VALRICO — After 13 years of teaching elementary students at private, public and charter schools, Becky McDaniels noticed a poignant pattern.
"I was saddened by how many kids are scared of math," said McDaniels, 40.
McDaniels, who grew up in Seffner and attended Grace Christian, Burns Middle and Bloomingdale High School, went on to become a math coach for charter schools. She soon found out about Mathnasium, a global math center that Larry Martinek founded in California more than 35 years ago. She was intrigued enough to compose an email to Martinek, but then fell into the same trap as her former students and deleted it.
"I was scared," she said.
She decided to compose another email, and this time she clicked the send button. The result made her the newest owner and center director of Mathnasium, which opened recently in Valrico at 1048 Bloomingdale Ave., the spot formerly occupied by Joffrey's Coffee & Ice Cream Cafe in Plaza Bella.
The center helps students from second grade through 12th grade — and first-graders who can read and sit still. Whether you have an elementary school student who doesn't understand fractions, a middle schooler who wants some enrichment or a high schooler preparing for the SAT and ACT, Mathnasium has eight instructors on staff who are qualified to help. Each instructor has to pass a math skills test then train on the Mathnasium method of teaching that centers on mental, visual, verbal, tactile and written exercises.
The center has 43 children enrolled, with room for 120 on a rotating basis from 2:30 to 7 p.m. on Mondays, 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mathnasium also hosts Club Radical where once a month parents can have a night out and kids can have fun from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The next one is scheduled for Feb. 7.
McDaniels said instructors constantly check on the students' progress and as they advance, they earn punches in a rewards card that lets kids earn items from the prize cabinet or coupons from neighboring businesses such as Sweetie's Delights bakery or the new YoYo Juice two doors down.
"I don't want kids to feel dumb," McDaniels said. "My heart is in teaching and to see kids be successful."
Mathnasium works like a gym membership where parents can pay month-to-month for hourly sessions or 90 minutes for high schoolers. Discounts are offered for teachers, the military and siblings. Visit mathnasium.com/brandon for details.
YoYo Juice spins fresh take on drinks, wraps
There's a running family joke between Scott Laviano, his wife, Rose, and their three children: Joseph, 20, Scott Jr., 18 and Caitlin, 14. When the kids would ask what's for dinner, sometimes dad responded with, "We're having YoYos. You're on your own."
So when Scott Laviano was searching for a name for his new business, Scott Jr. reminded him of YoYos. The name stuck and Laviano opened YoYo Juice this month at 1044 Bloomingdale Ave., the former location of Robeks Fruit Smoothies & Healthy Eats.
Laviano said his smoothie, wrap and salad eatery is different than others because YoYo Juice doesn't contain sugar, uses 100 percent pure vegetable juice and makes ordering easy with a digital menu and online ordering at yoyojuice.com.
It's open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
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