John Mighton

A biography of JUMP Math's founder, Dr. John Mighton, O.C.

“John Mighton may well become the nation's math conscience. He not only knows that all children can master genuine mathematics but has repeatedly proved so with his brilliant, no-nonsense ... program.”

– Andrew Nikiforuk, Education Writer and award-winning author, commenting on JUMP Math founder Dr. John Mighton, O.C.

Dr. John Mighton is a mathematician, author, and playwright. He founded JUMP Math as a charity in 2001 to enhance potential by encouraging an understanding and love of math in students and educators. JUMP Math produces evidence-based classroom math programs that are used by about 140,000 students.

John’s belief that children (and adults) have far greater capacity than we commonly believe is rooted in personal experience. Having almost failed first-year calculus, he abandoned math for many years. His journey back began when the financially struggling playwright saw an ad for tutors. Tutoring rekindled John’s love of math, and his success in helping students achieve levels of success that teachers and parents had thought were beyond them fueled his belief that everyone has great untapped potential. The experience of repeatedly witnessing the heart-breaking paradox of high potential and low achievement led him to conclude that the widely-held assumption that mathematical talent is a rare genetic gift has created a self-fulfilling prophecy of low achievement. A generally high level of math anxiety among many elementary school teachers, itself an outcome of that belief system, creates an additional challenge. John had had to overcome his own "massive math anxiety" before making the decision to return to university, where he earned a doctorate in math in 2000. His experiences drove him to develop the JUMP Math program to address both the tragedy of low expectations and teacher math anxiety. What makes JUMP Math unique is the premise that anyone can learn math and anyone can teach it.

John completed a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Toronto and was awarded an NSERC fellowship for postdoctoral research in knot and graph theory. He is currently a Fellow of the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences and has taught mathematics at the University of Toronto. John also lectured in philosophy at McMaster University, where he received a Masters in philosophy.

His national best-selling book, The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child, describes John’s successes with JUMP Math, and how anyone can learn and teach math.

John is also a playwright: his plays have been performed across Canada, Europe, Japan, and the United States. He has won several national awards including the Governor General's Literary Award for Drama, the Dora Award, the Chalmers Award and the Siminovitch Prize. In a twist of fate, John also played Matt Damon’s math tutor in the 1997 movie, Good Will Hunting.

As a mathematician and a playwright, John believes that there are more connections between the arts and the sciences than people generally think, and that scientists and mathematicians are often led by a sense of beauty or elegance, and describes their work in artistic terms.

"If the two worlds communicated more, we'd have much richer art and science as a result."

In 2004, John was granted a prestigious Ashoka Fellowship as a social entrepreneur for his work in fostering numeracy and building young children's self-confidence through JUMP Math. Most recently he was named a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur as well as Canada’s leading social entrepreneur as part of Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year awards. John has also received three honorary doctorates in recognition of his lifetime achievements and was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2010.

As a writer, commentator, public speaker and trainer, John has inspired thousands of educators. He’s presented at many prestigious events, and been featured in journals and media including:

"If children are born with anything, it’s with a sense of the invisible beauty of the world. They love seeing patterns, making connections, solving puzzles. Every child has a right to fulfill their intellectual potential, just as they have the right to develop healthy bodies."