If you ask most elementary school students what their favorite subject is, it’s a pretty safe bet that not many will say math. For many, math is complicated, confusing, and uninteresting. But what if that could change? What if there was a way to teach math without using words, a way that would be fun and interactive for students? Dr. Matthew Peterson has managed to do just that, and he is implementing his new systems in a variety of cities with extremely encouraging results.

Peterson, a dyslexic himself, didn’t learn to read until the fifth grade, and was always discouraged by math problems because of how many words they contained. He admits that he, like many students with disabilities, is much more of a visual learner, and was unable to comprehend math problems because of all the text they contained. In order to alleviate this problem for other students, Peterson created a series of educational computer programs that help elementary aged children learn math skills without using any words.

It seems impossible, doesn’t it? After all, how could a child possibly learn math without any written instruction? Well, the program relies on trial and error and student intuition. The goal of the students is to move Jiji the penguin across the screen, and they manage to accomplish this by benefiting from visual animations, instant feedback, and hints from the program. No one tells the student how to help Jiji, but by using mathematical thinking skills, they manage to figure it out on their own, and learn the basic math concepts as they go.

This program has proven to be effective. A study of this program was conducted in five different trial cities including Orange County, Silicon Valley, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Houston. In each city, math proficiency on standardized tests nearly tripled after students had used the program for a year. This program is not only a fun way for students to learn math, but it also teaches them to collaborate with each other which boosts language and communication skills.

This program has the potential to be a great new tool in mathematical teaching for students who have difficulty learning math via the more traditional route! To learn more about it, check out this video from Peterson himself where he explains the benefits of his new program.