Thursday, July 17, 2014

Circuit Math Makes Learning Math Fun

Once upon a time, I loved math. It was one of my favorite subjects in high school. Then I had a crummy teacher in 11th grade, totally lost my focus and was done with math for good. Well...except no one is ever really done with math for good. We use math all the time. When we're shopping, banking, paying bills, budgeting, redecorating a room in our house, baking, and so much more, we're using math.

But most math instruction in schools is dry and, let's be real, BORING. Sitting at a desk, listening to a lecture, and writing out math problems is not much fun for most kids. Story problems aside, this type of instruction doesn't teach much about real life applications of math. Of even more concern, some kids simply aren't wired to learn this way. Getting lost and falling through the cracks is a reality for many of them. Teachers are under so much pressure to teach to standardized tests, and their work loads are constantly growing. We can't really blame them, most are doing their best and then some. So what's the solution to this problem?

If you're lucky enough to live in the Metro Detroit area, Circuit Math in Bingham Farms is one solution. Circuit Math is an innovative and unique education center that focuses on bringing math to life and making it fun. You read that right - FUN. I have looked into math tutoring centers in the past and they all seem the same. Sitting at tables, plugging away, a couple tutors walking around in case anyone has questions. That is basically the polar opposite of Circuit Math.

Let me touch a little bit on each of these. First of all, kids are allowed to MOVE and are not stuck at a desk the entire time they are at Circuit Math. In fact, they are not required to sit at a desk at all. Their sessions begin with individualized instruction on a laptop or tablet, and they can sit at a desk if they'd like. But if they'd prefer, they can choose a beanbag chair or an exercise ball. Middle school kids have their own room, equipped with funky, colorful seating options. Then the kids move around the center to participate in various activities. They are encouraged to engage their bodies and their minds together. How many kids do you know who have trouble sitting still during a dull lecture? That's not happening at Circuit Math. Kids are doing what comes natural - moving!

Circuit Math believes that a strong focus on the fundamentals of math is vital to students' success. For that reason, the program puts an emphasis on these basics. Gaining a true understanding of the foundations gives the kids just that - a foundation to grow on. Their confidence increases and they are able to move upward and onward.

Along with the focus on the foundations of math, kids are able to learn using real life applications. There is a play restaurant, a lemonade stand, and other fun stations like darts and basketball. Kids are taught to use their skills in real life situations. For example, if you throw 10 darts and three hit the board, what percentage is that? If each one that hits the board is worth 20 points, how many points do you have? If someone orders a burger for $3.79 and a milkshake for $2.99, what is their order total? Kids are also encouraged to use their imaginations by creating their own make believe menus or dreaming up store ideas, complete with imaginary inventory. The middle school kids actually designed their room, working with a budget and room dimensions to see how much furniture, paint, etc. they needed and how much they could afford to spend.

At Circuit Math, your child is not forced into doing work he really doesn't need to be doing just because the other kids are doing it. The lessons are totally individualized based on an assessment. Each student has a dashboard and personal sign-in information to use on the tablets and laptops. They can see what they need to work on. If parents have special concerns, like a fractions test is coming up at school, they can request help in that specific area. Kids wear headphones so they aren't disturbing each other, and teachers are available to help. The students watch short instructional videos on the devices, made by their Circuit Math instructors, and are required to interact. If they get something wrong, it is reviewed and they try again. No slipping through the cracks here. Also, this is an ideal program for kids who are falling behind in math, right where they need to be, or even ahead.

All Circuit Math teachers are certified. They are proud math nerds and know how to teach it! Many prefer the part time hours that a position with Circuit Math offers, and are glad to have a chance to share their passion for math.

