I concentrate on two areas with English portion of the ACT:
(1) You'll answer 75 questions in 45 minutes - so I like to give students tips on time management, and I like to help them recognize their strong areas.
(2) There's some vocabulary involved, so I help students focus on areas like prefixes, suffixes and root words, so they can learn to define new words on the fly.
I have never seen a student who didn't improve from one sitting of this test to the next.
The biggest difference between ACT and SAT Math is that the ACT includes trigonometry. I therefore work with students to get a grasp of the most basic trig identities - most students will not be familiar with them, and others may not have worked with them enough.
Then it's on to reviewing algebra and geometry, especially those topics that appear on the exam again and again, like graphing lines and similar triangles.
The ACT Reading section offers essays in four different discipline areas, which means there is a chance a student simply may not understand an essay.
Fortunately, it's not necessary to understand what an essay is about to
- identify the main idea
- identify cause-and-effect relationships
- generalize what the author is trying to say
- define specific words, or guess at definitions, based on context
I therefore try to help students concentrate on finding what can be found. The answers to all the questions are always written right there in the essay.
I have had great success tutoring ACT Science. It's little more than Reading with some graph interpretation thrown in, and occasionally some uncommon vocabulary.
With students, I therefore concentrate on interpreting graphs:
- maximums and minimums of value and slope
- dealing with multiple scales
- understanding interpolation and extrapolation
These concepts appear in nearly every ACT Science question.
Vocabulary is particularly important in comparisons of experiments and comparisons of scientific theories. With students I concentrate on finding the tough words and having students use context to take a rough guess on their meaning.
Algebra I students face many challenges, but I have found most who have trouble get bogged down with
- the Distributive Property
- Order of Operations
- Rules of Exponents (where it is covered)
Those are the areas where I normally must concentrate. It's about instilling confidence, every bit as much as it's about problem-solving.
Algebra 2 students face many challenges, but none greater than solving equations for an unknown variable. Once a student is comfortable there, we can go on to
- systems of two equations/two unknowns
- quadratic equations
I have taught algebra in the classroom, and there I have learned that having students be comfortable with solving simple linear equations for one unknown variable is the key that unlocks everything else.
ASVAB, because it is a test required by the military, is in many ways a test of behavior and personal choices at least as much as it is a test of subject knowledge. For that reason, part of my job is to make sure students:
- practice something on that test daily
- get enough sleep
- plans both before and during the exam
- follow directions
And as is often the case in standardized tests, there are many multiple-choice questions. Part of the plan must be not to worry about answering questions sequentially, but to make sure each question gets answered.
From there, the math section is mostly Algebra 1; the reading comprehension section is a bit simpler than that of the SAT. A well-rested student who has practiced and come with a plan has a good chance of success. My job is to help develop the plan.
I have written a complex program in C used for Web site form-processing. (Any executable programming language can be used for that purpose.)
Students working with me in C language programming should expect the following competencies:
- What C++ does that C does not
- How to address a C compiler
- How to create a main program and see it work
- How to create functions
- How to deal with parameters of various formats
- How to make use of logical statements and logical switching
- How to read and write
Calculus is very different from any other math the high-school student has faced. Therefore, with both high-school students and college freshmen, I start with the concepts most foreign:
- the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus
- the definition of the derivative
- types of integration
From there we go to practical uses of each. In all these topics, I have used them in the working world for years.
Nearly all computer programming languages have common functions, which you must master for a language to pass a course or to program in that language on the job. These common functions include
- accessing input
- formatting and routing output
- repeated operations (via looping)
- logical operations (performed under certain conditions
- basic mathematical and textual functions
- creation of functions and/or subroutines
I generally encourage students to plan the program on paper - traditional programmers use something like a flowchart - before going through trial and error, which can otherwise be frustrating.
This collected knowledge, and the planning I follow, have served me well over the years. I have learned FORTRAN, COBOL, C, Java, Matlab, EASY5, Microsoft Excel and Access programming - all pretty much the same way. Many of these individual programs I am qualified to tutor also, for WyzAnt.
Several of them I have used in the workplace, as an engineer, educator and consultant. I have found that the basic principles of programming don't change much from language to language, so I try to pick up a new language about every year to stay fresh. Soon I will start working on SPSS.
My background includes
- high scores in undergraduate differential equations and graduate-level systems of ordinary differential equations
- development of equations of motion for rockets and spacecraft, equations which are actually systems of ordinary differential equations having time-varying coefficients
- simulation of said systems of equations with several software packages, including Matlab
- reduction of said systems of equations into decoupled first- and second-order differential equations for solution by hand, usually by the Laplace transform technique, and for various combinations of initial and boundary conditions
- use of numerical methods (e.g. rectangular or trapezoidal integration to create linear approximations of differential equations, for use in digital filter design
- a comprehensive understanding of the physics behind said systems of equations.
