|In June 1973, Larry Martinek, creator of the Mathnasium Method, earned his Bachelors degree in Mathematics. The following year he earned his California Teach- ing Credential and began teaching in an inner city school in Los Angeles, California.
It was immediately clear that the overwhelming majority of students lacked the basic skills necessary to succeed with grade-level curriculum. It was also clear that the textbooks did not provide the depth of remediation that most students required. In order to help his students fill the gap left by both the curriculum and the textbooks, Larry began writing his own supplemental materials. Much of that material is in use at Mathnasium today.
In his fourth year of teaching, Larry was elected faculty coordinator of a federal funded, state administered school reform program called RISE (Reform of Interme- diate and Secondary Education). This experience provided Larry with firsthand in- sights into the inner workings of the educational bureaucracy, highlighting the upside and the downside of mandates on local schools given from afar, as well as giving Larry a perspective from which to evaluate trends in mathematics education.
The following year came the news of a lifetimenews that Larry was to become a father. At this point in his life, after almost five years of successful teaching (suc- cessful in terms of great performance reviews, student and parent appreciation for changing attitudes toward math and boosting skills across the board), Larry stopped and asked himself:
Why is there such a disparity in the performance of the students who come to me, and how can I help my child to avoid the difficulties that so many intelligent people have with math?
This question would weigh heavily on Larrys mind for a long time.
After taking two years from teaching to start an electronics business, Larry returned to classroom teaching, working in a barrio school, a gifted Math-Science magnet school, a gang-diversion program, and an inner city high school. In all of these settings, Larry made the same observation- There is a serious disconnect between students basic skills training the curriculum they are expected to master in the years to come. So, in his ongoing efforts to meet the needs of the students in his charge, Larry continued to develop supplemental materials to help students bridge the gap.
Meanwhile, his son, Nic, was now five years old, and was showing signs of being mathematical precocious. Larrys first book, Math Tips for Parents, provided in- sights gained from working and playing with Nic in these early years. The warm reception Math Tips received from parents and teachers encouraged Larry to acceler- ate the production of materials for use in early mathematics education.
One day Larry decided that rather than trying to continue to fix kids in middle school and high school, it would be better to train elementary teachers to do it right the first time, and not allow kids to get so far behind in the first place. To this end, Larry went back to school and earned an elementary credential. In addition, he continued creat- ing material for elementary to use with all types of learners: the numerically chal- lenged, average kids, and those who relish challenging numerics.
As Nic grew older, he provided Larry deeper and deeper insights into how the young mind deals with mathematics, and the process of learning mathematics. The name Math AWAREness? was given to this process. As teachers, administrators, and parents began to see the results of the Math AWAREness? approach, first with Nic, then his friends, and then with students in classrooms of teachers brave enough to try new methods and approaches, Larry began giving workshops for teachers and par- ents. The materials from these workshops soon found their way into other class- rooms, and thus began Larrys career as a math consultant.
As the years went by, the educational grapevine in West Los Angeles spread the word that was a way to all kids learn math-call Larry, The Math Guy. Now, in the new millennium, thousands of students in Culver City and Inglewood public schools, as well as students at a score of private and religious schools, have benefited from the methods and approaches that Larry and Nic developed over a 15-year period.
Tragedy stuck in May 1999 when Nic died, at age 19, in a car accident. Not long before the accident, Nic told Larry, Dad, you have to teach other teachers how to teach math the way you do. This statement was a reflection on his observation that many of his friends left high school not well prepared in math-not because they couldnt handle the math, but because they were not taught math in a coherent way over the years. This mission, of helping students and teachers to better deal with math, con- tinues to be the dominant factor in Larrys professional life.
All of the experience and materials of past 30+ years of Larrys work have found a home at Mathnasium.