After five years as an elementary school teacher, Jennifer Cordileone was restless.
“I always wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “But I found that teachers don’t spend a lot of time teaching.”
In February 2013, she sent her mother, Patty Gage, a text message suggesting the pair open a Mathnasium, a math learning center which offers franchise opportunities.
“I ignored her,” Gage said. “I didn’t respond for a month.”
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But during that time, Gage researched Mathnasium and liked what she saw. An electrical engineer, Gage said she used to tease her children by saying, “When I retire, I’m going to be a math teacher.”
The mother-daughter team opened Mathnasium in October. It is the seventh center in the Triangle and the first in Fuquay-Varina.
Cordileone is the center’s director, overseeing the day-to-day operations. Gage handles the business side while working full time at her engineering job.
“I can’t wait to retire and do it full time,” Gage said.
Mathnasium serves children from kindergarten to 12th grade. The name hints at the operation style.
“It’s like a gym membership,” Gage said. Scheduling is flexible, and drop-ins are accepted. “We try to make it a fun environment.”
The center hosts monthly game nights.
On the first visit, students are assessed so staff can formulate an individualized plan.
“It’s like fitting the right shoe,” Cordileone said. “We make math fun, and they’re doing it at their level.”
Students receive a customized binder to work through at their own pace. A prize cabinet holds rewards for completing enough tasks to fill a punch card.
Most of the students are struggling with math concepts at school, although some are seeking enrichment. Cordileone and Gage say building confidence is key. The first order of business is taking calculators out of the equation.
“The calculator is a resource,” Cordileone said. “They need to trust their brains more.”
The 1-to-3 ratio of instructors to students is a cost-effective model, Gage said. “It helps parents bring down the costs over private tutoring.”
Cordileone said Mathnasium seeks to collaborate with the student’s classroom teacher.
“We want to build a partnership,” she said. “We’re here to help the student, and as a result the teacher and school, look better.
“I’m a firm believer that it takes a village to raise a child.”
Students are encouraged to bring homework and test papers from the classroom.
“We help build a foundation, but also realize that you are in a current class and need to work with that,” Cordileone said.
Mathnasium also offers ACT and SAT preparation by focusing on a student’s weaknesses.
“It’s not just SAT questions,” Cordileone said. “We hone in on what they really need help with.”
Cordileone said she’s loving her career change. “I never think of it as a job.”
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