John Mighton

John Mighton

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Founder of JUMP Math, Social Entrepreneur, Awarded Ashoka Fellowship and Officer of the Order of Canada

Dr. John Mighton is a playwright turned mathematician and author who founded JUMP ( Junior Undiscovered Math Prodigies) Math as a charity in 2001.

His work in fostering numeracy and in building children’s self-confidence through success in math has been widely recognized. He has been named a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year, an Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year for Canada, an Ashoka Fellow, an Officer of the Order of Canada, and has received three honorary doctorates.

John developed JUMP Math to address both the tragedy of low expectations for students and the math anxiety in teachers. JUMP Math has proven that anyone can learn math and anyone can teach it.

His national best-seller, The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child describes his approach and successes with the program.

John began tutoring children in math as a financially-struggling playwright, though he had abandoned the subject for years after having nearly failed first-year calculus. His success in helping students achieve levels of success that teachers and parents had thought impossible fueled his belief that everyone has great untapped potential.

The experience of repeatedly witnessing the heart-breaking paradox of high potential and low achievement led him to conclude that the widely-held assumption that mathematical talent is a rare genetic gift has created a self-fulfilling prophecy of low achievement.

A generally high level of math anxiety among many elementary school teachers, itself an outcome of that belief system, creates an additional challenge.

John had to overcome his own “massive math anxiety” before making the decision to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Toronto. He was later awarded an NSERC Fellowship for postdoctoral research in knot and graph theory.

He is currently a Fellow of the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences and has taught mathematics at the University of Toronto. He has also lectured in philosophy at McMaster University, where he received a master’s degree in philosophy.

As a mathematician and a playwright, John believes that there are more connections between the arts and sciences than people generally see, as mathematicians are often led by a sense of beauty or elegance in their work.

His own plays have been performed across Canada, Europe, Japan, and the United States, and he has won several national awards including the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama, the Dora Award, the Chalmers Award, and the Siminovitch Prize. In a twist of fate, he played Matt Damon’s math tutor in the 1997 movie, Good Will Hunting.

In 2020 he released his new book ” All Things Being Equal: Why Math Is the Key to a Better World”

In 2022 Alberta became the first province to license JUMP Math resources for all of its elementary schools!

Please contact us for more information or to book Dr. John Mighton for your next event.

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Speaking topics

How to Learn and Teach Anything

When he was in grade 8, John Mighton auditioned for the lead role in the play Peter Pan but was cast as Nana the dog. Seeing his disappointment, the producers also allowed him to double as a crocodile. Thirty years later, Mighton finally secured a speaking part– and improvised most of his dialogue– in the Academy Award winning film Good Will Hunting. He played the Math professors assistant.

At the same time, he also published several original discoveries in mathematics and received two Governor General’s awards for his plays, even though he once earned the lowest mark in his creative writing class and almost failed calculus at university.

In this talk, Dr. Mighton will present new research on the brain that explains how, as an adult, he was able to develop abilities in fields where he appeared to have no natural talent. He will demonstrate highly effective techniques for learning– backed by the latest research in cognitive science—that people can apply at any stage in their education to become much more confident, efficient, and engaged learners and teachers.

Our Mathematical Minds:  Why Math is the Key to Equity at School and in Life

When scientists recently performed brain scans on mathematicians, they found that people who are good at math process information in a primitive part of the brain that has the same sense of space and number that four-year-old children use to learn math.

This extraordinary discovery is one of many surprising breakthroughs in the science of learning that have revealed that even advanced mathematical concepts should be accessible to every brain.

Unfortunately, very few educators are aware of this research and many still think that math is an inherently difficult subject. Dr. Mighton will argue that our misconceptions about math have caused us to neglect the most powerful tool that we possess for promoting equity and social justice in our schools.

He will present evidence that teachers can close the gap between students more easily in mathematics than in any other subject. And he will explain how the mental and social-emotional capacities that children develop when they become confident and talented students of mathematics literally rewire their brains and set them up for success in other subjects and in life.

Structured Inquiry in Math (Breakout Session)

In this session John will demonstrate a method of teaching called ‘Structured Inquiry’” Teachers can help all students develop positive mindsets about math if they know how to break challenges into manageable chunks, how to raise the level of difficulty in incremental concepts and how to give effective feedback. John will also talk about the importance of basic skills and concepts and show how teachers can use games and explorations with patterns to help students learn foundational skills and facts in an active and engaging way.  John will present data that suggests that all students go further with this approach: using Structured Inquiry teachers can dramatically close the achievement gap between students without holding anyone back.

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John Mighton

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