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High School: Math Blogs

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Favorite Math Resources, K-12 + GED

Here are some of my favorite Math resources. Check back again soon, this list is always growing! I also recommend school textbooks, your local library, and used bookstores. As a note, college-level math textbooks are often helpful for high school math students. Why is that? Isn't that a little counter-intuitive? Yes, it would appear that way! However, many college-level math textbooks are written with the idea that many college students may not have taken a math class in a year or more, so they are written with more detailed explanations. This can be particularly helpful for high school students taking Algebra, Geometry, and Trig. I have a collection of college-level math books that I purchased at a local used bookstore. The most expensive used math book I own cost $26 used. Books that focus on standardized test prep (such as the SAT, AP, or GED prep) can be helpful for all core subjects, as they summarize key ideas more succinctly than 'normal' textbooks. These... read more

Algebra and Trigonometry

How did I master a subject that was truly overwhelming? I'll give you an example. One of those that I remember fondly was a time when those beloved word problems presented dreaded scenarios that paralyzed some of us (when I attended a demanding prep school where homework was not an option - stressful!).     For example .... "Angie would travel a total distance of 432 miles driving from Ames, Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska for a grand reunion. This happens to be 17 miles more than 5 times the average distance she would usually travel from Ames to her nearby hometown in Iowa when visiting family on weekends...   Calculate that average distance Angie would travel on weekends."  The key here is write down the known facts of this problem.  that is key!!! Put those down on paper so you can visualize what is given!!  This allows you to pinpoint what is the target?  Okay, so we have 1) a great distance 432 miles  2) 17 + 5 times... read more

Math Breakthrough

Another assignment meant another stressful evening.  I was 12 weeks into AP Calculus and I was so worried I wasn't going to be able to understand the class.  So far I had completed the assignments, but I never felt I understood what I was doing.  Our assignment was on rates of change.  Hours went by and I was still trying to figure out the problem.  How do I even start?   It was like a door opened and light flooded in.  I knew how to do it!  I wrote my steps down, checked the answer in the back of the book, and there it was.  My answer matched!  It was one of those moments when your confidence soars.  It seems silly now that I got so excited about solving that one problem, but I consider that moment a defining moment when I knew I could be good at math.   The rest of the year was still challenging, but I felt like I knew how to get better at solving math problems: do as many problems as I could from the... read more

Week 3 and I had a Breakthrough with the same Earth Science Student for Algebra I

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

The Summer Session has just begun and I had a Break-through with a few Students!

The Summer session has just begun. The stress has already begun to set in, but this week I had a break through with a few of the students. So this is my second week with a student who I am tutoring for both Algebra I and Earth Science. So far he seems stronger in Earth Science but still needs much practice, before I can be very confident about his ability to pass the Regents exam in August. After the first session of Algebra, I walked away thinking about how am I going to get him ready by August 13th. I recommended an additional session to the parents, but so far they have said no. I did several practice examples, and made the second session mainly a teaching and learning session. Then I ended the session with a quiz, but he failed :(. So when I had to meet him again for Earth Science, my mind was swirling as to how I can help him, and will I at least be successful with this subject. When I checked the homework, there was a slight improvement but not enough to celebrate.... read more

96 Percent For Global History Regents Exam!

Hello Miss Gil, I received a 96% in Global History. I was so excited to hear these words from my student! At first she did not want to be tutored. Her father dropped her off at the Library. So I told her that if she did the practice test, and did well, she would never have to see me again. Well, she scored a 58%, and there were so many events and topics that she did not know. We scheduled 3 additional three hour sessions. By the last session, her essays had improved and her overall score was an 83%. I told her that I believe that she can score as much as a 95% on the Regents Exam. She laughed and said "Yeah right". Well she scored a 96% and I am very proud of her.

School’s Out! School’s Out! Now what?

Unless you or your child attends a year – round school, summer vacation begins sometime in the next week or so. College students have read more pages than they thought humanly possible, taken many exams, written research papers, and stayed up way too late over the past 10 months. Parents of school – aged children have helped with homework, gone to parent/ teacher conferences, E-mailed teachers, and maybe volunteered for one activity too many. This article will help you understand the importance of continuing your/ your child’s learning over the summer and lists several suggestions on how to make the fall back - to - school transition much easier! Suffer No Setbacks Educational researchers agree that students need to continue their education over the summer or they stand to lose up to three (3) months worth of the previous year’s learning. Think about that for a minute. It’s like going to class from March to May for no reason! Unless you keep learning over the summer,... read more

How to maximize your mathematics tutoring experience

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

Is Summer School for You?

