as a physicians assistant after the Olympics.  The list of athletes competing in this summer’s Olympics with diverse backgrounds is vast. Yes, while it is important to train hard and play hard, it’s also important to study hard!

Here at Mathnasium we understand the importance of a strong mathematical foundation.  Whether you plan on being an engineer, a mechanic, a doctor, or an Olympic athlete, you don’t want your future to be restricted by your knowledge of math. So if your kids rely on math tutors or are simply seeking math enrichment, bring them to Mathnasium of Avon. Our unique method of explaining math concepts has helped thousands of kids nationwide develop solid math confidence. We help kids Catch up, Keep up, and Get AHEAD!!

Here is wishing Team USA all the best for Olympics 2016!!!

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This Summer, strengthen your child’s Common Core

Frustrated_CommonCoreThe push for common core school curriculum began in 2009, with the idea that this standardized curriculum would get students thinking about the solutions to problems, rather than just arriving at the answers.

Generally, the math common core assignments require problem-solving strategies to be shown, rather than just having the answers written. This is important because it provides the necessity of students thinking about how they arrived at the answer. However, a lot of the time when students do mental math or solve the problem in a way that is not on the rubric, this involves a grading penalty.


The debate for vs. against common core is complicated, as there are significant pros and cons to each side. Some of the most important points, both for and against, can be read here.

The strengths of common core principles are to require students to think about why answers are true, rather than that they are true. The image below shows two different ways of thinking about the same problem, one of which requires addition strategies that people who have not learned common core will be more familiar with, the other way a method of solving the problem that goes with grouping of 10s and 1s.

Both problems, obviously, lead to the correct answer. But in a graded method, only the work shown on the right would be graded as a correct solution. The question behind this problem is: if a student solves the problem correctly, in the “old way”, is it fair to penalize him/her? If the point of the lesson was to practice the new problem solving technique of grouping 10s and 1s, the “old way” would not demonstrate understanding of the concept, but it is not wrong. So is it fair?

The argument could go either way, but the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter your opinion on common core, because that’s the reality of school teaching today. It’s important to focus on the how instead of the why; rather than asking ourselves why common core is necessary, we should be asking ourselves how we can set our children up for success with the common core worksheets they are assigned.

At Mathnasium of Avon, we take pride in using the Socratic method of teaching math where we always ask, even if a child has the right answer, how they got to that answer. This approach helps them in classroom as well with the Common Core standards. To know more about how we can help your child get ahead and stay ahead in Math, contact us today.

Mathnasium of Avon has been recently voted the Best Tutoring center in the Farmington Valley and we work with students with autism too! Call us today at 860-785-6284 to find out how we can help your child excel in Math.

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An Effective Approach Towards Dealing With Autism

There are many different characteristics of those with autism including a wide array of capabilities and distinct personalities. Fortunately, educators and psychologists have developed effective strategies which will allow for many of those on the autistic spectrum to learn and function just as any other child would.


According to Autism Speaks, a non profit organization which is dedicated to research and awareness, there are 6 basic steps that serve as a guideline towards an effective style of teaching; which are effective with all sorts of children, not just children with autism.


They are:


1) Break lesson plans or projects into small parts.

Sometimes children have trouble seeing the whole picture and need to see parts of a problem in the beginning, rather than being inundated with the whole thing all at once.

2) Visual learning aids trump spoken teaching methods.

Drawing pictures or using tangible objects like marbles or other counting aids can be so much more effective than simply stating something.

3) Write out a plan and stick to it.

All sorts of children and adults need a plan to be successful. As Ben Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail.”

4) Use the language of “If, Then and First, Next.”

This sets clear objectives and rewards. For example, “If you finish this page of math, then you may draw for five minutes.”

5) Give a choice in their learning.Autism-5

If a child is having a difficult time understanding a particular idea, then allow for them to take a break from it and to choose another concept that will further their skills and also serve as a mental break.

6) Never Break Promises.

