For some students, learning and understanding math can be a struggle that leads to frustration.
That’s why the staff at Matrix Advanced Math Academy is passionate about helping children learn not just to solve math problems but also to understand the reasoning behind them.
Matrix Advanced Math Academy — which opened this summer near Windermere — is an after-school/weekend math-enrichment program for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Yael Margalit, Matrix’s president and general manager, said the purpose of the program is for students to discover the wonders of math.
“After years of research, we’ve honed a curriculum and teaching methodology that cherry-picks the best of proven math programs from around the world, and we’ve brought the results to Florida,” Margalit said. “We build a solid math foundation and get every student to realize their full potential through interacting with like-minded peers. We have classes that are up to 10 students grouped by age and level of challenge, and each one is led by a professional instructor. They meet weekly for up to three hours a week — two on average.”
Margalit said Matrix is the type of program she always wanted for her boys when they were growing up, but it was important to her to find the right person to jump on board as the head teacher.
She found that in Mirit Golberg, who holds a bachelor’s degree in math and physics, as well as a master’s degree in school management. Golberg has experience in a classroom teaching gifted students, as well as experience in a math-enrichment program — two of those years were spent in a virtual setting.
“We started classes this summer, and I had such a great time,” Golberg said. “It was so awesome to see the kids’ excitement as they tackled difficult equations. There were days when the lesson was over, but they didn’t want to go. They would stay and keep talking about the lesson. That is very gratifying and makes me really happy. I feel really grateful for having the opportunity to teach them.”
Margalit said Matrix finds the gaps in each student’s understanding and teaches ahead of the school to be proactive rather than reactive.
“We have a unique method made of two pieces,” she said. “One is the curriculum we built, and the other is the learning environment for how we present our curriculum. … We believe in starting as young as possible with the goals of building a math foundation, math intuition and a love of math.”
Matrix’s goals are different for each age and level, Golberg said, and staff is proactive in offering summer programs to prepare for the upcoming school year while also preventing regression. The program works with students on their math skills and learning to search for solutions, but it also includes interesting math concepts not covered in school to develop a love of math. There’s even an opportunity for advanced students to compete.
“We have different levels of challenge, and the highest level is math-competition level,” Margalit said. “That’s for students who have been with us for a while, have progressed and we feel they’re ready. We provide a platform for all our students … to participate in national and international math competitions for two reasons. First, it increases their love for math by giving them the opportunity to be challenged; and second, it’s a great addition to the college portfolio.”
Staff presents the material to students in small groups, which allows individualized attention for each student but also allows them to collaborate and search for solutions. This approach allows for instructor and program feedback and also gives children the opportunity to work together with like-minded peers.
“I’ll tell you that in my experience, I’ve seen many kids that never thought of themselves as math kids at all,” Golberg said. “And then — through our work together — first their self-confidence grew, and then they developed what we like to call a mathematical mindset. They ended up as full-fledged math kids.”
Margalit said the original plan for Matrix was to be a physical location, but the coronavirus pandemic put those plans on hold. Matrix currently offers virtual classes and focuses on ensuring students are engaged, learning and interacting with their peers. Fall registration is now ongoing, and families can visit the program’s website and schedule a virtual meeting.
“One of the things I feel really good about is knowing the quality and type of education we’re offering (virtually) is pretty much identical to a physical setting,” Margalit said. “We’d love to be able to be in the classroom with these wonderful children … but we’re doing almost the same online. … That’s what we always offer, but it’s more important now than ever before.”