May is a busy month for schools. Standardized tests, field trips, and graduation planning takes center stage. Teachers meet with parents of struggling students as well as those who would benefit from summer enrichment classes to discuss summer school enrollment. This article will help parents/ guardians decide whether or not to enroll their child(ren) in summer school. A "Bad Rap" The words “summer school” tend to stir negative thoughts. Many parents and students falsely believe that going to summer school is a bad thing. Some cite teasing as a reason for not sending their child to summer school. Others think that their child will become overwhelmed without a summer break. In truth, research has shown that students who do not participate in any school – related activities during a two – month summer break can lose up to three months of the previous year’s learning! Teachers always include nearly a month’s worth of “re-teaching” (reviewing the previous... read more

Making Math Matter

In the United States, standardized test scores show that Math is one of the subjects students struggle with the most. State and federal grants are available to fund new and existing Math - focused programs with the goal of helping students improve their performance on these tests. Parents can lend a hand by making Math matter in the young people’s lives. This article lists five activities parents can do with their children to help them understand the importance of Math skills and improve their Math comprehension. 1. “Everyday Math”. This isn’t the same as the Math method many schools teach. Instead, by this I am referring to the chances you - as an adult – have to use Math in your everyday life. This might be the hardest of the five activities because you probably use more Math than you realize. For example, has your child ever asked you, “How much longer ‘til we’re there?” on a long car trip? I’m sure they have! Help them do the mental Math to figure out how long it will... read more

Better Learning Through Biopsychology

Professional athletes hire personal trainers and learn as much as possible about getting the most out of their bodies. They study things such as exercise’s effect on muscles, the vitamins and minerals they’ll need to rebuild muscle, and how much water they’ll need to drink to stay hydrated while working out. Students can use the same approach by learning about biopsychology and learning - related biopsychology research to get their brains in tiptop shape. This article will teach you a few things about biopsychology so you can get your brain ready for maximum learning. What is Your Brain Made Of? About 70% of our brain is made up of fatty acids. (The other 30% is made up of protein.) This is because the cell membranes of neurons, the cells that make up our brain, are created by a double layer of fatty acids. The cell membrane holds all the cell’s contents and gives neurons their shape. So, when you see a picture of your brain, you are looking at the cell membranes of... read more

Preparing for a Better Second Semester

Students sometimes feel like they’ve run a marathon when the first semester of school ends. Depending on individual circumstances, students may truly have put in more effort than usual this semester. Students who didn’t meet your (or their own) academic expectations may feel anxious about the end of winter/ Christmas break. This article lists four (4) things you can do as a parent (or that adult students can do themselves) to renew themselves and prepare to improve their second semester performance. Four Tips for a Better Second Semester Regardless of grade level, most students feel they can improve something about their first semester performance. Here are some tips to help your child (or yourself) prepare for academic success the second semester. 1. Write Long and Short – Term Goals: One of the best ways to improve performance is to create academic goals and write them down. I always have my students write a weekly academic goal in their journals. Their goals must... read more

Is “Brain Drain” Real?

There is plenty of research about the “summer brain drain” – a reference to the amount of learning that children lose during their summer breaks. Some researchers believe students can lose as much as three months worth of last year’s learning over the summer. Several reasons are cited for this; one of them is the absence of regular reviews of material to reinforce what’s been learned. This article summarizes the “brain drain” phenomenon and how educators, parents, and families can help prevent this from happening. “Summer Brain Drain” Educational researchers have studied the “summer brain drain” phenomenon for years. Most of this research is related to the psychology of memory, forgetting, and biopsychology. There are many causes of “forgetting”, including something as simple as walking through a (virtual or real) doorway. (For an article on the “doorway forgetting effect”, see Dr. Ira E. Hyman Jr’s. article titled “Doorways Cause Forgetting: What did I come here for... read more

