Frank Mann was no math wizard growing up.
“I was frustrated and miserable at math,” he said. He was able to get through it until he couldn’t wrap his mind around calculus in college and hired a tutor. “She turned on the math light, and my math skills blossomed,” he said.
“It’s a wonderful feeling,” Mann said of seeing the math light go off in a child. “I’m happy for them, and I’m happy to be able to help them.”
He said the only subject that teaches kids how to problem solve is math, and that is why it is so important.
Mann grew up in Mississippi and earned a degree in finance from the University of Alabama. After college, he lived in Dallas and Mississippi. He installed and tested new software for cash register systems at 7-11 convenience stores for 10 years before doing the same work for other companies in Mississippi. He went on to work for an emergency services company that provided fueling services for power companies after hurricanes. He then moved to Tyler.
Mann’s father moved to Tyler 20 years ago to retire. His mother was terminally ill, and his wife grew up in Longview, so Mann recently moved here with his family. When he sold his partnership in the emergency services business, he thought about what to do with his life, he said. He heard a radio advertisement for Mathnasium and began researching the company. The more he looked at the franchise, the more it seemed like a perfect fit, he said.
Mann and his wife of 27 years, Deborah, have two sons and one daughter. His wife is a school teacher in Mississippi and is retiring in June, when they will determine if she will join the Mathnasium team, he said.
Mann believes Tyler is the perfect spot for Mathnasium because the closest franchises are in Rockwall and Texarkana. He said the demographic in Tyler is good for the business. There are about 340 Mathnasium franchises in the United States and 16 other countries. There are about 60 in Texas.
Mann was hoping to have eight to 10 children to start out with in December and January, but he has seen about 40 kids. The children usually come dreading what they think will be a normal math class, but by the third visit, they are asking their parents to come back for more work. They begin laughing, smiling and having fun — all while doing math, he said.
Mathnasium teaches students from second grade to pre-calculus 12th grade. The process begins with an assessment. The student takes a test that shows what exercises they should be working on, Mann said.
If a child struggles in math, their confidence level goes down because they feel like they are not smart, Mann said. When they began to get good at math, their confidence level goes up, and they do better in other areas as well.
“There is something about the way this method works that really connects with the child’s mind,” Mann said. “We teach math in a way that makes sense to the kids.”
It is all mental work with pencil and paper — no calculators or computers are used. He said they progress through workbooks, and as they complete assignments, the children earn punches in a card. When their cards are filled out, they can trade them in for small gifts as a reward.
Mann said the two biggest areas with which kids struggle are multiplication in fourth grade and algebra in eighth grade. If children can be helped through those struggles in third and fourth grades, there won’t be any in the eighth grade, he added.
He said all of the work, including the children’s school homework, is done at Mathnasium, and nothing is sent home. They offer different monthly price ranges for different age groups.
Brooke McDonough, 25, is the center director and assesses the students. She was raised in Tyler and earned a degree in human development and family studies from Texas Tech University. After receiving her teacher’s certificate, she was substitute teaching and tutoring when Mann called her about the job.
Mathnasium has six instructors, and all are trained in three extensive courses and have to pass a difficult math test, Mann said, adding that he is looking to hire two additional instructors to ensure the higher math levels are always covered.
There is no schedule for the math instruction. Kids can come in anytime between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Mann said they also are trying to develop a program for home-schooled students to attend Mathnasium outside of its regular business hours to fit their schedule.
Mathnasium started more than 35 years ago, when Larry Martinek, a teacher-trainer and consultant in public and private schools, was inspired to find a better way to teach children math, according to www.mathnasium.com. He developed a curriculum from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. In 2002, Peter Markovitz and David Ullendorff, leaders in the education industry, made Martinek and his curriculum the driving force of Mathnasium. Martinek introduced his curriculum as the Mathnasium Method at their first math learning center in Westwood, Calif.