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Former auto mechanic fixing math problems

Published: Thursday, April 10, 2014 12:08 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 10, 2014 11:54 p.m. CDT

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CRYSTAL LAKE – From the black oil stained floors of an auto shop to a quiet and clean classroom, Michael Ammer's career change is about as drastic as one comes.

The lifelong mechanic traded in his wrenches and car jacks for calculators and worksheets, opening a Mathnasium location in Crystal Lake. Mathnasium is a math-only learning center franchise that helps students from kindergarten through 12th grade learn foundational skills. There are more than 400 locations in the United States and abroad.

"I was looking for something where I could give back more than just 'I have a problem with my car, can you fix it?'" Ammer said. "It's very rewarding when you can see in a child's eyes that moment they get it. It's a great feeling."

Ammer, who operates the center at 6500 Route 14, Suite 28W, with his wife, said his inspiration for opening a math tutoring center came from his own experiences as a parent. Two of his daughters had individualized education programs and struggled in the subject.

He also found it challenging to help at times because teaching methods had changed in some cases.

"We know firsthand what families go through," Ammer said. "A lot of times parents may be just as intimidated by math as their student because they may have learned the subject in a different way."

Mathnasium aims to solve that dilemma by discovering the best way to explain math concepts to each individual that comes through the doors. Each student is first given an in-depth assessment that is analyzed by a Mathnasium computer program to determine strengths and weaknesses.

Tutors the use a combination of mental, verbal, visual, tactile, and written techniques customized to each student, Ammer said. There is no homework and although homework help is provided, Ammer said the focus is working on foundational skills.

"Helping a student with a specific homework assignment only helps with those exact problems," Ammer said. "We want to get to the core."

Students do not need specific or set appointments to come in for help, Ammer said. Any student can come in any time during the center's hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.

Ammer stressed the center is a supplement to school and would not interfere with the methods teachers use to instruct classes. The extra attention just gives students a personal attention to detail they cannot always receive in school, he said.

"We're just a support structure for the schools because most of this is all about the way you interact with students to find the way they best understand the material," he said. "We try to make them have fun with math."

After opening this week, Ammer said he has already had a couple students come in but he is planning a grand opening in the near future. Those interested can find out more at www.mathnasium.com/crystallake or by calling 815-526-3453.

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