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The Math Teacher's least favorite question: "Why do I Need to Know This?" -Answered

I came across this question while applying to a teacher training program called EnCorps. I liked it so much I think I'll share it with you. As a successful professional, how have you used math or science in your daily work? What would you say to a student who questioned whether math or science would be useful in their future? How will you communicate that with students in a classroom? As the owner of a private math tutoring business, I use math in my work everyday - and not just in the ways you would expect. I use skills from Pre-Algebra to help my students calculate their grade percentages,, to determine how much a $60 lesson would be at 25% off, and to do my taxes. Algebra helps me show students how to calculate the scores they need on their upcoming tests to get the grade they want. The concepts of logic introduced in Geometry help me to reason my way through difficult problems both in mathematics and in my everyday life. Algebra 2 skills help me schedule my students... read more

Physical Exercise and Nutrition DO affect our brain performance and brain health.

As you may know, I am a big fan of the well-known author and brain specialist, Dr. Daniel Amen. He mentions in several of his books that Physical Exercise is good for the brain. I have read of research studies that showed a clear correlation between IMPROVEMENT in students' test scores in math and science, and their level of physical activity (for example, when math class followed PE class, the students had significantly higher scores). Maybe we should schedule PE before all math classes in our schools. What do you think about that idea? This morning I read an online article on the myhealthnewsdaily site, entitled "6 Foods That Are Good for Your Brain," and another article about how Physical Exercise helps maintain healthy brain in older adults too. The second article, "For a Healthy Brain, Physical Exercise Trumps Mental Workout" was found under Yahoo News. The remainder of this note is quoted from that article: Regular physical exercise appears... read more

How did I get so lucky?

I've managed to tutor a number of students this year and it has all been very rewarding and enjoyable. Every now and then, I have seen the proverbial light bulb go off in a student's mind when they start to grasp the subject. It's moments like this that I feel very lucky to have such an opportunity to work with students. It's a really enjoyable experience for me as a tutor and it's a bit reason why I decided to be a tutor. Whether it is assisting with homework or discussing mathematical ideas and concepts, I'm very interested in helping your son or daughter improve their skills and abilities in math.

Assigning Homework Between Tutoring Sessions

A current poll by Wyzant of tutors indicates a large majority of tutors assign homework to their tutees. Seriously? My students all have plenty of teacher-assigned homework they are required to do. They can use this homework to practice what we've done in tutoring sessions. More homework? Not if you want to keep the student!

Study Tips for Kicking Off the School Year!

Some study tips for math are actually not what you might expect. I love sudoku puzzles and believe it or not, solving these puzzles on the most difficult level that I can manage helps my math solving skills exponentially. The way in which you solve sudoku is very much the same way you would solve a math problem; searching for patterns, trial and error in some cases (mainly the super hard ones), and strategy. Another game that has a very similar effect is cryptograms. They seem daunting at first, but fear not. A little bit of practice and you will be impressing friends in no time with your uncanny ability to decode!...and solve math problems lol! Honestly, any strategy games involving numbers are great. It gives you confidence when you see the numbers and not a sense of dread lol. Approaching a problem with a smile and eagerness definitely produces better results than disdain and chagrin. A second, and I think the most important, tip I can give is... take breaks often... read more

Recommended Statistics Learning Strategies - Experienced Subject Matter Expert

My recommended strategy to Students at all academic levels for learning and successfully passing the course at all modalities (on-line, on-ground) is the culmination of at least ten years of teaching and tutoring statistics at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate levels in business, management, sciences, social studies, and psychology. It consists of the following: 1. The first is to learn how to overcome fear and anxiety from the unknown and look at tutoring as a prudent investment to your immediate future and success. Engage the tutor from the start of the course and don't prolong the decision because of the complexity and quantitative nature of the subject area. This component of the overall strategy is to keep the weekly normal pace and retain basic real life knowledge for ongoing participation in the political and economic process of the National affairs and State-of-the-Union. 2. Academic Reading Materials and Study Guides encompass three distinct sections... read more

