This is a homeschool model of education, not a classroom model. Research has shown that a parent who is dedicated and engaged in taking responsibility for their children’s education is the key to their children’s success. Jones Geniuses has no intention of taking the "home" out of homeschooling. In a classroom model the teacher would need the students to attend class everyday. In our model it is assumed that an adult is in charge of teaching the educational process at home. With notable exceptions, most children are not mature and experienced enough to self-administer these programs effectively. A parent must monitor, administer and tutor the program for it to be successful. A parent who does the program alongside their children guarantees their success. It is best if a parent does master all the concepts. In any case, they must be involved in monitoring, grading and recording assignments, measuring progress and adjusting the program accordingly. If the student is doing this in conjunction with an online class then the parent needs to attend the class whenever possible in order to understand the materials and method of administering the program. Responsibility for success rests equally with the program, parent and pupil. The parent learns how to do and how to administer the program. The pupil commits to a minimum of an hour a day of practice to master the skills presented. The Jones Geniuses program presents a curriculum that makes accelerated learning for homeschoolers as simple and effective as possible. We commit to an on-going process of continually improving the program.
There are two important strands in math education. We shall call these two strands math computation and math application. Math computation is mastery of the basic operations of mathematical calculation. These are math skills such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, powers, roots, fractions, factoring, etc. Math computation is predominantly a left-brained analytical activity, whereas math application is predominantly a right-brained holistic activity. The left hemisphere of the brain does linear thinking, like math procedures, very well. It likes to take things apart, examine and practice the detail and individual skills involved. The right hemisphere of the brain prefers to put all the pieces together and see the big picture. Both are absolutely essential to the thinking process. In general, neither is more important than the other. In specific situations one process may be more appropriate.
Math application deals more with conceptualization, thoroughly understanding the process, knowing how to set up a problem and what series of calculations are necessary to solve it. Word problems are a good example of math applications, translating a verbal expression into a mathematical expression. These problem solving skills are often called “Higher Order Thinking Skills”, or HOTS, because they can be more complex than the operational skill involved. Since higher order thinking skills are one of the end goals of the education process, the current methodology in modern math instruction in the United States has been to sanctify HOTS as “more important” than basic skills and to over-emphasize conceptual math and word problems. The result has been to marginalize, even demonize, the teaching of basic math skills. The results have been disastrous! Our graduate math and science programs, as well as high paying math and science professions, are now predominantly filled with men and women educated in other countries.
Higher order thinking skills are not “more” important than basic skills, neither are they “less” important. They are just another level in the pyramid of the learning process. They can be a much higher level of complexity, it is true, but no more important than the foundation. The broader and stronger the foundation, the higher the pyramid that can be built upon it. Good problem-solving skills come naturally to those who have good basic computation skills. Since they have mastered the basic set of skills, more of their mental capacity is freed up to concentrate on the other. Their confidence in their own ability and the rapidity with which they can solve the calculations involved give them a pronounced advantage. The “most” important step in the learning process should always be whatever step the learner is on right now. In any case, basic skills are a pre-requisite for higher order thinking skills. An over-reliance on conceptualization to the point of marginalizing basic skills is like trying to build a pyramid from the top down and will only result in a student who has neither basic skills nor higher order thinking skills.
Math applications, such as word problems, are quite easy for those who have strong computation skills and can read well. Jones Geniuses Math programs are designed to fill the need for both computation and application skills. For the most part, it is better if the student masters basic skills before diving into higher order thinking skills (HOTS). The HOTS that can be attempted too early are sometimes ludicrous and simply take time away from mastery of basic skills. For example, many math curricula now proscribe that kindergarten students begin learning algebraic concepts, probability and statistics. What kind of probability can you teach to a student who can’t count to ten? You can flip a coin and demonstrate that it comes up heads half the time and tails half the time, assuming the child understands heads, tails, and half. Of course, this would not be so bad except that these concepts are being put into the curriculum at the expense of basic skills like counting and addition, which have been increasingly marginalized. Higher order thinking skills can and should be taught at every level of math education but will not be successful unless basic skills are mastered first!
