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Readers' Stories

8th Grade Student


Once upon a time there was a ghost named math. Math was always trying to fool Grace by giving her hard equations that were above her grade level.

Math has 11 kids: addy, sub, multiplication, equation, ratio, rate, unit, inequality, neg, positive, and divide. Math gave grace a question that was way over her grade level. This question took 5 kids to tell me the problem.


I felt so mad at Math. He told me the question was basic and I argued back. We argued for the longest time and finally, I told math to go away an I wasn't talking to him. Then I told Math to sleep on the couch because I was in a fight with him.


The next morning Math and I made up and we got back to our daily life.


Rob Klem

After hearing Hunter Maats and Katie O'Brien on a podcast, I was intrigued by the message they delivered and their powerful approach to the problems facing the modern learner.  This led me to read The Straight-A Conspiracy, which I can only describe in one way-- powerful! It made me realize that we won't find the answers to our systemic problems in education by inventing new methods, but rather by dispelling old ones.


This book gave me exactly what I needed: clarity, rejuvenation as an educator, and a new message for my students.  It helped me to give answers and realistic, easy-to-use strategies to students that struggle to find a way to turn around their defeatist attitudes in the classroom.  

And even though this book is written for students, I think it would do any teacher a great deal of good to read this book and spread the message.  I can't recommend this book enough.

Parent of children on the autism spectrum

Amazon Review

I've read through the book and I'm reading through the book with both of my sons who are on the Autism spectrum. I love how the book lays out not only the techniques for studying and getting good grades, but without making them feel dumb, explains exactly why they haven't been successful so far and exactly why it is they can do this.


They seem to be understanding.


#2 son is starting school today and #1 son starts in a couple weeks.I would love to get this book into the hands of middle school teachers everywhere. Let's face it. Most of the subjects we learn in High School aren't that important but these skills that we use to apply to those subjects are the critical skills for life.

CrossFit Coach & Athlete

Amazon Review

As a CrossFit Coach and athlete I appreciate the value of breaking down complex tasks into simple ones. Hunter and Katie do this for the entire scholastic universe in "The Straight A Conspiracy."


You don't have to wait for high school to read it or regret not having done so after your school career is over. This book should be required reading from 7th grade on. As a so-called "grown up," I am benefitting already from their simple, effective techniques in my journey to help my athletes improve and in reaching my own goals.

Get this book for you and your kids and you'll start making all the complexities in your life, as the authors say:


 "cake mix clear."



I felt the need to send you this email. I'm 23 years old and since graduating high school in 2008 my life has been a complete mess. In high school, I was at best a C student who never failed but also never achieved academic success. I once had a teacher tell me I "wasn't a school person". Fearing school all my life after graduation, I decided to join the working world and never thought of college or university as I thought there was no way I was smart enough to be successful at the post-secondary level. Little did I know the only jobs available to me we're construction laborer or retail associate. After years of working mindless jobs and basically hating my life and living for the weekends, I began consuming alcohol on a regular basis to try and escape the prison I felt I was in. You see, I thought I wasn't smart and any form of school scared the hell out of me. After years of working an unfulfilling job, feeling like I wasn't living up to my potential, and drinking my life away I knew I needed a change. I was depressed and had a negative out look on my future. It wasn't until I stumbled upon the Bryan Callen/Hunter Maats podcast, where I discovered the Straight-A conspiracy. After hearing you and Katie talk about learning I ordered the book immediately. It summed up how I felt my entire life and was exactly what I needed to hear/read. I decided to take charge of my life and realized I would have to return to school to better my life and future. I'm happy to announce that I've quit drinking and applied to college and have started up classes this past fall. After my first semester I have achieved A's in every subject and a GPA of 4.0. I'm pursuing my passion/dream job. I can honestly say your book and podcast have completely changed my life. I wanted to send you this email as a way to say thank you! Words can't describe the transformation my life has taken.