Brain “Cheats” to Maximize Learning

Your brain has “cheats” and shortcuts to make it work more efficiently, just like some video games! There are things students can do to “glitch” their brains so they soak up information like a sponge. All of these “cheats” are things we should do to keep our brains healthy to ensure they keep working at maximum capacity throughout our lives. This article lists four brain “cheats”, how they help students learn, and a brief explanation of why they work. Brain “Cheats” When I started playing video games in the 1980’s, gamers were nothing like they are today. The Internet (GASP!) didn’t exist. We couldn’t look up articles or videos on how to finish the hard sections of the video games we played. Some gamers did learn “cheats” anyway: ways to get advantages you could use to make it easier to finish all the levels. For example, the cheat for “Space Invaders” on the system I played had (Atari 2600!) was to hold down the “reset” button while turning your console on to get 99... read more

Memory and Learning

I taught my middle school students about memory at the beginning of each school year. I quizzed them about their memories over the next three to four weeks, then reduced the reviews to once every other week. My students commented, “Why do you keep quizzing us about memory? We already know this stuff.” My response was, “Exactly! That’s why I keep quizzing you.” Students of all ages use different learning techniques that teachers and parents have taught them. Each technique is based on memory related research. This article will help parents, teachers, tutors, and all students understand the four stages of memory and how to use this knowledge to improve the quality and quantity of learning. Four Stages of Memory Human memory is a four - stage process: input, encoding, rehearsal, and retrieval. A problem at any stage affects memory and learning. When I teach these stages to my students, I use a filing cabinet analogy. Here’s how the analogy goes: Think of your brain... read more

10 Websites for Parents and Students

This article lists 10 websites I highly recommend for students and their parents. In parenthesis next to the URL is a label listing the site’s intended audience: parents, students, or home school parents. 1. Studystack: www.studystack.com (students, home school parents). My student’s test scores improved by 24% when I started using this website instead of study guides for tests. Studystack is a free web application that lets parents, teachers, or tutors create electronic flashcards (called “study stacks”) by typing a question into a box on the left and its answer in a box on the right. (I recommend creating about 20 study stacks at a time and then saving them.) Study Stack converts these into flashcards, games, and quizzes students can use to study. The games are easy and fun; my students loved logging on. Each study stack set has its own unique URL, so give students the specific name of the stack after saving it so they can find it. 2. Bubbl.us: https://bubbl.us (students,... read more

Virtual School Success Factors

In a recent article titled “Tutors and Virtual Schools: How Can They Help?” (November 2, 2012) I summarized several ways tutors can help students improve their chances for virtual school success. As a former virtual – hybrid schoolteacher where students attended online classes three days a week and received face – to – face instruction from teachers the other two days, I noted several important factors that led to successful virtual school transitions. This article covers four of these areas to help parents make the virtual school decision. 1. Adult supervision. Adult supervision is key to virtual student success! Typically, a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult, signs a document stating they will serve as the student’s “learning coach” (or similar label). Learning coaches are responsible for making sure students attend online classes, complete daily assignments, turns in their completed work on time, and follows any written curriculum or pacing guides. Virtual students... read more

How much tutoring is enough?

Once you decide that you or your child needs tutoring, how much tutoring time do you really need? There are so many things occupying your time that you want to pinpoint exactly how many hours a week you need. You may not know how to judge you/ your child’s needs. This article gives you four tips to help you decide how much tutoring you need. 1. Grades and test scores. K – 12 students take standardized tests – sometimes more than one each year – that can tell you about how well your child is doing in school. Collect any score reports you have and review the remarks and the charts. This is especially helpful if you have more than one year’s worth. Compare the charts from several years’ worth of score reports. Is your child improving, or are scores going down each year? Are they staying the same? Declining scores indicates students are not keeping up with classmates academically. While their scores might be consistent, students should be earning higher scores to be performing... read more

Learning Teams: Taking charge of your child's education

Teachers, like most professionals, know the value of working as a team to meet the educational needs of a diverse student population. Many middle schools organize their faculty into smaller teaching teams and set aside common planning time for teams to meet and discuss teaching strategies for their assigned students. This article shows parents how to change the way they think about their child’s education and consider all teachers, tutors, coaches, and group leaders as part of a Learning Team. Team Teaching Team teaching is a combination of philosophical ideas and instructional practices. It was created to help elementary students bridge the gap between elementary school and high school, where students have multiple teachers and a much larger peer group. Team teaching reduces student’s anxiety by dividing faculty into two to four teacher teams to reduce student’s stress related to changing classes throughout the day. Studies show this is the main source of worry for 6th... read more

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