Karen Tzanetopoulos, M.S., CCC-SLP is co-author of the book How Children Learn Math: The Science of Math Learning in Research and Practice (Routledge, 2023). She is a speech and language therapist with an expertise in the science of math learning. Currently, she owns her private practice, Learning to Full Potential, LLC, in which she focuses on teaching children who struggle to learn math and children with difficulty in reading, spelling, and writing (often dyslexia). She is also an expert in the science of reading and uses a structured literacy approach in her work with children. Many students who struggle with reading and language also struggle with math, partially due to the abstract and often confusing language of math, as well as the heavy use of language to teach and evaluate math in most math curricula today. The science of reading and the science of math have multiple common neurological pathways which Karen utilizes in her remediation with children. Learning math concepts requires additional specific brain development that Karen focuses on in her work with children.
Karen’s interest in math learning began while she worked in the public schools and observed that many children with language disabilities also struggled in math. This interest in the challenges of learning math led her to become a member of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago through which Karen was awarded two National Science Foundation Innovation Corps grants. These grants enabled her to study the problems teachers have and the struggles that children have in learning math. With only 32% of 4th graders, and 25% of 12th graders meeting basic state standards in math in the United States, teaching and learning math is clearly a great problem. The NSF grants allowed Karen to study the available research on math learning in the brain, and interview teachers, administrators, parents, and researchers across the country about these problems.
One of these interviews was with Dr. Nancy Krasa, author of the book Number Sense and Number Nonsense: Understanding the Challenges of Learning Math. Dr. Krasa and Karen began to collaborate on their work and presented at conferences together. Dr. Krasa and Dr. Colleen Maas are the co-authors for the book How Children Learn Math: The Science of Math Learning in Research and Practice.
After receiving her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science degrees from the University of Michigan, Karen began her career at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (now the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab), followed by the Chicago Institute for Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch, laying the foundation for the brain science approach that Karen takes in treating children and young adults today.
A sought-after speaker, Karen has spoken at a variety of conferences and provided professional development to individual school districts and professional groups on the topic of the science of math learning and how to make it easier for children to learn math.
How Children Learn Math: The Science of Math Learning in Research and Practice
by Nancy Krasa, Karen Tzanetopolous, and Colleen Maas
Written for pre-service and in-service teachers, parents, and grandparents of children in pre-school through grade 6, this book connects research in cognitive development and math education to offer an easily understood and practical introduction to the science of math learning. It is the first book to review the cognitive research on how children learn math and includes practical activities and strategies to help children develop their math brain from early childhood.