Meet Jamie: an engineer and single mom who’s math brain doesn’t quite translate to her kids.
And trust us, she’d tried.
The thing is, she has four kids. Yeah, you read that right. A full-time single mom with four kids.
She understands that not everybody’s brain works the same. Different kids have different skills, and they don’t just have to be built for analytic subjects like math and science.
James, her first, is great at mental math. When he sees a math problem, he uses every brain cell in him to get that answer right in his head without writing it down. His mom even quizzes him with some pretty hard questions, but after a long pause and some contrived facial expressions, he gets them right every single time.
It’s probably the skill he’s most proud of, as he pulls it out every time somebody new comes over to his house. So far, no one has stumped him. But that’s far from the problem.
The problem with James is with the writing part. In his head, everything makes sense. Numbers are clear and equations are complete.
But as soon as that white quiz paper comes out, or that textbook, or that homework sheet, everything in his mind seems to go blank.
He thought English was the only class where he had to do so much writing, but the more math he learns and the more he has to write, the more frustrated he gets, and the more he begins dreading math homework.
Them, there’s his younger sister, Amelia.
She’s not an expert at mental math like her older brother, but boy does she love perfecting things.
Amelia is the queen of the experts.
When she’s mastered something she’s naturally gifted at, there’s no stopping her. Performing is one of her natural gifts, so on any typical day, one can see her humming, prancing, tapping, and singing around the house until bedtime. She loves performing so much that she plans on going to the local performing arts high school when she’s older.
But then, there comes learning math.
And as soon as the imaginary curtain has to be closed for homework time, she’s left with no motivation, excitement, or skills.
Her mom insists to her that even though not everything's going to come easy, it certainly doesn’t mean she shouldn’t try.
Amelia doesn’t agree and refuses to try any more than she should come math time.
Now, we go to Clara: a great example of the growth mindset gone wrong.
The growth mindset is built upon the idea that by defining oneself with a blanketed, black-or-white statement, one will start manifesting those qualities.
For example, telling yourself the age-old adage, “I’m just not a math person,” will scientifically inhibit your continued struggles in math. That’s why self-talk is so important (and so powerful).
Unfortunately, Clara is a victim of this reverse-growth mindset self-talk. “I’m just not a math person” is one of her most frequented phrases to her teachers, her mom, and her friends alike.
Other ones include comparing herself to her sister’s advanced performing skills as well as her older brother’s ability to woo strangers with his strong mental math.
She thinks that by stating the “obvious,” she can continue making excuses to herself and others as to why she will continue to struggle. If only she knew that her thinking was one of the reasons she was holding herself back!
Lastly, there’s little Stella. An avid learner, when she’s entranced in something-- especially reading class-- she’s all ears. But there’s a certain thing that happens when she makes a mistake or fails:
She just quits.
And it’s almost impossible to get her out of her funk when she does.
She thinks that by stopping, the frustration, anger, and resentment will just go away.
And as much as her mother tries to comfort her, and tell her that failing is just part of the process, once she’s gotten to the tipping point, it’s pretty hard to get her back on track.
Jamie’s dealt with these varying but all similarly negative attitudes towards math ever since her kids started school. With all of them in different grades, each come with unique struggles and require unique solutions.
After countless hours of research, tutoring, and asking friends for help, Jamie wasn’t quite sure what else she could go. Weekend tutoring pulled each member of the family away from what they loved to do-- including Jamie. The last thing she wanted to do was drag her kids to more schooling on the weekends and sit in a waiting room.
Her kids were falling further and further behind, and she knew she needed to do something before the struggling felt irreversible.
Jamie was pretty surprised when she found Elephant Learning…
Mostly because it worked with every single one of her kids.
In her experience, certain tutoring spots only worked for certain kids, which meant driving all over the town just to get her kids to a session where they were still left confused.
She loved that Elephant Learning suggested 10 minutes of playing per day for three days a week-- less than 30 minutes a week.
