As the school year ramps up again, I wanted to put out a modified version of a Memo of Understanding http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memo_of_understanding for parents and students. It seems each year in the rush to get through the first weeks of school parents and students forget the basic first good steps and then the spiral downwards occurs and then the need for obtaining a tutor and then the ‘wish for promises’ from a tutor. Pay attention to your child’s folder or agenda book. A student is generally not able to self regulate until well into high school. Some people never quite figure it out. Be the best person you can be by helping your child check for due dates, completeness, work turned in on time. Not only will this help your child learn to create and regulate a schedule, it prevents the following types of conversations I always disliked as a teacher ("Can you just give my child one big assignment to make up for the D/F so they can pass"; "I am going to... read more
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DEFINITIONS When given two ratios (in the form x:y) or two relations (in the form of fractions), if the ratios of each element are the same they're said to be proportionate. Example: 3/6 and 1/2 are proportionate because 3 out 6 is the same as 1 out of two (half). PROVING PROPORTIONALITY When given two fractions to prove as proportionate, such as 1 and 3 2 6 you solve through cross-multiplication. Cross multiplication involves multiplying the numerator (number on top) by the denominator (number on bottom) of the other fraction, and then comparing the results. If the values are the same, the fractions are proportionate. The set-up above will be set-up as such: 1 * 6 ? 2 * 3 (6) = (6). Because both values are the same, these fractions are proportionate. Example 2: 3/2 and 18/8 The cross-multiplication... read more
I was a fairly typical young person and, like my peers, counted down the days until summer. My mother was a math professor, so I never stopped doing math during the summer, but felt like other parts of my brain became a little mushy in the summer. Come September, it was difficult to get back into the swing of writing papers and studying history and memorizing diagrams. I was out of practice and lost my routine. As an adult, I have almost continually taken classes, because I enjoy learning and find that from class to class, I need to maintain a routine, i.e. a study area and a time of day that I complete my assignments. I have also found that reviewing material a week or two before the course begins helps me to start the class with more confidence and competence. I am a big believer in confidence fueling success and I wonder if younger students practiced assignments in the week or two prior to return to school, if that confidence would help the transition to the school year... read more
I was excited on Tuesday, July 16th, 2013. This was my third meeting with this student and I finally had a breakthrough with him. On the first meeting it was clear that he saw Algebra I almost as a foreign language. I began with one of the test packet, and had him do 10 questions and reviewed the questions he had done wrong. So this continued for a while, and of course sometimes he would say that he understood, but it was clear that he did not. Anyway, after reviewing the entire packet I began a teach and learn session, in which I picked a variety of topics and had him practice various equations. After which I gave him a quiz. He failed the quiz miserably, so of course he still did not understand. Anyway, I gave him another packet for homework. When I saw the student again, I reviewed with him, but still not much improvement, but at least he tried. I did the teach and learn session again, of which some of the questions were from the previous session, and I gave him... read more
Although learning is an awesome thing, it can be a difficult and frustrating journey for many students. This difficulty, however, is often times quite normal although most feel it means that a child may not be able to learn or that he/she is so frustrated that learning is no longer taking place. This is where the experienced tutor steps in; for frustration in learning is a part of the learning itself. I have taught and tutored many students and have seen first hand how this frustration can leave some students, and their parents, feeling helpless and hopeless. But there is ALWAYS Hope!!! What they have failed to realize is that as the brain learns difficult concepts, it can only take in parts at a time, little parts at a time. So although it may seem no learning is taking place, it actually is, just in smaller segments. In fact, the most frustration comes right before a new concept is achieved. This is when most give up. Had they stayed focused for perhaps one or two more... read more
Humans have a tremendous capacity to learn and adapt. However, we consistently build barriers that hinder our natural ability to change and grow. Many people, regardless of age, perceive themselves as not being talented enough to excel at math and science. They view math and science as the realms in which only scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and geniuses truly soar. Nothing could be further than the truth. Sure, possessing a natural affinity towards these subjects helps. Yet, a supposed lack of talent does not prevent you from learning. The path may be more arduous. The journey may be longer. Nevertheless, you possess within you the fire to endure. Willpower, dedication, self belief, and an open mind can compensate for any lack of ability. Bruce Lee was a legendary martial artist, actor, and philosopher who continues to inspire millions with the sheer intensity which he pursued his endeavors. Frail, sickly, and small as a child, Bruce Lee overcame many physical... read more