Robin Steiner

I hated math and I didn't want to be friends with the kids who liked math. I was a straight-A student...minus math. It all started in junior high when my well-intentioned and good humored math teacher, Mr. Holcomb, wrote on the blackboard every Wednesday, "Pick On Robin Day." In retrospect, I don't remember this as being a negative experience. Still struggling to make math sense, my dad wrote up a few note cards which I kept hidden in the sleeve of my math book, just in case I drew a blank. Towards the end of junior high, he hired a tutor. We sat at the kitchen table and studied fractions and percentages. My dad sat in the family room pretending to read the newspaper, but was really eavesdropping while doing math in his head. He didn't require a #2 pencil and he didn't have to show his work. When I couldn’t simplify the fractions, he called out the correct answer as if this was a tiebreaker in his favorite game of Jeopardy.


Enter high school--freshman algebra with Mr. Meyerhoff! I was doomed. One flashcard after another, I was sure I had developed early onset post traumatic math stress. Every single solitary story problem was about a train ride and distance traveled.  "A train leaves the station with twenty passengers traveling north at a rate of..." I wanted to know more about the passengers.  Where were they going?  It's hard to believe they were commuting without a destination in mind?  Did they ever get off the train? This information was never disclosed. To make a long story problem short, Mr. Meyerhoff gave me a D in algebra. I walked home from school that day in tears.  


As a psychology major in college, I was required to take statistics.  I spent hours on end practicing and memorizing but this time I didn't seem to mind.  This math was reasonable--it had words and attached meaning and there weren't any trains. You were allowed to know things from probability or theory--not necessarily fact or experience.  As unbelievable as it may seem, by the end of the semester, I held the third highest grade in the class!  I got an A because I taught myself…


Zachary Vargas

I have seen many kids say they don't know what to do and simply give up until someone comes along to lead the way. People are always saying we need more leaders. Immediately missing the point, kids get on twitter to try and find followers. What Katie and Hunter do is teach kids to lead themselves.


The Straight-A Conspiracy breaks down how the greats got to be great in a way that allows kids of all ages to see a light at the end of the tunnel. That light, like a seed, allows learning to grow in all aspects of life, not just school. You can't rely on kids finding all the right teachers anymore. They'd be helpful, but the person ultimately responsible for a child's learning is her/himself.


Incorporating Hunter and Katie's science-backed concepts into my teaching simply makes more knowledge stick. More importantly, the response not “I got it, are we done yet?”, but more of an excited search for more knowledge.


Erica Steiner

In high school, studying was never difficult for me – but only because I didn’t care and deemed myself a strictly arts-only person and allowed myself to neglect the “boring” subjects such as math and science. I excelled in word-centric courses and merely managed C’s in any class that required a calculator. Admittedly, I was okay with this. Understandably, my parents weren’t.


Enter Hunter: science and math tutor extraordinaire. Hunter encouraged me to remove emotion and inject reason into my studying practices. He taught me that just because I am good at words didn’t mean I couldn’t conquer equations as well. My teachers taught me what to learn whereas Hunter gave me academic independence and critical thinking skills that emphasized how to learn. My approach towards “boring” subjects changed so dramatically that I was pulling straight A’s by junior year.


Hunter’s time and teachings were my secret, good grade-getting’ weapon and I am thrilled that the academic tools which led to me become a recent Emerson College graduate six years later are now available in book form. The Straight-A Conspiracy is such a wonderfully unique approach to not only conquering but also embracing education.

College Academic Advisor

Amazon Review

I work as a college academic counselor and basically work with students that are struggling academically. I think this is a great book for anywhere from junior high thru high school even some college freshman that need a bit of help.


It is written for the student but could also be helpful for parent to read if parent is involved with their child's school and trying to help them. It gives pointers on why some students are the way they are (ex. the student isn't really 'dumb' or not smart enough for the class or 'just too lazy' but may actually be afraid of failure so would rather be seen as lazy, etc.) Gives ways to build confidence in self as a student and gives pointers for specifics areas most students struggle in (test taking, paper writing, math, etc.) Provides great examples, too.

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