Father boosts kids’ math grades by rewriting their textbooks
RIVERVIEW, Mich. — Nicholas Aggor, a Detroit-area engineer who worked for Ford, was troubled that his two sons, Samuel and Joshua, were having difficulty learning math. He had worked hard to get them into the Riverview Community School District, a small but high-performing district in Michigan’s Wayne County that boasts some of the highest test scores in the state.
“They were bringing home bad grades and their performance was so bad that they were sent to the resource room at school for those who don’t do well in regular classes,” Mr. Aggor recalled. “I was very concerned.”
A native of Ghana with a master’s degree in engineering from Wayne State University, Mr. Aggor took it upon himself to help his two boys, then 8 and 9, with their homework. The more he read their textbooks, however, the more he understood why they were having trouble.
“Mathematics is very easy, but current books are written in a way that causes you to struggle and suffer and
lose hope,” he said. “It’s not supposed to be like that.”
So he started rewriting his sons’ lessons in a more step-by-step way that he thought might be easier. His strategy seemed to work: His children now score at the highest level on Michigan’s standardized test.
“They began to do so well right away and then they surprised me to the point where they started requesting more chapters,” he said. “They said: ‘Daddy, when is the next one going to be done?’ I could tell they were responding to the new style, so I kept on writing.”
And Mr. Aggor, confident he was on to something good with his own youngsters, soon will publish his own set of math textbooks, which may be used as a resource not only in his home school district, but also in public library tutoring programs in the Detroit area. He also received interest from educators around the world who heard about him and are asking where they might pick up a copy of his work.
The books, “Mathematics for Students and Parents,” cost about $64 each, and will be available for order online later this month at www.mathmastersseries.com. Quick to endorse their father’s ef- forts are his children, who are living examples, said Mr. Aggor, that his program works.
“My dad’s a miracle worker,” proclaimed Samuel, now a 14-yearold ninth-grader at Riverview High School. He explained how his father, 48, used household objects like marbles to help simplify math concepts for him. The practical approach, combined with detailed explanations of every step, he said, make difficult concepts easy.
“Other books I saw just didn’t explain how math should be formed,” Samuel said. “My dad’s book completely states all the formulas and equations. It’s step-by-step. My grades have really improved and now I can do my homework by my- self and get it all right.”
His dad’s success also has made him a hero with his pals.
“My classmates are struggling,” Samuel said, “and now I help them.”
Making parents feel confident enough to help their children with math homework is what drove Mr. Aggor to take the financial gamble of quitting his job to write his Math Masters Series books, which cover grades four through nine with a specific book for adult learners. Along the way, classes in the Riverview district were used as guinea pigs of sorts to test-run exercises in his books as a resource for students there who struggled in math.
“We appreciate what he is doing,” said the district’s superintendent, Dennis Desmarais, noting that once the full series is published, his curriculum committee plans to review it and possibly adopt the books as a supplement to current texts.
“Our teachers feel good about it,” Mr. Desmarais said. “Children have had great success with it and are now scoring very high in all of their standardized tests.”
Mr. Aggor is thrilled that others like his work and thinks he’s latched on to a national problem.
“Many parents want to get involved in their children’s learning but feel helpless in subjects like math. I get calls from school districts all over the United States,” he said. “Many, many are frustrated and really need help.”