Jones Geniuses Accelerated Math concentrates on the most essential skills of mathematics, basics first. It is easy for a parent or even an educator to become confused in dealing with math curriculum. A common criticism of the main current of math education is that it has become a mile wide and an inch deep. That is to say, traditional math curriculum includes a thousand objectives but covers them only superficially. Some objectives, the basic skills of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, for example, are the lynchpin of the whole system. Without these skills nothing else will be successfully achieved. The JG Accelerated Math program begins with intensive practice of these skills until they are mastered then proceeds to build rapid calculation skills upon this foundation. There are many math books on the market filled with a variety of activities where beginning math students count, add and subtract pictured objects. In evaluating these materials it might help to turn to the end of the book. In one such workbook, after a whole year of picture activities the learners were not dealing with anything more complicated than sums up to fifteen. When poorly designed, these kinds of materials are little more than pleasant distractions that don’t get much of the job done.
Our primary task is to build a solid foundation of basic math skills, the sooner the better. As in most learning processes, the beginning stages are critical and delicate. Learners are at a low level of skill and can feel clumsy and inadequate at this stage of development. They need to apply themselves diligently to mastering those basic skills. It takes a certain amount of practice. If the practice required for mastery is prolonged over many months or years there is an extreme danger of falling behind, frustration and failure. Basic skills practice is best done early, rapidly and systematically so that success, and the motivation which comes of it arrive all the sooner. Mathematics, like life, is often a lot of fun - a truly joyful experience! Other times it is a significant effort that we have to do whether it’s fun or not. In this it is also like life and we make no excuses for it. When learners can do something well they take pleasure in it. If they can’t do it well it can become disagreeable, especially when the lack of progress is much prolonged. Delaying mastery is frustrating. Continued lack of success may well produce math phobia, an aversion to a task combined with a feeling of dread and low self-esteem. Current math methods have led to a virtual epidemic of math phobia, even among many teachers!
Many math programs handle this problem by reducing the level of skill required and dressing their activities up in clever ways to be more appealing, “making math fun”. As both parent and teacher we need to learn lessons from this. There is a really profound delight that one takes in mastering a subject, especially a subject as fascinating as mathematics. We want our children’s enjoyment to come from that mastery not from some “dog and pony” show we feel obligated to put on or buy in order to “make math fun”! Fun activities with math are great but they should be fun activities that lead to mastery, not delay it or replace it with the misguided notion that we should be putting our efforts into math entertainment rather than math mastery. This priority produces the attitude in the learner that they shouldn’t have to do anything that is not made “fun”. The worst possible lesson we could teach our children is that they don’t have to do any task they find to be challenging or hard work.
Jones Geniuses is an accelerated learning program. It aims at early mastery of a much broader foundation of skills than is required in other math programs. We will push the student to excel. The brain grows, in this sense, exactly like the muscles do. If an athlete does not push his body until his muscles are tired and sore then they will not grow stronger. When they are exercised beyond the limits of their capacity they break down and grow back stronger precisely because they are being required to, more physical strength is clearly being called for. In doing “push-ups” for the brain a similar process occurs. When we work our minds to their capacity a neurophysiological process occurs that literally activates more mental capacity. It is called myelination. Our nerve cells, or axions, are covered with a coat of fatty myelin which channels and insulates the electro-chemical impulses traveling the long nerve cells which stretch throughout our brain and body and control all of our thoughts and actions. Without this myelin, which acts much as the insulation on an electric wire, the nerve cells in that part of the brain do not function. We are not born with this myelin in place on our nerve cells. It occurs as a result of using the brain to its fullest capacity! The nervous system knows to activate more mental capacity when it is being required!
There is an art to accelerated learning. Although we push, we also move heaven and earth to allow students to win, to succeed at the challenge they are taking on. One must push gently! When a student encounters frustration we typically respond by adapting their program to make it easier for them to succeed. They may be given more time or fewer problems or easier problems. They will surely need encouragement and attention. Soon they will be succeeding and ready for more challenging tasks. If a student is experiencing failure and frustration then something needs to be changed. Most every student is at a different stage of development and may be learning at a different speed. They will all succeed if given the chance.
Mastery of skills takes effort and practice. Like most things of value it comes with a price tag of hard work and dedication. Nonetheless, the rewards can be extraordinary. There are few things as rewarding as seeing a young person’s mind take wing! Those who continue with Jones Geniuses Math will be faster than an electronic calculator in doing many kinds of advanced mathematical problems. Seeing a young child mentally calculate faster than a math professor with a calculator in his hand is something not to be missed. The degree of confidence and motivation this creates in the learner’s psyche is priceless. There is important and challenging work to be done with their lives. Many of these jobs are highly paid professional careers that require those who are willing to do the academic “heavy lifting” in order to prepare themselves. The current approaches to math education are producing few students willing and able to take on these challenges. For the sake of our children and our nation, we need to set our sights higher.