First, I have a NJ Certificate in Eligibility in TESL - this means that I've taken several graduate-level courses in this area, and am qualified to take a job teaching ESL in a public school in New Jersey.
Second, I have worked with several international students - college-level and adult - and have seen them successfully improve their written communications.
In a previous life, I worked for NASA, using a simulation program called EASY5 that was FORTRAN-based.
Students working with me in FORTRAN should expect competence in the following areas:
- input and output statements (and formatting of the same)
- simple calculations
- logical statements (e.g. IF)
- subroutines and functions
A typical introductory class in FORTRAN would concentrate on those areas. Though there aren't very many of those classes offered any more. Most FORTRAN work is on legacy systems, and may involve conversion to C or something else.
Most students start having trouble in geometry with triangles. Though I have worked in high school classrooms teaching this subject, I find that many students can grasp simple proofs involving intersecting lines and resulting angles, but I'm prepared to review those subjects as well.
Then it's on to triangles: similarity, congruency, interior and exterior angles, and so on.
The biggest problem students have with grammar is that in most places it's not taught any more - not in high school, nor in college. As a result, we are exposed to terrible writing via social media platforms like Facebook and via non-academic blogs.
To do the subject justice would take a student a semester. So I concentrate on some of the most critical points
- pronouns and antecedents
- subject-verb agreement
- active v. passive voice
- most often misused punctuation, e.g. semicolon and apostrophe
- run-ons and comma splices
A student who can handle these five areas will have greatly improved writing skill.
HTML has been around now since the early 90s and although it has been changed a little, it is fairly mature. Web design has largely migrated from creating sites from scratch with HTML to using HTML to create components for sites largely based on PHP.
My philosophy for students is then to have them understand how to create those components, so they can customize PHP-based sites or create attractive form responses. This includes the following HTML elements:
- link anchors
- bulleted and numbered lists
I also like to talk to students about
- verifying compliance with standards
- Web usability
HTML is easier to learn than you might think. I have used it for years and understand well how to teach it.
I have a Doctorate in Mechanical Engineering. Although my specialties are dynamics and control, students can expect competence from me in nearly every course in a Mechanical Engineering curriculum.
Statics - most of the course is summation of forces = zero, summation of moments = zero
Dynamics - most of the course is summation of forces = mass * acceleration, summation of moments = moment of inertia * rotational acceleration
Vibration - equations of motion of lumped spring-mass-damper systems
Thermodynamics - First and Second laws, relationships between Temperature, Work and Heat, entropy
Heat Transfer - by means of conduction, convection, radiation
Fluid Mechanics - relationships between pressure and flow rate, pressure and depth, etc.
Numerical Analysis - especially extrapolation and integration
Control Systems - linear analysis and time response
There are three major components in an Access database:
1) A set of tables, each of which could be created in Excel, or from Internet response forms, or from a number of other sources, and then imported. They can also be created in Access itself.
2) A set of interrelationships between these tables, defined by one parameter in each, called a Primary Key.
3) A set of queries made on that database, in which parameters may be selected from each table. As part of a query, you may also define new expressions based on mathematical and/or logical functions and the existing table parameters. The query may be sorted, and it may also be limited by not choosing every value of every parameter.
Because tables can be created in a number of different ways, a course in Access will often exclude table creation and will instead spend most of its time on query creation - the most powerful capability any database program has to offer. Also the most difficult, because there are so very many options in query creation. A student working with me here will therefore spend most of our time developing queries.
I have both a Microsoft User Specialist certificate in Excel and the International Computer Driver's License. In preparing for these two certifications, the following subjects came up again and again:
- control of the presentation of data, both as charts and as graphs
- statistical analysis of data, e.g. variation and linear regressions
- (sometimes) pivot tables
These subjects also happen to be useful in the working world, so students in business offices can take advantage of my experience!
I have created many presentations with PowerPoint.
Most of mine have been business-oriented and conservative, with few uses of moving text, etc. But those options are available and I know how to use them at need.
I also use Open Office, SlideShare, and Prezi myself for presentation content, but PowerPoint is the standard.
Sometimes students need help with the basics in Word, such as
- character formats
But many students are on to more advanced subjects:
- headers and footers
- table of contents
- formatting media
I am prepared to address all these areas. I have a Microsoft User Specialist certificate in Word, and hold the International Computer Driver's License.
PHP is the language basis for the most popular blogging platforms, such as Wordpress and Joomla. Students may have need to create Web sites from scratch via PHP, but it's far more likely they will be called upon to modify the existing structure of a site by changing the existing PHP code or adding some new features.