Exciting Change of Venue at my Job

First of all, welcome to my blog! Thanks for taking time to read about me and my experiences with mathematics. I'll start with some great news! At my first job in Duval County, I have been making great strides with student performance. SO much so that I went from being a traveling Intensive Math teacher to teaching 8th grade Pre-Algebra and Honors Algebra 1 in my own classroom! Since I taught high school Algebra 1 when I worked in Gadsden County last year, this position was a very smooth transition for me. I am having a great time getting to know my new students and seeing how eager they are to understand Algebraic concepts. Yes I have the occasional student that likes to shout "WHY ARE THERE LETTERS IN MATH NOW?!" but with time I'm sure I will get through to them. We are just about to introduce expressions in Pre-Algebra and Graphing Linear Equations in Algebra 1. Get you graph paper ready!!!

Top 3 Tips for New Year

1. Buy the best supplies you can and get organized by labeling notebooks and organizing backpack. 2. Every day, on a clean sheet of paper, put the date before class begins. Even if you don't take notes that day, write down what you did that day journal-style. 3. For math, they always give an example of any new concept in the book with the answer following it. Try to work the example without looking at the answer. In your notebook, have an example of each new concept in a separate section! Great reference! In the same section of Reference, define ANY terminology used such as "perpendicular." When it is time for a test, you should have a quick reference section!

Math and Economics in Real Situations-from Presidential elections to a cup of coffee

Math is all around us! Recently, math was used to calculate the predicted winner of the upcoming Presidential election! Every four years a predicted outcome is calculated based on numerous factors(some including the current economic situation of each state and previous election results(blue or red state)); all of these factors go into a prediction/forecasting equation with usually around a 75% chance of being accurate. 75% chance!! What sort of subjects go into this type of equation?? Well for starters, basic algebra. Next, a LOT of statistics. Lastly, equal amounts of economics! Another instance-how do they come up with the price of a cup of coffee? Why isn't coffee just 25 cents? Well, if you calculated how much each cup of coffee you get out of a Folger's tin, its probably close to 25 cents or a lot less. Why? Its all about FACTORS. What is the difference between a Folger's cup of coffee and a Direct Trade cup of coffee bought at your local coffee shop? Just to name... read more

Math Habits

I've been asking students the following question for years: "Why do you show so little work, and where are you completing the problem?" Most students I have worked with write less down than I do, and I have quite a bit of math under my belt. I still have not found the answer to this question. Some students say it’s because they don’t see the point, but they have been cheated if teachers have given them credit for answers without work. As math gets complicated there is more and more work that needs to be done, and if a student has bad habits of doing mental math, then this will be a hindrance to success. These are things that all students of higher mathematics should do: 1. Write the original problem down. When solving problems you want to make sure that you are staring at the actual problem. You don't want to look at your paper and then back to the book or sheet of paper that the problem is on. 2. Show your work just like your teacher does when they are... read more

Getting back into Tutoring

I never actually posted a blog but I figured I'd give it a shot. You see, tutoring was always a fun activity for me, and I've been doing it since 10th grade. I used to go to elementary schools to teach young children how to read, and stay after school at my high school to help others with homework. In college, I found students to tutor as well. After a two year break, here I am on WyzAnt. I recently completed my first lesson with a student in Java Programming, and I must confess I was quite nervous. It had been 3 years since my last real programming phase in Java, and part of me feared that I'd sit there and stutter myself into a stupor of C++ and other programming language and throw off my student completely. As it turns out, the opposite was the case. While I did every once in a while slip into some accidental C++, I was able to understand everything she needed and help her through her work. Yesterday, I had a similar experience. A student contacted... read more

