John Mighton


This profile was prepared when John Mighton was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
John is the architect and leading advocate of a methodology that breaks a vicious cycle plaguing thousands of mathematics students throughout North America: low student self-esteem and poor teaching feed low measured performance at school, which leads to even lower self-esteem and expectations for achievement. His programs directly improve teaching and self-esteem, turning the vicious cycle into a virtuous one and helping students beat paths toward exciting careers of intellectual achievement.

He founded the organization JUMP on the assumption that children learn better when they feel admired and rewarded. To this end, his method breaks down sophisticated mathematical concepts into very simple steps and fills classroom interaction with positive feedback. As the students make their way through the concepts, they are rewarded with more exercises after each success, generating a surprising amount of enthusiasm. With the support of a trained JUMP tutor, teachers create a playful, supportive environment that changes the existing negative attitude towards mathematics learning.

John’s work has started a revolution in participating schools—and most importantly, it has had a huge impact on student self-concept. In his programs low-income children who were previously labeled as low-performing math students have discovered that they can be as good in math as they dare. As they gain confidence in math, they apply it to other intellectual efforts, building confidence in school and throughout their lives. His technique has proven successful even among kids with behavioral difficulties and developmental disorders like autism.

By showing repeatedly what children can truly accomplish—even those that have been labeled as “problem children” or “slow learners”—John is changing the way teachers and educational authorities view the abilities of their students. The grades that JUMP students receive are accurate measures of their ability, showing that schools could set their standards much higher, and still help every child meet those standards. If they can all tackle difficult mathematics and succeed, the question arises: “What else might they be capable of learning?” John helps administrators develop innovative answers to this question, preparing the way for low-income students to become the leaders and scholars of tomorrow.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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