Virtually every parent can recall a time when they fought with their child over homework. No matter the age of the child, the subject matter or the school season, most memories are variations of the same scene—none of which are conducive to a healthy learning environment.
Angelia “Angie” Bowlin knows that scene all too well. A certified elementary school teacher, she found that helping one of her children with her math homework was more challenging than teaching a classroom of 30. With her youngest daughter Mary having dyslexia, Bowlin expected reading and writing homework to be the most difficult. Yet, it was the math homework that inevitably caused the most frustration.
Desperate for a solution, Bowlin enrolled Mary at their local Mathnasium. A math-only learning center with a 40-year track record of success, Mathnasium utilizes proprietary materials and techniques to teach kids math the way it makes sense to them. Over the next three months, Bowlin witnessed a transformation in her daughter that went far beyond her math scores. As Mary began to understand foundational concepts, she gained confidence. With that confidence came a desire to succeed; and, with that desire, came a newfound appreciation for math. The difference in her child also spilled over into their relationship. There were no more battles over homework, no more negative thoughts and feelings getting in the way.
“I had my happy child back,” Bowlin said. “It was as if the weight of the world had lifted off both of us. It changed our entire family dynamic.”
The impact of the Mathnasium program was so substantial, Bowlin felt compelled to bring the concept to other families. What started as personal recommendations to other parents whose children were struggling with math grew into the desire to open her own franchise. After discussing the idea with Mike Convenuto, another parent who had also experienced positive changes after his daughter, Olivia, attended Mathnasium, Bowlin contacted corporate headquarters. “Once we made the decision to look into it, it became obvious it was something I was meant to do. It was as if everything I’d experienced in my personal and professional life led me to this point,” she said.
Education was a driving force throughout Bowlin’s life. Not only was she the first person in her family to go to college, she did as a single mother with an infant daughter. In fact, Bowlin credits her daughter Hannah as the inspiration behind her decision to become a teacher. “I would watch Hannah play and could see her mind working. I was in awe of the learning process,” she said. In addition to receiving a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Louisiana State University, Bowlin earned her master’s degree in educational leadership from Southeastern Louisiana University.
Bowlin admits that in spite of her education and training in the Louisiana public school system, the Mathnasium Method™ was a novel approach to teaching math skills. In fact, she remembers the first time she walked into the facility, she told the center director she was unsure if the program would be a good fit for Mary. “Kids were working in small groups, with instructors circulating throughout the room. I was used to Mary having one-on-one tutoring sessions in a quiet corner of the library. The center director explained that type of environment often led to ‘learned helplessness,’ the idea being that a child who has someone walking them through a problem every step of the way is more likely to sit back and let that person take on the heavy lifting. In contrast, the Mathnasium method is based on detailed assessments that determine what skills need to be mastered before moving on to another math concept. We use positive reinforcement techniques and a variety of manipulatives that allow us to identify what works best for a specific child and then create customized lesson plans based on that information. We don’t teach for a test score. We teach for understanding and mastery of mathematical principles.”
Never one to let grass grow under her feet, Bowlin and her business partner Convenuto were intent on bringing Mathnasium to Mandeville in time for the 2017-18 school year. “I was like a drill sergeant,” she said. “The process is very structured, with intense educational training and programming both onsite and online. And we completed it all in a little over four months.” The whirlwind has continued since the doors opened in September. Bowlin has become a fixture at PTA events at many St. Tammany Parish public schools and plans to host math nights free of charge for local schools.
Offering six-month memberships with unlimited visits per month and no scheduled appointments, Mathnasium focuses on closing the gaps in a child’s foundational weaknesses and building math competency over the long-term. “We teach mental strategies. We break numbers down for students in a way they can understand and make them relatable for the student,” she said. “These strategies stand the test of time. The world is constantly changing, but numbers stay the same.”
One semester into the program, Bowlin notes she is already seeing changes in her students. One child even asked if he could display his entire report card on the brag board because he was so proud of his achievements. “Our mission is to help children understand and master math. It will change their world.”
Bowlin and Convenuto have plans to open two additional Mathnasium centers next year in Metairie and Kenner.
Mathnasium of Mandeville is located at 3441 E. Causeway Approach, Mandeville. Call 985-626-6284 or visit mathnasium.com/mandeville for more information.