Fifteen years ago Chris Kuttenkuler was at a franchise convention at the Overland Park Convention Center. At the time prepared meals were the craze of the moment and there were no shortage of those opportunities. But what caught Chris’s eye that day wasn’t food for the stomach but for the brain: a franchisor called Math Monkey. The business strove to improve confidence and skills in math through games and individualized attention (class sizes are limited to 10). Chris was hooked and in October 2007 Math Monkey opened at 151st and Nall.
Chris had always enjoyed solving problems in math and enjoyed coming up with his own strategies. He and his team help develop that confidence in the kids that have been coming through his doors for almost 14 years now. Chris often shares a story of a 3rd grade girl who had come in for the free lesson that is offered after a free assessment. “I am NOT coming back next week,” the girl stated categorically to Chris as she went into the classroom. After the lesson she went right to her mom and said, “Can I come back next week?” Unlike some tutoring centers where kids are dropped off to do DIY worksheets, Math Monkey makes sure that kids are not just left to fend for themselves but are given the attention they need.
It’s amazing what confidence can do to the lies we tell ourselves. So often when people say, “I’m not a math person,” what they really mean is, “this doesn’t come easy to me.” And given larger class sizes and peer pressure, it can be hard to improve once you’ve accepted a limiting belief, especially at a younger age. On the other side, some parents will say, “My kid is doing fine in math,” but what if he/she is bored? How many career options could develop if a couple hours a week were spent going beyond what is “fine” for school? That’s what Chris really enjoys seeing: MAP scores going up, confidence rising, and 2nd, 3rd, and 4th kids from the same family coming through. He’s even had one of his early students come back to work at Math Monkey. They’ve recently added on classes in Python and other code languages.
While the classrooms are in south Overland Park, Chris and his family live in Desoto. But that wasn’t always the case. He used to live a quarter of a mile from the bank. And it was on one of his visits to his dentist, Stephanie Warden, when it was suggested that if he was looking for a small local bank, we might be what he was looking for. Chris’s wife, Heidi, still had an account at the credit union in Jefferson City that her father had belonged to as a worker in the electrical industry, so they both knew and appreciated the power of the relationships that come with banking local.
We gave him his first business loan (long since paid off) and more recently, a PPP loan (already forgiven). Chris appreciates that we don’t ask him to spell his name each time he calls (it definitely takes some getting used to!) and remembers one time early on in his relationship with us when he just dropped a big tub of loose change off and a few days later we called him and let him know that the coins had been counted and his checking account had been credited. “The service and the team are just a couple reasons I still bank with you all even though I’m not down the street any more,” he says.
Chris and his team have continued to operate both online and in-person. While Chris loves to teach, as his daughter Emery gets older he’s often taking her to practices and hence isn’t in the classroom as much as he used to be. But he still loves working with kids whenever we can: “I want kids to like math,” he says. He’s been making that happen for a while now, and we’ve been glad to be a small part of that journey.
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