You go to a gymnasium for your body, but where do you go for your mind? A mathnasium, of course.
When his son was 5 years old, Martinek drew a rectangle and asked his son to cut in half. His son put a line through the rectangle that was more to the left of the image.
`"Is that in half?"' Martinek asked.
His son thought about it for a few minutes before replying, `"Ah, you want me to draw a line so that the two pieces are the same.'"
Martinek's son didn't understand what "in half" meant," so he spent the next 12 years working with his son and developing the Mathnasium method from a child's point of view rather than an adult's.
The program began in California, spread south into Texas, and then finally to the East Coast. Fairfield became the first Mathnasium site in Connecticut, and after seeing the success there, Lubner brought Mathnasium to Darien in September on 15 Corbin Drive.
"I love the community," Lubner said. "Everyone's been really friendly. We have about 15 students enrolled. It seems to be quite positive and that's good."
Mathnasium is a learning center that specializes in teaching math skills to students from preschool to college. "The youngest we accept needs to be able to read a little bit, and go to the bathroom on their own," Lubner said laughing. "And the oldest person we had in Fairfield, I think, was about 60. He was going back to school and obviously hadn't done math for a very long time, but we were able to give him the help he needed."
Mathnasium does an assessment on the learner and then designs an individualized program to fit that person's needs, according to Lubner. The assessment contains both a written test, which determines the student's weakness with respect to grade-level material, and a series of oral questions, which pinpoints the depth of the student's understanding of key math concepts and skills.
Mathnasium uses the results of the assessment to develop a learning plan specific to each student. The curriculum at Mathnasium focuses primarily on written materials and mental math. It includes manipulatives and other teaching tools when appropriate. Learning new concepts is balanced with practicing the concepts that students already have learned.
"What I love about math is that there's always one answer and almost always there's more than one way to get it," Lubner said, adding that Mathnasium does not assign a specific tutor to any person at the center. "Each tutor has a different way of explaining each math concept, and we figure `maybe your way of saying it will be what clicks,'" Lubner said.
Mathnasium charges a $149 assessment fee and a registration fee of $50, which covers all materials needed and all future assessment.
The monthly cost is $295 for kindergarten through pre-Algebra, which is primarily elementary and middle school, and $345 for Algebra and beyond for unlimited sessions and a life membership. Membership can be canceled at any time and picked up at any time.
Lubner said sometimes kids will come in through middle school and then stop, but then students realize the SAT, ACT and other exams are around the corner, and they come back for prep work.
"Generally, we recommend students come for at least an hour and older students at least an hour and a half per session," Lubner said.
The learning center isn't all work, though, Lubner added. He said Mathnasium tries to make learning as fun as possible. Every time a learner finishes a page and it's all correct, he or she receives a punch card, which can be redeemed for prizes.
"It's either bribery or reward, depending on your point of view," Lubner said laughing.
At any point, Lubner said, a learner can say he or she needs a break and will play a game with the tutor, usually math-related.
"The first student I ever had in tears was in Fairfield," Lubner said. "He'd been in the center for two hours and he didn't want to leave and he broke down in tears."
The Darien Chamber of Commerce will conduct a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Mathnasium at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 23. For the month of October, Mathnasium in Darien is waiving the assessment and registration fees. For information, call 203-655-MATH (6284) or visit www.mathnasium.com/darien.
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