I have done this myself for several Web sites, in trying to customize their look and feel, and students may want to leverage that experience.
Fortunately for most students, physical science usually involves three major topics:
- energy (and work)
- force and motion
- states of matter
That puts a limit on the vocabulary the student must become familiar with, and that means the student can work on confidence. My job is to help with building confidence through one mastery at a time.
The problem students - both high school and college - have with physics is keeping up. A student who falls more than a week behind on the material is asking for a wasted semester.
My job, therefore, is to help students keep up. There are two major components to keeping up:
- know the definitions of terms (much of physics is vocabulary)
- understand the math (which is nearly always Algebra 1 level and seldom higher than Algebra 2)
A student who knows the terminology and understands the math will be able to solve most of the problems, more easily than could maybe have been imagined. My job is to help make that happen.
Having taught pre-algebra in classrooms, I have learned that what makes students most uncomfortable in that class is common factors and common denominators. My job is to make that subject comfortable.
Sometimes a student can get caught by positive and negative numbers, or even and odd numbers, or comparisons of fractions to decimals - but all those subjects can be conquered through encouragement - which I am prepared to give.
Much of precalculus involves polynomials:
- solving for a zero (root)
- adding and subtracting
- multiplying and dividing
- graphing; finding max/min graphically
In this sense, precalculus is one of the simplest math classes of all, once the student is comfortable with polynomials and their characteristics. My job is to help make that subject comfortable.
Probability is sometimes completely confusing for students. Even when they spend a whole grading period on it in Algebra 1 (for instance), they've forgotten everything about it by the time they reach Algebra 2.
My job is to help them understand what the terms mean:
- sampling replacement
- conditional probability
- dependent and independent events
...and so on. It may mean a review lesson, but after that we move forward, vocabulary first.
I have taught Rhetoric for six years on the college level. Rhetoric - the art of persuasion through speaking and writing - has a speech component. So I've worked with maybe 200 college students on developing their public speaking.
For my part, though I don't often get to address an audience outside the classroom, I've been inside classrooms, addressing students, for over ten years.
I have found that the biggest problem students have with the SAT Math section is that they want to solve problems sequentially, when their strengths don't go that way. A student will end up spending too much time on a problem in the middle of the multiple choice and be left short at the end. I try to enforce giving students 45 seconds per multiple-choice problem, and try to convince students to skip problems and come back to them later if they don't know what to do on the spot. Another problem may help the student answer the one skipped - it happens all the time.
My philosophy is to have students prepare harder for multiple-choice (many problems) than for student-produced responses (one problem, you don't know the subject ahead of time), because tutoring time must not be wasted.
SAT and ACT Reading both have large sections devoted to sentence completion - this may require students to guess definitions of words. I like to work with students to make their guesses make sense, by eliminating what doesn't work, considering other words that DO work, etc.
There are two major considerations to reading comprehension, whether essays are long or short:
(1) Find the main idea.
(2) The answers to all questions are right there in the text.
Students who can hold on to those two ideas will succeed, and I like to concentrate there.
The SAT Writing section measures how well a student can whip up a high-school-level essay. Never mind that college writing is completely different: the expectation on the SAT is five paragraphs, including one for an intro and problem statement and one for conclusions.
There are two major problems students have in preparing for SAT Writing: planning out the essay and managing the 25 minutes given. A good plan will help the student manage the time, and with my college classroom experience I am well-suited to help students in both areas. That's where I like to concentrate.
I have experience in SQL, in particular through beginner and intermediate levels. This includes the following topics, of interest to most students:
- data types
- logical functions (AND, IF, etc.)
- grouping and ordering
- union and intersection
- table creation and editing
I have just finished working with a student preparing for the SSAT for a couple of months. She has taken the exam and been interviewed by a prep school and done well.
Though I am not yet trained in SPSS, I am well-versed in basic statistics through analysis of variance and regression analysis - I have actually used many of those techniques on the job.
More important for students: these subjects are the heart of a first college class in statistics. If you understand the terms and procedures involved, and I am very good at presenting them, the programming tasks are easy.
My philosophy of trigonometry is this: it's nearly all based on the sides and angles of triangles. For this reason, I make sure that students are familiar with the sine, cosine, and tangent functions, and understand how they contribute to the rest of the basic trig identities.
I specialize in Wordpress Web Design, though I have worked in HTML and CSS before as well. The PHP foundation of such blog-oriented content management systems as Wordpress and Joomla is simply more powerful, and usually results in a better product.
I am constantly working to improve my craft as a writer on social media issues, engineering, bullying, and other subjects. As a tutor, I will always recommend practice.
Many schools no longer teach fine points like grammar, punctuation, or even style. I work with students on these points and give them resource materials to help with their improvement as writers.