They especially recommend not going over an hour a week to prevent burnout, which was almost the opposite of what she felt with math tutors and other math programs, in which more practice would yield better results.
The science behind Elephant Learning matched up because her kids’ Elephant Ages skyrocketed.
And the time and money she’d saved from driving, paying for tutors, watching countless Youtube videos, and trying to teach herself was just one of the reasons why she loved the platform-- and led her to have more time with her kids on the weekends for fun.
Now, Amelia was taking professional musical theatre classes and Stella was able to spend time at the library.
A big part of working with Elephant Learning was understanding the Elephant Age. At first, Jamie had some questions as to why her kids’ ages were coming up differently on the platform than their actual age.
That’s because when each student starts, Elephant Learning provides them an initial assessment in order to know where to start them. Based on different factors provided by performance on the exam, each student is given an Elephant Age, based on UI Aging during their initial exam.
This way, they can rank each student on their individual needs, and not by grade level. It changes the field of learning math, especially with students who feel they are falling behind in comparison to their peers. In Elephant Learning, there’s no comparison. Just each student, working to challenge themselves.
The best part about Jamie’s experience was seeing that it worked for every one of her kids, to the point where she actually had to set time limits so they could stop doing math.
That was something she never expected!
After Elephant Learning, James’s math skills were finally starting to translate outside of his head.
With a starting Elephant Age around 1 year below his actual age, his verbal translation was a lot of what was holding him back.
After 8 weeks, he built his skills up to an Elephant Age decimal points below his actual age.
Best of all, he began finding the little joys in learning math outside of his internal math calculations. He loved that Elephant Learning was seeing him for his math skills, and wasn’t serving as a barrier between him and his success in math.
Now, he saw math for the fun problem-solution game it was, treating it with as much excitement as when he does mental math.
Soon enough, his Elephant Age wasn’t the only thing that was seeing improvements. His grade in math began drastically going up, reflecting the skills he already knew he had, and could now express on paper.
Elephant Learning challenged Amelia’s expert status-- but probably not in the way that you’re thinking.
After starting the program, Amelia’s learning curve quite literally spiked. Within a week, she gained an entire year of math learning, and it just kept going up.
What she noticed was that her “expert status” was no longer as cool as she thought it was.
What she now really wanted was the learning curve.
Instead of being perfect at things and showing them off, she actually liked the process of learning math and seeing growth and improvement in her work. Going from a novice to an intermediate was now the newest challenge, and with math, it was no different.
Amelia gained over three years of math in 8 weeks, and suddenly, all she wanted to do was figure out what she was bad at and start practicing it until she saw growth. Gone were the days of showing up her skills that she’d done thousands of times the same way.
Now, she wanted the struggle. She wanted the growth. Her mindset was in the right place, and there was nothing stopping her.
Elephant Learning not only changed her math skills but changed her mindset. It motivated her towards growth and tweaked her mindset for a mindset of progress and not perfection.
Amelia wasn’t the only one who’s mindset changed with Elephant Learning.
Elephant Learning reflected on Clara with her mindset, as well. Her blanket-statements of self-justification were on their way out, and her ability to see herself as always learning and growing was in. From an Elephant Age of 6.8 years at the start, and 8.48 years after 8 weeks, she gained over 2 years of math, finally starting to eliminate the daily reminder she’d given herself about how “bad” she was at math.
Her negative self-talk started vanishing. Now, when she saw a poster for a new activity at school, she’d take a flyer and look up videos on its basic skills. She eliminated those labels that so often keep us further and further away from her goals, and started seeing herself as teachable.
Stella’s improvement in learning math just shows any little learner that there is nothing they can’t do. Not only was she advancing further and further in Elephant Learner’s program, but as she was seeing her growth in math, she also started to pick up on her reading.
As challenging as learning may be, her mom always reminded her of how far she’d come since the first time she started. She’d even remind her by showing her the Elephant Age chart, displaying a spike in improvement that reminded Stella how much she’s really capable of.