Each summer I have a few students who work on both math and reading to keep the 'flow' and/or prep for the upcoming year. These students and their parents are completely committed to the idea of always learning as opposed to the idea of only learning in the classroom or merely learning during the school year... in essence, the parents are setting the foundation for lifelong learning. I would never ask a student to do work which I would not be willing to do myself or work through with them in tutoring. To this end, I have the opportunity to do reading AND catch up on my practice. This summer I am reading 'The Joy of X-A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity' by Steven Strogatz at Cornell University. I LOVE this book! It is almost as good as being in a lecture or small gathering and has helped me explore how I think about math and how to share these ideas with my students. One of my students recommended 'Hoot' by Carl Hiassen and it is on my list for the library... read more
Before I go run a marathon, play with my family at the pool, ride a roller coaster, head to the beach, or eat some serious amounts of ice cream, I will look back on the successful school year I have had. I got to tutor over 15 students in Middle School, High School, SAT, and College Math...and even Chemistry! I watched GPAs rise for everybody-some were happy just to pass that College Math course to graduate, others enjoyed their hard earned As that were brought up from the D level. I must say, that things did get crazy with exams at the end of the year, but it all worked out amidst our busy-ness. My tutoring schedule is light for the summer, and I am hoping nobody waits until December exams to contact me! I want things to be done the right way...after all of the swimming, adventure, and ice cream, of course! :) -Becky
SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES Now that students, teachers, parents and tutors have had a chance to catch their breath from final exams, it's time to make use of the weeks we have before school starts back. Consider all that could be accomplished in the next few weeks: Areas of math that students NEVER REALLY GRASPED could be fully explained. This could be elementary skills like adding fractions, middle school topics like systems of equations, or high school areas like sequences and series. Students could have a TREMENDOUS HEAD STARTon topics that will be covered in the first few weeks of school. Imagine your son or daughter being able to raise their hand to answer a question in the first week of school because they had worked several problems just like the ones that the teacher is demonstrating. ENORMOUS PROGRESS could be made in the area of preparation for the standardized tests (PSAT, SAT, ACT and more) that are so important to getting into a great college. STUDY... read more
A wise man once told me: "You can continue to beat your head against that rock, but you will not chip the rock, your head (on the other hand) will be deformed." I guess I should have seen it coming, my being summarily fired from a tutoring job - The parent (in this case the mother) demanding extra "busy-work" for her son between sessions, the lack of discipline, on the student's part (especially his inability to do homework or speak to his subject teacher) and his continual lack of attention during sessions. The call came, "You are not coming here anymore, Billy Ben (not his real name) ONLY got an 81 on his Geometry test. We want top performance, 95 or better, YOU failed." Did I tell you that this student, previous to my seeing him, was working on a solid average of 40? So, it was over. Had I failed? I'm not so sure. First, I didn't take HIS test, and second, knowing the student as I did, I actually thought that an 81 was pretty good and we might... read more
Hi math students :) When preparing for a mathematics tutoring session, try to have the following things at hand... Textbook (online or e-text) Syllabus, assignment, tips/hints/suggestions, answer sheet/key Class notes Pencils, pens, erasers, paper (graph paper, ruler, protractor) All necessary formulas, laws, tables, constants, etc. Calculator that you will use on tests Do I really need my calculator? I can do most of my work in my head. Having your calculator is just as important as paper and a pencil in most cases. You'll be using it on your test and if you don't know how to input what you want, you won't do very well. Have your tutor teach you about your calculator's functions beforehand. Learn how to check your simple math and how to input exponents, logarithms, or trigonometric functions before your test. Why do I need my book, notes, or answer key? Isn't the tutor supposed to know everything? Yes :), but even the most experienced tutor... read more
Over the time that I have tutored, both at Austin Community College and as an independent tutor, the best thing that I have learned is that any student that is having fun while they learn make them actually want to come back and learn more. Although people came in to the tutoring lab at Austin Community College, they were coming in to the tutoring lab reluctantly because they just didn't understand what was going on and weren't really enjoying the subject because of it. My personal goal for any person that I tutor is to not only help someone understand the concepts while they are sitting with me, but also make it more fun. Not only does time fly when you're having fun but, as noted in "Brain & Behavior, An Introduction to Biological Psychology", a person is able to learn better and more efficiently as they have positive memories with those concepts rather than a neutral emotion of repetition. I love learning math and, as I look back, I did well in all my math... read more
