John Lee has spent the better part of his adult life working as a certified public accountant.
Although Lee said he enjoyed his original chosen profession, he recently came to a point where that career wasn’t fulfilling enough anymore.
“After 25 years of being a CPA I just decided that I wanted to do something that I have a passion for and that’s educating,” Lee said. “Dealing with numbers, I gravitated toward math.”
On Jan. 30, Lee opened Mathnasium Learning Center of Great Neck at 11 Great Neck Road.
Mathnasium Learning Centers specialize in tutoring services for children ages seven through 18 who need assistance in math. There are over 300 Mathnasium franchises currently operating around the world, with three in Nassau County.
Along with Great Neck’s location, Mathnasium Learning Centers are currently operating in Roslyn and New Hyde Park.
“Our motto is ‘we make math make sense,'” Lee said. “A lot of times children are taught math in school, but (do) not understand why math works the way it is. They’re taught to memorize a formula, taught to memorize a procedure, but they’re never really explained fully why that formula works the way it does.”
And that’s where Mathnasium of Great Neck comes in.
“Here we want the student to understand why the math works, why it makes sense,” Lee said. “It’s truly through understanding the math that someone can really be good at math. I like the idea that Mathnasium has this motto and being a numbers guy that’s something that makes sense to me as well. That’s what led me to pursue this.”
Lee previously worked for accounting firm KPMG for 10 years. He then served as head of the tax department for Assured Guarantee, a financial guarantee insurance company based in Manhattan, for the past 15 years.
A resident of Manhasset, Lee and his wife Julie have two children, Allison and Stephen.
When searching for an area to open his Mathnasium franchise, Lee was quickly enticed by the Great Neck peninsula.
“I wanted to be in an area where the parents really value education,” said Lee, who holds an MBA from New York University. “The whole North Shore is a place where parents value education very much.”
In the nearly three weeks since Mathnasium Learning Center of Great Neck opened its doors, Lee said his business has already attracted nine local students ranging in education levels from first grade to seniors in high school.
“We’ve signed up students,” Lee said. “It has been what I imagined it to be. We have a gamut of students. Students that want to get ahead for enrichment and then we have students who need to catch up. Students that weren’t taught math the right way and now they’re turning to us to help catch up.”
For his new students, tutoring has focused upon reinforcing lessons that should have already been learned, while teaching new strategies to become more effective in retaining math skills, Lee said.
“Math is just one of those topics where one topic builds upon one another,” Lee said. “You cannot really learn fractions if you’ve never learned how to add, divide or multiply. Then if you don’t learn fractions, you can’t learn algebra.”
“It’s not like history where you can fail eastern civilization history,” he added, “but you can do well in western civilization history. They’re two different things.”
Mathnasium currently employs three tutors, who along with Lee, provide instruction to local students.
Great Neck resident Linda Hayduk is a retired teacher from the Great Neck School district and is one of Mathnasium of Great Neck’s instructors.
Linda Shahmoon formerly worked as an insurance actuary and also now works as an instructor at Mathnasium, along with Michael Perigine, a student studying for to receive his PhD at SUNY Stonybrook.
All of Mathnasium of Great Neck’s instructors have passed a proficiency exam, have demonstrated the communication skills necessary to be an effective educator and “love being around kids,” Lee said.
“I just like helping people understand math,” he said. “Whether it be older or younger, that’s what I like to do.”
Mathnasium of Great Neck will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, March 1 at 5 p.m. with an open house to follow until 7 p.m.
Students can take up to two, one-hour long classes per week at a cost ranging anywhere from $28 to $34 per session, Lee said.
For more information about Mathnasium of Great Neck, parents can contact Lee at 516-482-MATH or visit the learning center’s Web site at www.mathnasium.com/greatneck.
“I think as long as a community values education there will always be a need for us,” Lee said. “I think Mathnasium can grow very successfully.”