Making Math Cool


It’s hard to imagine, but what if studying math were fun?
That’s the formula behind Mathnasium of Gilroy, a math learning center, which opened last month and celebrated its ribbon-cutting in style, with pie and pizza on Pi Day, March 14.
The center provides incentives to encourage students to advance in math, the way they might in sports. There is a reward card system. A student receives card once an assignment is complete or they’re working diligently. The cards can be exchanged for math-inspired goodies, candy, and other fun items that can be seen on a glass display case.
“We’ve been struggling with math for the last couple of years at school and I thought maybe a different way of looking at math would help,” said Jennifer Foster, 40, as she played math wars with her son.
Her fourth-grader had never tried tutoring but after hearing about the center at Luigi Aprea Elementary she decided to give it a try. She is hoping the center will make the difference needed in her child’s math education. She likes the location—7210 Camino Arroyo #7— as well as the staff, and the way they look at math.
Mathnasium is owned and operated by Seth and Jessica Bullwinkle, who share a desire to help children better understand math and all that comes with it. Jessica, 42, is a marriage and family therapist and Seth, 45, is an engineering manager at an aerospace company. They are the first to open such a place in Gilroy and are looking to make a difference.
Recently, Mathnasium hosted a math night at Rucker Elementary, an evening of games  showing students that math can be fun; it doesn’t have to be intimidating.
There are over 650 Mathnasium centers worldwide. The first was opened by creator Larry Martinek in Los Angeles in 2002.
“We have our own custom curriculum. We also assess the student, which will create an individual learning plan for them so it is really built for each student,” Seth Bullwinkle said.

“You go to a tutor, you’re going to get homework help; you come to us, you’re going to get help with your fundamentals, and we’re going to build a base of mathematics. They won’t need the homework tutor because they’ll be able to just do it.”
An initial assessment highlights the strengths and weaknesses the student may be facing with math. The learning plan is then developed to focus on their challenge areas, with the ultimate goal of reaching their math grade level.
Seth Bullwinkle, who tutored all throughout his undergrad years at University of Illinois, helps a variety of students. He holds a masters in applied mathematics from University of Washington and has experience teaching small groups. He favors the one-on-one approach and his math center provides that learning environment.
“I eventually just want to do this full-time, that’s my goal. This is my place, and I do take a lot of pride in it already,” he said.
He looks forward to helping students who may be behind in math or those students looking for a challenge. He loves math so much he does it for fun.
“I’m terrified of math,” admits Jessica Bullwinkle, who is in charge of payroll along with other behind-the-scenes roles. “I like the concept that it helps kids get rid of the math anxiety.”
The center’s prices are like those of a gym. They are broken down into three tiers based on the grade level of the student. The parents can pay a monthly fee, pay for six months or for a full year of unlimited visits. Elementary and middle school students get an hour a day, with the opportunity to drop in five times a week. High school students get an hour and a half. The center is open Monday—Thursday 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The center is currently waiving its assessment fees. It’s also offering a year’s worth of drop-ins for the price of a six-month membership with an additional free month. The offer is good until May 1.

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