Judo Math: Kids are getting a black belt in Algebra
Teachers have a new weapon for the Common Core that's getting results
By: Judo Math
Judo Math was created by Dan Thoene, an 8th grade Math teacher at High Tech Middle School in San Diego. It’s currently used in over 300 math classes around the world, from Canada to Israel to Arizona. Now after several years of tinkering, Thoene’s taking a sabbatical to spread the word everywhere. He’s currently running a Kickstarter campaign about it called Judo Math: Making a Difference.
It all started during a community meeting at his school a few years ago. A karate instructor was pitching his class for the after-school program when Thoene heard a student ask a great question.
“A kid raised his hand in the back and said, ‘How long does it take to become a black belt?’ And the sensei said, ‘It’s different for everybody. Everyone learns at their own pace,” Thoene says. “And I was thinking, well why don’t we teach math that way?”
That evening, Thoene went home and began to research martial arts. The story of Judo caught his eye. Created by a teacher, judo’s core principles were cooperation and mutual welfare. So, he went back to his students with a loose plan.
“I said, ‘Let’s create this together. We’ll call it ‘Judo Math,’ They use belts in martial arts, so we can even wear belts,’” he says. “They were like, ‘No, Mr.T. that’s totally lame.’” Eventually, they settled on using bracelets.
Collaboration is a major component of the program. Every student will receive a black belt in each of the three units, and it’s up to the class to help make sure everyone gets there. So far, it’s working wonders. In the first year of the program, 88 percent of Thoene’s eighth graders tested proficient in math. In comparison, only 30% tested proficient in the state of California.
He created a kids site that breaks down all the Common Core topics and allows students to video record themselves solving math equations on a white board, and create a voice-over explanation of the process to share with other students.
“Some kids in South Carolina can be showing my kids over here how to do the same exact type of math problem,” he says.
His Kickstarter campaign is being used to create an online training course for teachers, update the kids’ site and attend more conferences as a presenter all across the nation. “Unfortunately, it’s an unpaid sabbatical,”
If you’d like to schedule an interview with Dan, you can reach him at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@JudoMath) and Facebook (facebook.com/
Judo Math Inc.
Page Updated Last on: Jan 28, 2015