It's exhilarating and eerie at the same time – to sit in front of a white board on a rainy Saturday in Toronto with a dozen other adults and master calculus in an hour. Well at least master my fear of calculus – my belief it was too complex and I was too incompetent. John Mighton ended my ignorance and punctured my myth of calculus incompetence. As he has done for thousands of school aged children in Canada, Britain and elsewhere.
John Mighton is yet another example of multi-talented, bold social visionaries who perfect their insights with thousands of hours of practice and refinement and then spread their practical applications through mainstream systems – in John's case through classrooms and school boards. His feat matches and surpasses any professional sports accomplishment and his story is just as thrilling. We have an abundance of Sports sections and columnists in the regular media. Alas, no Social Innovator section or specialist. Yet.
John Mighton, is a Canadian mathematician, author and multiple award winning playwright. He is also founder of JUMP (Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies) an organization that is changing how all of us but particularly children are taught math.
He took years to solidify his insights and perfect his approach starting with kitchen table tutoring in his apartment and working with students whom other teachers had given up on i.e. slow learners and students with developmental disabilities.
Today his method of ‘guided discovery’ is becoming part of the curriculum of school systems across Canada and elsewhere. To do that he converted a personal passion into an organizational vehicle – JUMP – and in turn converted or ‘de-branded’ JUMP’s organizational resources to make them acceptable to school systems and teachers. To get his ideas and practices into the water supply John is creating a numeracy movement.
John’s two books The Myth of Ability and The End of Ignorance reflect his insights not only about teaching math but also about how we learn and how we could teach. His bold vision of a numerate society challenges how school systems’ judge children according to a hierarchy of ability. Eliminating the superior/inferior dichotomy in a classroom boosts confidence, transforms students and prepares them for becoming confident, involved, contributing citizens. He imagines a world where everyone flourishes.
Thursday night, October 14th at 5:30, John's Order of Canada will be celebrated at the MaRS Discovery Centre (101 College St.). The memories, insights and inspiration at that event will last far longer than any home run, goal or hole in one. Guaranteed.
Oh yes, what do you get when you cross Good Will Hunting with Wittgenstein? Answer: John Mighton. John is also a philosopher whose way of thinking has been influenced by Wittgenstein's Investigations. And he was a math consultant to the movie Good Will Hunting which evolved into an on screen cameo. John plays Tom, the guy at the blackboard in front of a complicated math formula who says in the middle of the movie that most people never find the teachers that believe in them and then they get convinced they’re stupid and that they can’t do something.
Something, John is definitely doing something about.
John's play Half Life is a profound exploration of love, ageing, memories, personhood, loss and wonder – the delicious mixture and mystery of what makes us who we are. It is a brilliant piece of work and well worth obtaining and reading.