The Formula for Guaranteed Success in Learning
Students will succeed if they have these three elements in their program:
1) Extensive practice with the subject matter in a way they can understand it,
2) A desire to learn the material, and
3) A need to use the subject learned.
If students have all of these elements then they will master the subject to the degree that they need to master it, or are satisfied with. It is kind of like baseball. You can still succeed with one strike against you, even two, but three strikes and you are out. Ideally, we want all three elements operating at full strength. Most materials are unsuitable for accelerated learning simply because they starve the learner for input. The spacing of material over too long a period of time fails to challenge young minds that are routinely and profoundly underestimated. Another problem for young learners is that higher level material, such as pre-algebra, is written in a dense, dry style that is sometimes too difficult for them to comprehend, as it is even for many high school students. Concepts of complexity must be carefully broken down and explained and are often much better done in person or on video rather than in a book.
In all three elements the parent occupies the key position for ensuring success. It is the parent who sets the pace, ensuring that their children get sufficient practice to master basic skills. It is the parent who conveys the importance of the subject. It is the parent who, by their example, instills in their children a joy of learning. It is unlikely that anyone else would be as successful in imparting these elements if the parent abandons that role.
The 4 As of the Parenting Covenant
To accomplish those three goals, students will need to get these four things from their parents:
1) Authority - Assurance that their energy is well-directed, their time is not wasted, that the task is worth their effort, that it is important they do this even though it may be challenging.
2) Activity - Direction through a well-planned instructional process, tutoring and encouraging them whenever needed.
3) Accountability - Monitoring to ensure that they practice their tasks. Children do what you inspect, not what you expect.
4) Acknowledgment - Praising them for accomplishments, the anointment that keeps the whole process running smoothly!
How to begin the Jones Geniuses Accelerated Learning Program
The first lesson of each week should be a preview. Preview all five lessons on the DVD and study the corresponding five lessons in the text. Accelerated learning frontloads the information then activates it in detail in the following lessons. Students do not need to master all the information during the preview but grasp as much as they can and familiarize themselves with the concepts and techniques. If you are taking a Jones Geniuses course online this will be done in class.
There are exercises which go with each lesson. Do a few of each type of problem to help grasp the objectives of the lesson. The familiarity gained will serve learners well as they get into the detail of the lessons in following days. During the rest of the week students review each lesson and complete the activities proscribed until the skills are mastered. The last lesson of each weekly Unit is a Review.
Accelerated learning insists on mastery of the basic skills of mathematics, the “bricks and boards” needed to build the base of the higher order thinking pyramid. It teaches the logic of mathematical structures and functions, and the ability to quickly construct and calculate the chain of mathematical operations needed to solve applications. This type of discipline and mental exercise is as crucial to the neuro-physiological development of the brain as regular physical exercise is to the healthy growth of the body. Literally, the more you exercise the brain the smarter you become. An important part of this process is concentration. The Math and Memory lessons included in this program develop the concentration needed for students to “think on their feet” and see through to the solution of many complicated math applications often without resorting to pen, paper, or calculator. Mathematics provides much of what we call the “structure of thought”, that internalized database of fundamentals that helps us to make sense of and function effectively in our world.
We have spoken about the pyramid of higher order thinking and its base of fundamental skills, like the math operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division as well as factoring, fractions, and problem solving. There is also a pyramid of career achievement with unskilled labor at the base and highly skilled professionals at the top. On the bottom are those jobs that take little skill, picking crops in the field, many types of manual labor like garbage collection or digging ditches, or doing simple repetitive tasks like some kinds of assembly line work. Despite their simplicity, these jobs can present great hardship. Harvesting crops can be grueling physical labor in punishing weather as can other types of manual labor. Assembly line work can kill the spirit with its mindless repetitiveness. These can be difficult jobs but the pay is minimum because they require little or no skill.
On the other hand, the skills required to run a major corporation effectively are incredibly diverse and many must be done with a high degree of perfection. It is a complex juggling act and there is no time to stop and relearn math skills that should have been mastered long ago. When a CEO is ineffective the corporation suffers or even collapses and hundred or thousands may lose their livelihood. When a CEO succeeds, the corporation may make millions or billions in profit, hire more workers, provide more and better services and innovative products. There are few who can do these most highly skilled tasks. These few are often paid millions in salary because of their rare talents. There is plenty of room at the top. It is the bottom that is crowded. There are millions with no skills and little choice but low-paying, unsatisfying jobs. Accelerated learning will help your children have the best opportunities in the adventure of life.