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I am inspired by many things but particularly awed by people who step back from their day-to-day world in some way, see some bigger picture that relates to a larger community, and find a way to make that part of their life.

As a bit of a math-happy person, I was fascinated a number of years ago to read about John Mighton, founder of JUMP (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies) Math. Despite struggling with Math in school, he loved the subject and believed strongly that understanding and grasping it was important for everyone. Based on a true story he read about someone having taught themself a subject through sheer determination, he wanted to believe he could do the same.

To supplement his earnings as a playwright, he began tutoring elementary students in math. With his own math struggles always in mind, he developed, somewhat unplanned, a method of teaching math through observation, the absence of judgement, the assumption of ability, the insistence on breaking explanations into small steps, the understanding that people learn and respond differently, and the importance of encouragement. His tutoring success led to the creation of JUMP, with the first classes being held in his apartment kitchen and spare rooms, and growing to a program used by thousands of children with incredible results.

To add further interest to the story, Johns’ tutoring success renewed his faith in his math skills and led him back to the university classroom. He completed a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Toronto! But not to stop there, he also continued his career as a playwright and has won several awards.

It makes me a bit exhausted thinking about all that effort, enthusiasm and commitment – but it inspires me too and gives me something exciting to consider for my retirement.

There are many other people that inspire me in similar ways but this is one person I can’t seem to get out of my head. Long live math and numbers and helping people who’ve come to believe that they don’t belong to the ‘math types’ camp – it’s not genetically determined and can be found through patience and encouragement.

Have you ever thought of challenging what you’ve heard or were told about something you find difficult? It may be worth the effort and lead you to places you never imagined you’d go! Book an appointment with a Career Counsellor or Employment Advisor to find out how the Career Centre can help. We are open Monday to Friday, 10:00 to 4:00 daily and right up until December 22nd except on Friday when we are closed from noon to 1:00.

If you’re interested in learning more about JUMP Math or John Mighton, check out and

Eileen Sweeney-Bergen   – Coordinator, Resource Centre and Administration


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