Mathnasium maximizes the potential of the next generation

of students, as well as its franchisees.

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

Larry Martinek spent decades as a math teacher and became a well-known math education consultant in the greater Los Angeles area. When Martinek’s son, Nick, was very young, he demonstrated a higher capability with math than other children his age. Working with Nick, Martinek found that kids learn and understand math in a different way from how adults are teaching it. He began developing materials and a methodology based on how kids understand and think when they learn math.

In the early 2000s, leaders in education services and entrepreneurs Peter Markovitz and David Ullendorff were looking to start a math tutoring concept and contacted Martinek, which led to them co-founding Mathnasium in 2002. At Mathnasium, Martinek led a team in developing proprietary curriculum and the teaching approach that has become the Mathnasium Method™. The materials and methodology transform the way children understand and appreciate math, which is the driving force behind Mathnasium.   

Today, Markovitz is the company’s CEO, Ullendorff is the president, and Martinek is the CIO. Mathnasium has opened over 100 locations every year for the past three years and currently has 749 locations in North America and 69 abroad. “We want Mathnasium to be in all the communities that it should be in,” says Shant Assarian, Mathnasium’s COO. “For Larry, this is a personal mission. Nick passed on in a tragic car accident in the late 1990s. He had previously said to Larry, ‘Dad, you have to take this everywhere; all kids should have this and have this understanding.’ For Larry, this is far greater than a business – it’s Nick’s legacy.”Mathnasium Fact Box

The goal of Mathnasium is to reach as many children as possible. Assarian says Martinek, Ullendorff, Markovitz, the entire Mathnasium team and all of the franchisees have a passion to educate and do right by children. “We know the Mathnasium Method works and it has a significant impact on children’s lives and their ability to understand math,” Assarian adds. “When a child understands math, the world opens up and they can do so many things with it. Math is so important in so many subtle ways; we want to make this available to as many kids as we can worldwide.”

The Mathnasium Method

The Mathnasium Method functions well because it’s a whole ecosystem with every piece designed to work together, including the curriculum, teaching approach and consciousness around how children feel, Assarian explains. “Our curriculum is designed around thinking and understanding math,” he adds. “It leads children down their natural process of learning, but at the same time helps guide our instructors with their teaching too.”

Instructors are hired by franchisees based on their math capability, ability to work with children and the humanism they bring. “It’s not good enough to just know math well, our instructors must be able to relate to and work well with kids,” Assarian says. “That’s where we start, by identifying that person who has the math competency and the humanity traits and then we train them on how to teach math using our proprietary curriculum and methodology.”

Mathnasium learning centers are designed to be a fun and positive space. “Kids often times have an aversion to math because they had a bad experience and were embarrassed or maybe they have tried for a long time to be good at a part of math and they just haven’t been able to succeed,” Assarian explains. “They think they aren’t wired for math and people give them that perception by saying ‘My child just isn’t the math type.’”

To combat that mentality, Mathnasium builds confidence among students. After teaching, instructors actively allow kids to work the math problems themselves because disengagement is an important part of learning and confidence building, according to the company. “When children are uncertain, they look for physical cues from the instructor to see if they are doing the math right,” Assarian says. “At Mathnasium, our teaching systems create the situation where kids do get to work independently. When they do it right, we talk to them about what they did and when they see it’s done correctly that boosts their confidence. When they get it wrong, the instructor won’t embarrass them, we make it a safe place to make mistakes and be bold in attempting something but not getting it right.” 

Tailored Program

Mathnasium’s thorough assessment of each child results in a tailored program to understand their individual needs and determine which materials are needed to further their understanding of math. “We don’t want to give a bunch of material on concepts they already know because it will lead to boredom and frustration,” Assarian says. “We identify their objectives upfront, focus on what’s needed to get there and provide them with only the curriculum they need.”

If a child is behind, Mathnasium will identify what’s holding him or her back and the materials needed to catch them up. If the child is ahead and not being challenged enough in school, Mathnasium will discuss options to further his or her education. “Each child has a unique learning plan and a unique combination of learning materials,” Assarian explains. “We are not trying to simply get them to pass a test. We are building math understanding and competency that will stay with kids for life – with true understanding, they won’t just pass tests, they’ll ace the tests.”

The company emphasizes understanding materials and concepts because it creates a foundation to build upon. “Math builds on top of itself, so for each concept there are underlying concepts you have to know,” Assarian says. “For example, linear equations, you have to know addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. If you have a problem with any of those, you won’t be able to work an algebra problem.”

Solid Support

The company’s success is dependent on its franchisees’ success, which is why Mathnasium targets territories with demographics where it can maximize opportunity. Once a location is established, Mathnasium invests heavily in training and holds franchisees’ hands up to opening and beyond. “We have a program that is specifically tailored around new franchisees and assisting them in the first 18 months to get the best start and follow our best practices,” Assarian explains. “We put a lot of effort and money into building systems and processes to make the business process as easy as we can for our franchisees.”

Mathnasium’s royalty fee includes training and all materials needed for the franchisee to be successful. “We are committed to our franchisees and providing them the best business model we can,” Assarian adds. “This is an organization that genuinely and truly cares about the interest of the kids we are serving, their families and our franchisees. We are serving kids and serving franchisees who are coming to us to build a life with this business.”

Moving forward, Mathnasium plans to continue expanding throughout the United States, Canada and internationally. The company has 145 franchisees who operate multiple units, which Assarian says is a testament to the business model. “Mathnasium is a unique opportunity to have extraordinary returns on investment,” he adds. “Our processes are geared to maximize franchisee profitability and overall satisfaction of life with Mathnasium.”


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