Math Celebrity May 2018

positivity May 2018

Implement ing Cont inuous Improvement

When I first started, it was daunting. I felt like that woman trying to lose weight. Everything lay ahead of me, and there was so much work to be done. So I broke it down. My steps took on a day-by-day approach of continuous improvement. Each day, I would build three new calculators into the website. Over 365 days, that adds up. In a year, I had 1,095 calculators. My site was improving, one day at a time. In the beginning, I worked on whenever I could, which usually ended up being several hours each day. When my wife and daughter went to sleep, I’d hop on the computer. When my English mastiff, Maximus, woke me up at 5 a.m., I’d feed him, then get to work on the site. These days, I don’t spend as much time on it because I’ve built the infrastructure. But the site is still improving each day as each new math problem comes our way. I know 1 percent doesn’t sound like a lot, but after 30 days, it compounds itself. You haven’t just made a 30 percent improvement; you’ve made a 36 percent improvement. It’s the power of one. What if you apply this principle to math studies? Constant improvement could turn a struggling student into a math- proficient student in less than a year. They won’t learn calculus in a day, but if they commit to learning a few new math problems every day, they’ll have grown by leaps and bounds within a year. has the tools to take them there. Read on to find out how.

When Ronald Reagan was running against the incumbent, Jimmy Carter, he swayed the public with one simple question: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Folks reflected on the last four years and decided they weren’t satisfied. They wanted better, and Reagan convinced them that he was the person for the job. In Japan, there’s a principle called “kaizen,” which loosely translates to “change for the better” or “continuous improvement.” When applied to your goals, it’s an effective way to make them manageable. Whatever you’re aiming for, don’t approach it all at once. Instead, start by making a 1 percent improvement every day through small steps. In a book I read about kaizen, there’s an example of a woman who struggled with weight loss. She was 150 pounds overweight and unable to get to the gym. Furthermore, her diet just wasn’t yielding the results she hoped for. But then she applied the principle of kaizen, and her life began to change. On the first day, her goal was just to get her gym bag out of the closet. On day two, she placed her socks in the bag. On day three, she put her keys in the bag. On day four she drove to the parking lot of the gym. She continued these steps until the day she went inside the gym. In the third week, she got on the treadmill. When her goal was to lose 150 pounds, it was overwhelming. The amount of work required seemed insurmountable. But when she broke that goal down into small steps — beginning with pulling her gym bag out of the closet — it became focused and achievable.

– Don Sevcik


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