As kids master various skills at Circuit Math, they earn COWs, which stands for "competency of week." There is a big chart on the wall with each student's name where they can put their COWs. The chart is part of the reward center, which is where kids can turn in their COWs for cool prizes at the end of their sessions. Some days they might not earn any COWs, and some days they might earn multiple COWs. It all depends on their progress. If they are impatient, they can turn in their very first COW for a small prize, or they can save them up to get something bigger and better. Many of the prizes encourage activity, like footballs, soccer balls, or giant frisbees.
The reward center, with COW chart and prizes to choose from.
There are no "tests" at Circuit Math. At least, the kids don't think there are. The assessments are never called tests, they are called polls. Almost magically, the pressure is off. They don't get grades, they earn COWs. The space is not called a classroom, it's called an "arena." Somehow changing simple terms like this helps to also change the students' perception. They don't feel like they're at school, under pressure to succeed and deliver the grades.
Part of the "arena". Everything is colorful and bright, with an entire wall of windows to bring in the sunlight.

Perhaps most importantly, Circuit Math is fun. You might be skeptical, as I was when I first read the testimonials on Circuit's Math's website. But the honest truth is that I took my soon to be 3rd and 6th graders in for a trial session, and these are kids who don't typically enjoy math. As we were walking out the door, both of them were asking when we could come back. They both enjoyed it. They even had fun.

Circuit Math has been in business for over a year working with school districts with wonderful results. The program designers, Maggie and Reid, are excited to now have a home for the entirety of their vision to come to life. As I chatted with them I learned that they hope to expand into reading (which they do in the schools along with math) and science sometimes in the future. They have great ideas to incorporate more real life applications into the program and are enthusiastically looking forward to growing Circuit Math.

I am so excited about this place! Finally, someone gets it. Kids need to be positively engaged and interested to truly learn. They need to be allowed to move around and make choices. Not everyone can effectively learn in a traditional classroom setting, but that does not mean they are not capable of learning. I cannot recommend Circuit Math enough, and plan on bringing my soon to be 8th grader in for a trial session soon to see how she likes it. The environment is fun, yet calming and conducive to learning. Every employee I talked to was personable and lovely. No one here is going to make you feel out of place. I spoke to two grandmothers who had brought their grandchildren in for sessions that day and both were overwhelmingly impressed, as was I. Want to see for yourself? Read on for more details.

Circuit Math is located at 30300 Telegraph Road, Suite #230 (just south of 13 Mile Road) in Bingham Farms, Michigan. The building is located north of Noodles and Company, and you need to go in the North entrance and up to the 2nd floor. It was very easy to get to from 696.

At this time, Circuit Math is geared to kids entering 3rd-9th grade. This age range may be expanded in the future.

One hour sessions are offered Monday through Thursday at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 12:00 noon. In the fall after school sessions will be offered, and possibly weekend sessions.

First session is FREE!

Purchase 10 sessions for $250 and use them at any of the scheduled times. At first glance you might think this sounds spendy, but call some traditional tutoring centers, or look into hiring a certified teacher as a private tutor, and you will soon realize that $25 per session is a bargain. Especially for something so in sync with the learning needs of kids.

Call 248.690.MATH (6284) for more information, visit, and be sure to like the Circuit Learning Facebook page.

I would like to thank Maggie and Reid for having us and introducing us to their fabulous learning center! I would be happy to answer any questions you might have about our experience, just leave a comment or contact me via email (link in the sidebar).

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post in conjunction with Hay There Social Media. MichiGal was compensated for this post and received free trial sessions (all new clients are entitled to one free trial session). All opinions are those of MichiGal.


Mrs. Weber said...

So glad to hear about a program like this. I was HORRIBLE at math growing up and absolutely hated it. I have a fear one of my children will feel the same, though it's true -- we all *need* some math in our lives. Thanks for sharing about this program!

alyaia75 said...

It is really a great place to keep in your back pocket for a few years down the line ;-)

Liz Parker said...

Sounds fun for kids!

Unknown said...

Looks like a fun interactive program. I was a math teacher for years and would have love the ability to run my class in this fashion. TFS.

Maggie Durant said...

Mrs. Weber, you won't believe the number of parents who come in and say "Maybe I would have learned math better as a kid if it were through sports, a restaurant, …" Elizabeth P + Amber L: Feel free to come by for a visit. Thank you, ladies!

Tatanisha Worthey said...

Wow, this looks like an awesome program! My youngest son LOVES Math and would love something like this. Wish we had one here in Mid-Michigan!