Fa­ther boosts kids’ math grades by rewrit­ing their text­books

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By An­drea Billups

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.”

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