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Avatar Learning Center Students Thrive from Skilled Teachers Who Help Them Learn and Love Math

If you guessed that a place called Avatar Learning Center is where you go to become a better gamer you might not be quite right. Though an avatar is usually thought of as a digital representation of yourself, the Avatar Learning Center is where you go to become an overall better version of yourself. You do this by learning not what to think, but how to think, which makes you better prepared for real life, and ready to face tomorrow’s challenges. Or, as one of the Avatar Learning Center co-founders said: "Sometimes people associate avatars with super-powers and a new face. At the Avatar Learning Center, math becomes your superpower and students become their own avatars."

In fact, Avatar Learning Center takes the notion of “I don’t like math,” or “I’m not good at math,” or “math is not for girls” and proves the opposite can be true. The school’s five female founders earned their PhDs from top U.S. universities and built prominent careers in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, math), after first becoming friends as classmates in the engineering program at the American University of Armenia. In addition to having professional careers in engineering and industrial engineering, data science, business, and operations research, they serve as math instructors at the Avatar Learning Center.

As the school approaches its first anniversary of establishment, the founders are confident that any student who enrolls will benefit. They know they can help every single child and want to embrace as many students as possible. If students think of math as their friend, they can use it for its full potential. And that is what they are teaching the students.

Through the years, the five Avatar founders often discussed the discontent with the quality of math instruction their own children were receiving. They observed that the math programs and assignments were quite simplistic and not encouraging the children to think. They felt that was the reason that children were losing interest in math. While teaching mathematics to their own children, they collectively accumulated vast resources and ideas, and had developed that into a method to teach math– a method that would instill a spark in children and plant a lifelong penchant for math. As the school math instruction during Covid became worse, they decided to open the school.

Avatar Learning Center was founded in July 2020 and serves students in grades K through 12. While there is no physical building for the school, there is so much energy in the virtual classrooms – studying online at Avatar is as engaging as traditional education. Being virtual gives the school an opportunity to attract the best teachers and for students to participate from anywhere. An added bonus is that parents do not need to drive students back and forth and spend hours waiting for class to be over. The convenience of online learning can not be underestimated, and during its first year the school has proved to be successful in teaching online. One important practice is a correct placement. The students need to be academically aligned in terms of not only their knowledge, but also their style and speed of learning. The founders are confident, if students are placed well and the class is well aligned with their needs, online teaching can be amazing. The correct placement allows the school to be highly successful by creating a friendly, yet competitive environment that facilitates and enhances the teaching process.

A correct placement is achieved with an assessment, which has become another key success for Avatar Math. Each student is assessed before he or she is placed in a classroom. The assessment requirement allows the instructors to learn about the students. Sometimes the instructors solve problems with the students thus, creating a personal connection with the students even before they enter Avatar. Oftentimes parents observe assessments, making it especially helpful for younger students. After the assessment with the students, the parents are able to continue conversations with Avatar instructors. This helps the instructors learn more about each student’s standing and goals and make better recommendations for placement. Assessment can be scheduled at:

Another key to success is the unique and engaging Avatar math methodology, which instills curiosity and allows students to develop deductive reasoning. Kids learn how to tackle mathematical problems without fear – they not only learn the concepts and core proficiencies but develop a deep understanding of why and how these concepts work and how they are connected. Children become confident by applying the math techniques to their everyday lives by drawing parallels between the math problems and their lived experiences.

The average class size at Avatar Learning Center is another key to success. The founders keep the roster to an average of six students per class to make sure every student receives appropriate attention and several opportunities to speak up. Small sized classrooms at Avatar Learning Center ensure no student is overlooked.

Avatar Learning Center offers several programs. For core math programs, the school offers academic year-long instruction, two hours per week. There is also a math summer school, math crash courses to help master targeted math concepts, a science program for students in grades 5-8, and classes for students competing in Math Olympiads. Computer coding classes will be offered in September.

The science classes are hands-on and include virtual experiments in chemistry, physics, and biology. These are taught by teachers who also hold PhDs and teach at college levels. The school uses technology and online simulations to facilitate science experiments. For instance, an online instructor might ask, “What will happen if the mass increases or gravity decreases?” Then, students can assign these parameters in an online environment and see a cartoon depiction of what happens. The simulation has proved to be fun as the students have expressed enthusiasm towards it. Avatar Learning Center also provides students with science kits for building real models, such as solar energy operated models. The students can use those kits and run experiments either as homework or during class.

The Avatar curriculum is aligned with Common Core and follows the curriculum of local Potomac schools, as one of the founders is based in Potomac. The founders take the core proficiencies that students need, and build upon those. They ensure that each student is completely comfortable with their grade-level proficiencies. They incorporate brainteasers, problems and more to help build on the proficiencies and go much further. Students are welcome to bring questions from their schools and take advantage of complimentary office hours for reviewing schoolwork.

Typically, students seek help from Avatar Learning Center to either catch up or get ahead. Some students are advanced and bored at school and need something interesting to keep their minds busy. Parents of these children tell the Avatar Learning Center that they need more mental stimulation. The second group of children have gaps at school and need help with proficiency. Avatar has place for these children as well!

Parents of Avatar students report that their children are genuinely happy, the children are having fun, their grades and test scores are improving, and they know their stuff when they head back to their regular schools. Nearly 100% of Avatar students re-enroll.

The biggest success of Avatar Learning Center is that the founders and instructors teach as if they are teaching their own children! And in fact they are – ten of Avatar Learning Center’s students are children of the school’s instructors.

A deeper dive into alternate meanings of the word “avatar” reveals that an avatar can also be a divine teacher. Indeed.

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