By Steve Hubrecht

A well-known former David Thompson Secondary School (DTSS) math teacher has just published a book explaining the ins and outs of mathematics.

Anthony Kraayvanger – better known to generations of local students as ‘Mr. K’ — launched The How and Why of Arithmetic just before Christmas. The book is intended for students, teachers and parents or really anyone in Grade 4 or up interested in better understanding what they are doing in math class.

The book has been underway for more than 20 years. Kraayvanger taught math at DTSS (back when it was located where the Columbia Valley Centre currently stands) from 1963 to 1991, teaching the subject, at various points in time, to every grade at the high school. Some time after he left, he realized there was a need for a straightforward-yet-interesting guide to mathematics: essentially a literary version of how he ran his classes.

Kraayvanger set to work, but other interests and occasional computer troubles kept the book from completion. Then last spring Kraayvanger’s daughter came to him with a request for help. She had a friend, Mary, with a granddaughter, Jane, who was in Grade 6 and doing homeschooling during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Jane was a good student, but was completely lost in math. 

Kraavanger’s daughter knew that “a good chunk” of the book was done; could he mail it to Mary to see if it might help Jane? 

Of course Kraayvanger was keen to help if he could, so he mailed off the parts of the book he had finished. He decided that if what he’d written helped Jane, he’d finally complete the book, and if not, then perhaps he’d put the project aside once and for all. Mary wrote back after the end of the school year, with effusive praise, and so Kraayvanger set to work with a renewed sense of purpose, at last getting ‘The How and Why of Arithmetic’ ironed out. The book came back from the printers in mid December, and Kraayvanger has been selling them ever since. 

“I can’t understand why there are still so many people struggling with math…it doesn’t have to be complicated,” Kraayvanger told the Pioneer. 

Kraayvanger, who is now 86, spent his boyhood in London, during the Second World War, where his dad ran an import-export business. In 1949 the family moved to Holland. Kraavanger spoke not a word of Dutch, but was enrolled in Grade 8 and in a local Dutch school. He managed to adapt, although he spent five years (two years longer than normal) in junior high, an experience that he told the Pioneer helped later shape his approach as a teacher, since he knew firsthand what it was like to struggle as a student.

He eventually came to Canada in 1956, landing in Montreal on a freighter, and on a recommendation from a fellow passenger, bought a one-way train ticket to Lethbridge. There he found employment on a nearby farm, and then worked a number of interesting and varied jobs over the next several years. He met and married his wife, Marilyn, and with a baby on the way, decided to go to teacher’s college in Nova Scotia. When a teaching job at DTSS opened up, Kraavanger realized it was quite close to his wife’s hometown of Kimberley and he the family relocated to the Columbia Valley.

“We’ve been here ever since,” Kraayvanger told the Pioneer. Through his nearly three decades at DTSS, Kraavanger began by teaching the youngest grades and gradually started teaching older students, until “eventually I had taught the entire B.C. high school math curriculum,” he said.

Teaching math always had a special appeal to Kraayvanger. “There’s an elegance to it,” he said. “A number is really just a virtual concept in my head. But I use a symbol for it, because if I want to communicate with you, I need to use a symbol, and you have to share my understanding of what that symbol means. And then everything else flows from that… Mathematics is just playing around with symbols. It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle. You start putting it together, but if you only have one piece here or one piece there, you’ll never get the whole picture. You have to understand what you’re aiming for, you have to understand what the big picture will be, if you want to be able to complete the puzzle.”

The first print run produced 50 copies of ‘The How and Why of Arithmetic.’ Those wishing to purchase a copy can contact Kraayvanger at or by calling (250)342-6488.