Children are very responsive to promises. It’s important to have a sense of continuity with the teacher/student relationship. If rewards are not kept, then the child loses a seriousness or desire to continue with effort.

At Mathnasium of Avon, we are constantly keeping our instructors up to date on the best strategies of teaching. Training them to teach children with Autism related diagnosis is another step in that direction. If your , or someone you know, child has difficulties in learning due to autism related conditions, please call us and set up your appointment for a risk free evaluation. We may be able to help your child learn math in a very supportive environment.




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Why Math?

Growing up, children are faced with a lot of choice on how to spend their free time. Should they further their studies? Should they play a sport? an instrument? If they choose to further their studies, what should they focus on?

Mathematical Problem SolvingNobody can deny the joy that comes with playing a sport, or learning to play an instrument. Partaking in either of these activities can even give a student important life skills. However, what about the benefits that come from investing in your academic future, particularly in mathematics? Not only are these skills more applicable to everyday life, but they also result in better qualified job candidates, and more analytical minds that are better suited for problem solving.


Check out the article below to learn more! Here’s an excerpt to get you started!

mechanic math

“Choose math because you will meet it more and more in the future. Math becomes more and more important in all areas of work and scholarship. Future journalists and politicians will talk less and analyze more. Future police officers and military personnel will use more and more complicated technology. Future nurses and teachers will have to relate to numbers and technology every day. Future car mechanics and carpenters will use chip-optimization and stress analysis as much as monkey wrenches and hammers. There will be more math at work, so you will need more math at school.”


An investment into a strong mathematical foundation is the greatest gift you could give your child. It will help them in every aspect of their future, from every day problem solving and analysis to being the optimal candidate in whatever field they pursue. So don’t delay! The sooner you get a head start on your child’s math future, the better off they will be! Visit our website below, and schedule a stress free assessment for your child today!


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What makes a Good student Great?

It’s hard to imagine a professional athlete or musician who would consider taking a three month vacation -0b625b3dd8124503from building his/her skills once a year.  Most athletes take the off season as a time to train the most, push their limits, and build their skills for the coming season.  Likewise, all the best musicians play every chance they can, exploring music and trying new rhythms to strengthen and fine tune their skills.

However, kids across the country take three months off from learning every single year, in the form of Summer Vacation.  Surely everyone deserves a break from their regular routines and the exhaustion of studying day in and day out. However, during our children’s time of greatest development, taking three months off from learning creates very serious repercussions for the upcoming school year.

Many reputable institutions summer-researchhave conducted significant research on this specific subject.  Dating back as far as 1906, a number of studies have shown that students tested at the end of the summer show significantly lower scores on the same tests taken at the beginning of summer.  A study done by Fairchild in 2002 showed that on average, students lose 1 month of what they learned during the school year over the summer.  In math, the loss is as high as 2.6 months of grade level material even for students who are ‘Good’ in math!

Mathnasium of Avon offers summer packages to prevent this ‘summer slide’ in math. Parentsmake_it_mathnasium_summer can choose the ‘Catch-Up’ program to strengthen math concepts of current grade, or enroll in the ‘Get-Ahead’ program to for advanced math and stay at the top of their next grade.

There are even SAT and PSAT preparation sessions available for students in high school.

At Mathnasium we make math make sense.  We make math fun.  So make this a Mathnasium Summer for your child and turn them from Good students to GREAT students!  Stop the summer slide and help them Catch Up, Keep Up, and GET AHEAD in life!!

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This Valentine: Let Math improve your Lovelife!

How to win at online dating? How to find that perfect partner? How to avoid divorce?


Math is useful for a range of real-life situations: from doing grocery store calculations to managing space expeditions and every thing in between. Here let Hannah Fry help you improve your love life this Valentine!

At Mathnasium, we encourage kids to explore and develop their own meta-cognitive abilities and think of everything in life as having a mathematical component to it. We encourage students to transform real-life situations into algebraic equations and statistical inputs and use it to further their analysis.

Because when kids have fun with math, thats when their math learning really takes off!

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