Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 6, 2013

Tutor helps students learn formula for success

Engineer quit work to help struggling sons


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---- — RIVERVIEW (AP) — Nicholas Aggor says he can turn struggling math students into "walking calculators."

He's not a math teacher, but he understands students' difficulties with equations and fractions. Several years ago, his two sons were removed from their fifth-grade math classes and placed in the lowest-performing classes because they were struggling.

The senior automotive industry engineer faced a tough decision: Go for the promotion with a six-figure salary, or quit his job to help his sons.

"I was on track to become a vice president, and know I could have gotten the position, but I want the best for my sons and they needed my help," he said. "I looked at the math textbooks they were using and realized why they weren't learning. There were research-based textbooks, but lacked engineering built-in quality controls." Aggor, 54, quit his job and began writing his own math chapters for Joshua, now 18, and Samuel, 19, to study. He also taught them to chant their multiplication tables 10 minutes every day, like a song. Their failing grades became A's, and they rejoined their classmates in general education classes.

Both young men now are enrolled at Wayne State University's medical school, studying to become surgeons. Their success fueled Aggor's passion to continue writing chapters to help other students.

He since has written 800- to 900-page math books for grades five through eight and Algebra 1. His most recent book is "How to Make Successful Students." He also produced a series of DVDs to help children learn their multiplication tables by chanting equations — such as 3 times 2 is 6, 3 times 3 is 9 — in a sing-song manner.

Aggor said the books — "A Step-By-Step Math Teaching Series for Students, Teachers and Parents" — conform to the state's core standards.

They're used as supplementary texts in the Riverview School District, as well as in the Ann Arbor Public Library and in several Detroit Public Library branches. Aggor said the Duval County School District in Florida also uses his math books as a supplement to standard math texts.

Aggor is corresponding with several national education groups, trying to incorporate the books in curriculums across the country. For now, this is how he makes his living.

Joshua Aggor attributes his father's textbooks to his success.

"His books, videos and programs helped me to enter pre-medicine, and I would like to become a surgeon to help people with injuries and illnesses all around the world," he said. "My dad could have been making a six-figure salary now if he had remained as a senior engineer, but he never complained. What an amazing grace." The principal at Memorial Elementary School in Riverview, where both sons attended, said the books could be helpful for parents.

"The books can be a benefit to students but maybe even more to parents because they're very user friendly," said Nancy Holloway. "A lot of times parents forget the math, and I can definitely see how they'd be helpful." Nicholas Aggor is paying forward the sacrifices made by his father while growing up in the remote village of Peki in the Volta region of Ghana in West Africa.

"My father was a farmer, and he spent all the money he had for me to come to America to further my education," said Aggor. "He told my mother — but he never told me — he wanted to do that for me because I never gave them any trouble." His goal is to have toddlers singing their multiplication tables in the same manner they sing the alphabet when they're learning to talk.

Aggor chokes up when describing his desire to help all children duplicate those results.

"My only moral regret is that I could not help the many other students the same way I helped my sons," he said. "I see many innocent children failing their math tests every year, but nobody is there to fix the problem."