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# Winter Break News

Wow....it's COLD out there!   If you are wondering what to do with yourself during Winter Break, consider this:  extra sleep, projects you didn't have time for, and getting a little tutoring for those academic subjects you're struggling with.  I'm available, particularly for those folks on the east-side of the Willamette.   Would love to help you get that paper written, improve your study skills, organize your work, interpret your teachers' feedback on returned assignments, or any other task you've been putting off for a "when I get to it" time.  Call me, Portlanders....operators are standing by!

# Working out some details....

Hello again!   Well, I'm pretty bummed that I can't imbed pictures here directly. I'm looking into other blog options and thinking of just posting links here to blogs elsewhere. It was certainly a short-lived adventure here but I need to be able to include pictures in my blogs. Perhaps if WyzAnt ever adds that feature I'll come back here.    I'll post an update once I've decided what to do.    Thanks.   -The Tap Dancing Engineer

# Intersecting Circles

This blog concerns how to determine the intersection between two circles in the plane algebraically. It is a problem that can crop up in a variety of situations, from gaming to tools for computer aided design to astronomy.    This problem is interesting because is it a conceptually simple problem whose algebraic formulation is nonetheless apparently complex: a system of non-linear equations that are quadratic in both variables. However, by doing some geometric analysis of the problem, and applying tools from vector geometry, we are lead to a specific mathematical transformation of the problem that radically simplifies it. The key idea turns out to be a specific change of basis.   My exposition of this uses a few diagrams (which are not supported by the blog editor) and a lot of mathematical expressions (which are clumsy to create in the blog editor), so I put it in an Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) document that you can access using the following link:   Intersecting... read more

# Freaking out over Finals

Final exams are coming up and you are freaking out!   There are steps that you can take in order to help you prepare for the upcoming exam. Don't panic.   Do not wait until the night before to start studying.  Start going over the material weeks before the final.   Previous exams - use the midterm and any other exams to help you study material from earlier in the semester.  Problems that you saw on these exams may also show up on the final.   Practice finals - many professors sometimes hand out practice problems or practice finals in order to help you study.  Go over these problems and make sure you know how to solve every problem. Take a break from your study routine occasionally.  Your brain will thank you!

# Winter Break Tips: Keep Your Brain Sharp During Break!

As winter break approaches, many students are just trying to hang on until they finally get to relax after finals. But you have to be careful not to relax too much and forget everything! Here are a few easy tips to keep your brain sharp during the winter break.   1) Get active! Studies show that physical activity and brain activity are linked. The more you work your body, the more efficiently your brain will work. Try out exercises that involve coordination, such as dancing, or get out and ride a bike, go for a run or have a snowball fight. Cardiovascular activity increases blood flow to the brain, making it work better and faster!   2) Read a Good Book! Reading is a great to pass a rainy or snowy day. Not only does it take you on remote adventures without leaving the couch, it also increases vocabulary and makes your imagination get to work.   3) Do Brain Teasers! MENSA has some great little tests and brain teasers, but riddles and puzzles work great... read more

# Winter Break

Winter break is approaching and I have found that my students are eager to get away from school. I don’t blame them. I would be lying if I said I hate winter break and rather be in school during this time. It is a time for the students to relax and not worry about their classes. Everyone needs a break. Unfortunately, I am afraid that due to the apathy many students have formed with school, very few are thinking about keeping their mind sharp over the holidays. Now, many parents think that their children should be doing some schoolwork or studying over the break to keep their minds sharp, but I do not agree. I believe this will only make students more uninterested in school. I suggest that you try and let you child relax. Let them do what they love to do. If you want to keep their mind sharp ask them thought provoking questions about the things they like. Encourage them to look into their passions. Try to build their intrinsic motivation to learn by asking them things they... read more

# Good Luck SAT Students!

Good luck to all students taking the SAT this morning!  Remember: they're trying to trip you up, so watch your feet!   Don't feel like you did your best?  Anxious about how many questions you skipped?  Don't worry, there are more test dates this year.  Many people take the SAT multiple times, and if you get some tutoring in between (from yours truly!), you can dramatically increase your scores on the second time through.   The remaining test dates for the current school year are:   January 25 March 8 May 3 June 7 I recommend you start studying for the SAT at least one month in advance, longer if you plan on going it without a tutor. If you'd like to work with me for the January or March test cycle, send me an email ASAP. The sooner we can get to work, the higher your scores will be!

