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 playwright turned mathematician and author who founded JUMP Math as a charity in 2001. His work in fostering numeracy and in building children's self-confidence through success in math has been widely recognized. He has been named a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year, an Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year for Canada, an Ashoka Fellow, an Officer of the Order of Canada, and has received three honorary doctorates.

John developed JUMP Math to address both the tragedy of low expectations for students and that of math anxiety in teachers. What makes JUMP Math unique is the premise that anyone can learn math and anyone can teach it. His national best-seller, The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child, describes his approach and successes with the program. 

John began tutoring children in math as a financially-struggling playwright, though he had abandoned the subject for years after having nearly failed first-year calculus. His success in helping students achieve levels of success that teachers and parents had thought impossible 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 to overcome his own "massive math anxiety" before making the decision to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Toronto. He was later 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. He has also lectured in philosophy at McMaster University, where he received a master’s degree in philosophy.

As a mathematician and a playwright, John believes that there are more connections between the arts and sciences than people generally see, as mathematicians are often led by a sense of beauty or elegance in their work. His own plays have been performed across Canada, Europe, Japan, and the United States, and 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, he played Matt Damon’s math tutor in the 1997 movie, Good Will Hunting.

"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."