I have been working with a few students who are ready to learn math much, MUCH faster than allowed by the traditional classroom model in which math is taught over 6 to 8 years. Based on this experience I believe that many students as young as 4th grade and as old as 8th grade (when starting in the program) can master math in 2 years from simple addition through the first semester of Calculus, with Arithmetic, Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, Precalculus, Probability, Statistics, and Trigonometry in between. This is significantly faster than the traditional approach and is enabled by a combination of one-on-one teaching and coaching and a variety of media that I assign to students to complete in between our sessions. This is a "leveraged blended learning" approach that makes use of online software, selected games, and selected videos with guided notes that I have created that ensure that students pick up the key points of the videos, and which we discuss later. The... read more
When someone is interested in a topic, there is a heavy intuitive knowledge associated with that interest. A good musician intuitively knows what would be enjoyable to their target audience; a good fashion designer intuitively knows what would be fashionable for the next season; a good personal trainer knows intuitively how to work a particular person with a particular body and a particular mentality to make that person more active and more healthy. In all of these fields and any field you can think of, there is a certain amount of memorization required, a certain set of rules to follow, but is mainly following personal intuition within that field. Science and math works the same way. Sure, there is a certain amount of memorization involved – terms, history, phrases – but there is a certain amount of intuition involved. There is a logic behind every concept in all of science and math, regardless of terms and phrases. This logic has its beginnings in the appropriate intuition... read more
Like any puzzle, it is difficult to find the solution without an order of operation, a guide that helps you take one step at a time.
IF I could go back in time and give my younger self some advice on how to be a better student, be more successful in school, life, etc, I would definitely tell myself that being involved in everything comes at a cost. It is better to find a few things that you like to do, do them well and often, than feeling stressed because there is so much on your plate at one time. Being a 'Jack of all Trades' it is natural for me to dip my toes in different waters- all at the same time, but that does not mean that I can give 100% to any of them at that time. While I was able to get good grades (A- average) while in school, I was impressed by how much better I did- and felt about my work- the few times that I scaled back on my activities. Another piece of advice that I wish that I could bestow upon my younger self would be to learn how to speak up in a group setting when someone is not fulfilling their part of an agreement. Now, this said, the best way to do this would be in a tactful... read more
A parent told me recently that her son scored a near 100% on his last test. I was so proud. I feel proud when all my students succeed. The question is what does it mean for a student to be successful. I think it's a mix between the student having more confidence than when I begin working with the student, as well as an increase in the student's grades. Depending on the student and his or her own situation grades may increase immediately and with others it may take a bit of time. I want my students to feel confident about their abilities and also be able to show the world and themselves that they understand what's going on in class. I make a commitment when I take on a student, which is, I will work my hardest to be available and flexible. Your child's success is my success.
The key to enjoying any subject you take in School or College is simply to know how the subject is or will be applicable in your daily life and possible future career! If you can challenge yourself, your teacher/professor and family/friends to show you the meaning of learning a subject, by actually showing why and how it is important as part of your daily life or career in the future profession that you are either preparing for or are currently aspiring to be (e.g., Doctor, Engineer, Scientist, Business person,etc), then you can give "meaning to your studies by showing the difference that subject will make in your life." I welcome everyone to try this with every subject you are taking or have taken or plan to take. If you cannot find meaning in Geometry, Pre-Algebra, Calculus, Botany, Biology, Physics, Chemistry or any subject, write to me and I will show how it can be applied in day-to-day life and also in your future career to be a successful professional in... read more
When interviewing a prospective tutor, parents should ask about the tutor's skills and experience, and find out if the tutor truly enjoys teaching. When the tutor feels enthusiastic about the subject, and communicates well, the student has an opportunity to learn to enjoy the subject too. I recommend for parents to observe the first lesson to see the tutor's skills in action, and watch/listen carefully to future lessons when possible, to make sure the tutor has an encouraging, supportive attitude at all times. (Tutors should welcome and respond positively to the child's questions, and NEVER make the child feel "stupid," no matter what.) It is most important to have a safe and quiet place for studying, without distractions. I like to find a quiet table at a library, and work with students there. I welcome suggestions from parents, and I am always looking for ways to improve my teaching skills.
Did you ever realize that the SLOPE EQUATION is the SAME as the POINT SLOPE FORMULA???? WHAT?!?! Check it out: POINT SLOPE FORMULA is (y-y1)=m(x-x1) SLOPE EQUATION IS m = (y-y1)/(x-x1) Can you see where I'm going with this? -Take the first equation -Divide both sides by (x-x1) -The result is the second equation!!! So now you've shortened your "list of equations to learn" without really doing anything ;)