# What to do over Winter Break

Wyzant management has asked me to comment on what to do to keep your brain sharp over Winter break.     I think you should take a rest. Do no Mathematics and concentrate on other things.  Assuming you studied for your Fall classes and passed the finals with flying colors, you need to let the concepts sink into your brain.     In January or February, when the new term starts, just review your Fall 2013 course materials for a day.

# Improving memory

I have  more ways to keep my brain sharp over winter break. 1) I read books with topics that interest me ---discuss these with my partner and friends.  2) I Volunteer, join a club, make it a point to see friends more often, or reach out over the phone. 3) I exercise my body as I exercise my brain. 4) Eat healthy diet. Winter break tips 1.       Exercise.  Physical exercise increases oxygen to your brain and reduces the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Exercise may also enhance the effects of helpful brain chemicals and protect brain cells. 2.       Make time for friends and fun.  Having healthy relationships with people close to you is ultimate memory booster. Relationships stimulate our brains---in fact, interacting with others may be the best kind of exercise. 3.        Keep stress ion check. Stress is one of brain’s worst enemies. Overtime,  if left unchecked, chronic stress... read more

# Using the Internet as an Effective Resource for Mathematics

Once you attain a certain proficiency in Mathematics you will be able to answer many questions by searching and not require tutoring services to fill in gaps. When searching the internet you will find many sites that will give explanations that are over your "pay grade". You should ignore those and not be intimidated, but choose only the ones that you understand clearly. For example, if you are asked to graph polynomials or trig functions a great internet site is https://www.desmos.com/calculator.  (Note:  You have to copy this into a browser window; it won't work to click on it here.  If you still can't get to it, search for "demos graphing calculator".)   Don't use the site to do your homework because then you won't do well on your tests, but use the internet to check your homework; this way you don't need to wait for your teacher to tell you you're off-track. You have a second chance to go back and figure out where you went wrong and fix it before... read more

# Keeping sharp through coding, reading, and writing!

I always remember returning to school after winter or summer break and being struck with this feeling like, "Wow! It's been forever since I've used my head!". After weeks of eating and playing video games, it would always take me a discouraging amount of time to scrape off the rust and get my brain going again. Here are a few tips for you to keep your thoughts and your  ability to learn sharp so that you're ready to excel upon your return to school! 1) Keep a journal Writing forces you to think more than you may realize. Even when just keeping a journal, you're recalling events from your day, thinking about the future, and choosing the right words to describe what happened and how that made you feel. Keeping a journal is also satisfying in its own right, as you'll be able to look back and see how much you've grown and changed as the months have passed you by. 2) Learn to code Computer coding even at a basic level is highly valuable in today's... read more

# How to become a Math Whiz

I see a lot of advice going around about why students have trouble solving math problems.  It's always easier to blame the crime on the victim.  So, here is my advice, and it's very simple.  If you are a student not in college yet, and you don't understand some math concept or have trouble solving the problems - well, it's the teacher's fault, not yours.  The solution: find a better teacher!   I know my advice will offend a lot of people because there are a lot of bad teachers out there, especially in Mathematics.  Many teachers below University level think that because they've studied teaching methods, and got some teaching credential, they don't need to understand Mathematical concepts.  They teach Mathematics as a set of rules.  And when the rules don't work they simply give up.   Mathematics is not a right-answer game.  Mathematics is a form of art, just as much as painting or photography.  But many teachers try to teach it as a set of rules for how you do... read more

# Creative Writing: Poetry

Some people utilize writing as a tool--as a means to an end--other people use it as a creative outlet and way to interact with and comprehend the world around them; personally, for me, writing has acted as a lifeline. At the age of 15, I sustained a massive stroke, and was subjected to spinal meningitis. My blood temperature rose to 107°F, leaving me with a profound memory deficit. I was no longer the same student I had been before my stroke and was forced to acquire skills that would allow me to compensate for my newly found inability to process information quickly or effectively. I was forced to re-define my personal notion of what it meant to be successful and came to believe that perfect results were less important than the act of taking action. If I maintained focus and engagement, learning, eventually, would follow; luckily, in the early stages, following my final stroke and ensuing brain surgeries, one class, creative writing, captivated me and provided... read more