How to Get Smart in Math

Success leaves clues and no one is born smart. In Howard Gardner's book, Multiple Intelligence, he points out that we are "intelligent" in 8 different areas of specialty and we can learn to be "smart." So, let's get started with Step #1: Pay attention in class more by sitting on the front row! I realize this is fundamental, but, we must start here. Based on research, the student that sits in the front row tends to learn and retain more information than the student that sits in the back. The farther that one sit from instruction, the less he/she will retain. "A" students sit on the front row, front-center, preferably. If your teacher assign seats, then, ask him/her to change your seating assignment, as close to the front as possible. By sitting on the front row - one, you're closer to instruction for better hearing and sight, and two, less distraction from others moving & twitching in front of you - your focus is much better and you can...

Practice makes Perfect

I used to be a great math student. It would come naturally me, I never really had to "study" for the tests to get my A's. This all took a turn when I took PreCalculus in Highschool. I remember getting my first test back and seeing a 67/100. I was horrified! I was in shock! When my mother found out, she repeated her famous line "Practice makes Perfect!" She made me sit down with my textbook. She made me start from page 1 of the textbook. She told me to read every single word on the page including the captions under the pictures. She also made sure I did every single example problem and all the practice problems, yes all 97 of them (that was just for one section of the chapter). After doing this for 2 days. I took my next math test. When my teacher was handing back the test I prayed I at least would get a B! But I was in for a surprise...I received 93/100. My teacher was so happy with my improvement she had put smiley faces all over the page! I couldn't... read more

Got any Worksheets?

Occasionally, parents demand “worksheets”. I have a tepid reaction to that request. First, I personally believe that a tutor is not meant to be a “worksheet provider”. Sometimes parents want their child to be “drilled” into learning. Those parents may feel that the only way to acquire skills and/or knowledge is to force it into their child’s psyche by repetitious action – worksheets. Most parents do recognize that a tutor has excelled in a particular area of study, but some still trust education to the worksheet. A thesaurus lists as synonyms for “tutor” the words: coach, educator, guide, mentor, and instructor. (Nothing about “worksheet provider”!) Nevertheless, parents still get “hung-up” on worksheets, and demand “lots of them”. From a purely educational stance, worksheets can be used only one way. Worksheets are generally considered to be convergent materials by professional educators.Worksheets lead students to believe that there is only a single correct way to use them,... read more

Conversion Math in Chemical Calculations

The subject of Chemistry need not be complicated. My experience is teaching chemistry to nursing and engineering students some of which never had a chemistry course. The basic skills with units of measurement, conversion factors, as well as math background, are extremely important. The issue with conversion math is the area where most students have difficulty, since the math issue carries through to more advanced problem solving. I approach chemistry conversions with specific rules for each problem type. The units must be used with each step. The use of WEB resources and other books other than the student's text can also reinforce my approach to solving chemical problems, which can be used in between sessions with students.

Why do practice problems?

There is an old adage that “practice makes perfect”. What this actually means is that we all learn by doing. This method is tried and true especially for language, math, and science subjects. My successful career in academia and industry attests to this method of learning. The basic concepts to be learned in chemistry and physics are especially reliant on math skills developed in algebra 1 and 2. An excellent example of this happens to be conversions from one unit of measurement to another as well as manipulating formulas such as density used in conversion calculations. There are certainly a number of basic concepts that require memorization, but the exercises help students recall the necessary and basic information required for successful mastering of science and math subjects. Essentially, we all learn the “language” whether it is science, math, or an actual language that allows one to converse. For chemistry it is the language of the elements and their behavior... read more

Have you tried Wolfram Alpha? What are you waiting for?

If you get stuck doing homework problems often, have a hard time doing your classwork, or sometimes you just can't follow your lecture notes try going to Wolfram Alpha. Wolfram Alpha is a computational knowledge engine that is designed to handle mathematical problems and computation, and scientific problems. It has its limitations but it is a really awesome tool that gives a lot of detail when you need it. Try it out for yourself.

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