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I came to tutoring as a second career after retiring from full time scientific work. I have always enjoyed tutoring – especially at the high school level. I now devote more time and effort to it than was possible before retirement. I have hundreds of hours of experience with more than 50 students. I have worked with four Fairfax County Public Schools science teachers and have picked up many of their teaching techniques. I am familiar with many of the student oriented educational sites available on the web, and have worked with students on the Jefferson Labs, NovaNET and Khanacademy computer assisted learning systems. At this stage of my tutoring career, I have assisted students covering the range from top-of-the-class to barely hanging in there. While I cannot say that I have been successful with all of them, I have helped most of them made significant improvements regardless of learning style. Through practice, I have learned when to use the Socratic Method – leading the student by asking questions, and when to directly demonstrate how to solve a particular type of problem.
In my tutoring experience I have found that one topic area is central to Algebra 1. The student must become comfortable with both the graphical and algebraic representations of straight line functions. The good student knows both of these, and can go back and forth between them with ease. Part of my tutoring approach is to help the student gain confidence in doing this. When a student can look at y = -2 x + 3 and instantly know how to put the corresponding line on a graph, I know that my tutoring help has been a success. There is a graphing calculator approach to this, which I do cover, but it is not enough by itself.
Unlike the situation for Algebra 1,it is hard to point to a single central topic in Algebra 2 as being the key to successful mastery of the subject. There are numerous topic areas that must be worked. In a meeting with a new student in Algebra 2, I talk with the student in an attempt to identify the ones for which he/she may need assistance. To be sure, there are links between the topic areas. I point these out at every opportunity in order to build bridges to material that the student may know well. A simple example of this is the trigonometric identity sin^2 + cos^2 = 1. I explain to the student that this is the trigonometric form of the Pythagorean theorem of geometry. There are many bridges of this type - I try to work them into each tutoring session.
Of all the subjects that I have tutored for the last 5+ years, Chemistry has been the one most in demand. This may be due in part to the Chemistry SOL test required in Virginia for graduation. However, for many students, it is also the first science course that requires the use of algebraic methods to get answers to problems. I have found that this is a barrier for quite a few students. I have developed a number of methods for getting students past this barrier. I have picked up some of these methods from full time Chemistry teachers, and have developed others myself. Seeing students gain confidence in doing this is one of the real pleasures of tutoring.
My 30 year full time career was in physics (I still do consulting), so I especially welcome the opportunity to tutor physics. In many high school physics courses the most difficult material comes near the start of the course. This material involves motion under constant acceleration and can involve application and manipulation of a set of non-linear equations. In principle, Algebra 1 and some modest extensions are all the math background that is needed for this part of physics. I find however, that some students - even some with good grades in math - just get lost in a "forest" of algebra and cannot see the physics ideas that are the essence of the material. I have developed tutoring approaches to working through the math to the physics that have been successful. Quite often, once the student gets through the motion under constant acceleration material, the rest of the course goes much more smoothly.
I have tutored more than a dozen students in the Chemistry and Algebra II SOL tests on a volunteer basis. The students did pass the tests after my help.
For the Chemistry SOL test I have tutored 10+ adult students using officially released tests from prior years. Most of the students were not native English speakers. Despite this, the ones who actually went through with taking the test passed it. I have also done more limited tutoring for the chemistry SOL test working with the Jefferson Labs software package in a Fairfax County volunteer setting. Due to the nature of this volunteer setting, I had only an hour or two with each student. Thus I cannot assess how successful that I was. However, I did get valuable insights into the Jefferson Labs approach to preparation for this test.
For the Algebra II SOL test, my experience is limited to helping students work through the Jefferson Labs preparation material. I was very successful with at least two students.
Great Work, Richard — Thank you for your work with our son, Richard. He is feeling much more confident in the material and he is really learning it and beginning to internalize it. We so appreciate your knowledge of Physics and your expertise in teaching. ...
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