# Exercise Answers to Chapter 2 of How to Think Like a Computer Scientist Learning with Python 3 (RLE)

1. Take the sentence: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Store each word in a separate variable, then print out the sentence on one line using print. #! /usr/bin/env python3 # ex1 - words # All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. word1 = "All" word2 = "work" word3 = "and" word4 = "no" word5 = "play" word6 = "makes" word7 = "Jack" word8 = "a" word9 = "dull" word10 = "boy." print(word1, word2, word3, word4, word5, word6, word7, word8, word9, word10) 2. Add parenthesis to the expression 6 * 1 - 2 to change its value from 4 to -6. #! /usr/bin/env python3 print("6 * 1 - 2 = ", 6 * 1 - 2) print("6 * (1 - 2) = ", 6 * (1 - 2)) 3. Place a comment before a line of code that previously worked, and record what happens when you rerun the program. total_secs = int(input("How many seconds, in total?")) hours = total_secs // 3600 secs_still_remaining... read more

# Chapter 2, How to Think Like a Computer Scientist, Learning with Python 3 (RLE)

Chapter 2 of How to Think Like a Computer Scientist begins actually exploring Python and its features.   The chapter discusses variables, expressions, and statements. It starts out discussing data types and using the type() function to determine the type of some literals, like strings, integers, and floats. It also discusses using different kind of string delimiters.   Variables have a name and can be created by using the name you want to give the variable, the assignment token (=), and a value, like so:   lunch = "sandwich" weight = 150   Variable names have to begin with a letter or underscore (_) and can't be one of Python's reserved keywords (http://openbookproject.net/thinkcs/python/english3e/variables_expressions_statements.html#variable-names-and-keywords).   Statements are instructions that python can perform. Examples given are while, for, import and others.   Expressions are combinations of variables, values, and operators... read more

# Study Skills

Ask any classroom full of students how they study, and you're likely to get a lot of different answers. There will probably be many similar answers, but most people have different methods, locations, and techniques that shortens their study time somehow. Sometimes shortcuts are a great thing- like a shortcut that avoids heavy traffic. The trick to using shortcuts with studying is knowing which ones work, and which ones don't! One of the best ways to ensure that your study time will be used effectively is to take notes during class. Ensuring that your notes make sense to YOU is really important. Your class notes should translate what your teacher is telling you into something that you can remember. For example: the definition of onomatopoeia is, 'the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named.' If you have a long list of literary terms, the strange spelling of onomatopoeia might get lost with your other lit terms. Writing "sizzle" or "buzz" next... read more

# A Scalene Triangle Determines How Many Circles?

The question: a scalene triangle determines exactly how many circles, where only the vertices of the triangle are uniquely used, or the body of the triangle in general (i.e. no arbitrarily specified points, such as the midpoint of any of the sides, are used to determine a circle)?   The answer is surprisingly high! Key thoughts: a circle can be uniquely determined by 3 non-collinear points (3 points), or by a diameter (requiring 2 points), or by a center and a radius (also 2 points)[seems a little like the ID's for getting a driver's license, doesn't it?]. Sounds simple -- until you realize that geometrical constraints can be used to yield additional points to use beyond just the three vertices [come to think of it, can it just be a coincidence that your driver's test included a *3-point* turn?].   So, there are inscribed and circumscribed circles (total, 2); circles centered at each vertex and using each side as a radius (total, 6); circles using each... read more

# HOW TO: Physics Problems

I have found that most people have an intuition about mechanical physics that is generally correct before the algebra and calculus starts to confuse them. This comes from the fact that before we could speak, we were learning how to exist in the world around us (a world that is governed by physics). For instance, a child knows that your food will remain on the table unless he/she adds a force to push it onto the floor. Or that a ball thrown straight up into the air will eventually come to a stop, reverse direction and come right back down to earth. The most common issue people seem to have with physics is that, when they add in the math they forget to look at the larger picture of what is really happening.   With that being said, there are several important steps that can help you with physics problems.    1: Identify all the information given and write it down at the top of the page.  (It helps if you are labeling a diagram) EX: A ball is rolled horizontally... read more