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'No, not quite, our pupils don't keep falling down'

By Cynthia ParsonsEducation editor of The Christian Science Monitor / November 17, 1980



Urbana, Ill.

I visited Don and Jerry after they had completed their third year of "the Math Program." Now, they're beginning their fifth and "going strong." Don (Cohen) and Jerry (Glynn) are both former public school math teachers, designers of Plato computer math programs, and Madison Project teachers. And what they do now, full time, is teach math on an individual basis to anyone who wants to come to them.

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When they were describing how they worked, both with individuals and with groups, I blurted out: "I understand. You're like a ski school with just two instructors. You make up classes of like ability."

"No," Don chuckled, "not quite. Our pupils don't keep falling down.

Don and Jerry, it seems, are wiling to guarantee success. And they use whatever they need to to get math concepts across. Maybe the student is an adult who wants to "brush up" before taking a civil service examination. Don and Jerry find out where the holes are and fit the teaching to the need.

Such a pupil might come once a week for a month, working alone at home in between lessons. But another "customer" might prefer some intensive instruction , and this, too, they can accommodate.

I asked if they knew of other efforts in other college communities (they teach next to the main campus of the University of Illinois), and all three of us expressed our surprise that more teachers didn't break away from classroom routine of begin similar math workshops.

Do Don and Jerry believe in math anxiety for girls and women? They believe the belief abounds, but say that it all disperses like amist when they begin working out math problems just one logical step at a time.

Do Don and Jerry believe that only "certain people" can "do" math? Phooey, or words to that effect!

Do they think some people are too old or too long out of school to study mathematics at the college level? No, they don't. And they have successful pupils to prove their point.

But mostly their clients are school kids -- boys and girls in the area who need the creative teaching these two master teachers provide at the drop of a calculator.