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Rather than droning on about each subject in math at this point, I'm going to make a shift. I'm currently engaged in a conversation with a friend, and my most recent reply to him expresses my opinion on how math is being taught today:   ...The beauty of math is something that I have seen most of my life, and it stands in my mind as one of my fundamental motivations for studying math. As a person with that emotional tie to math, I realize that many students would find it difficult to identify with my assertion that math is beautiful. As a result, I often take a stance that might be a little self-protective, and offer an answer that seems to be weaker but more universal. In short, some aspects of math are of universal benefit, such as the skill of basic calculation, or the benefits of mental exercise. There are some benefits that apply only to a portion of the population, such as the ability to factor polynomials, or to find missing sides of triangles... read more

One of the biggest frustrations for students is getting something wrong that they know how to do. What is usually the problem?  Careless errors. Do students really care less? Probably, they care less for writing everything down step by step. They care less about labeling the formulas.  They care less about thinking about why they keep making that mistake. For some reason, I have found that students have the perception that smart people don't write stuff down. Students believe that "smart"  people hold it all in their heads. Well, here's the real deal. Smart people write almost everything down with meticulous attention to detail. They know that the "blackboard " in their head gets erased quickly. There's nothing more frustrating than trying to figure out what you did wrong when you don't have a record of what you did. I call it the dance in your head that leads nowhere!  What's the cure? If you believe that your student is being careless... read more

Hello! I wanted to share something with everybody which seems obvious to me, but I'm not sure everyone is on the same page. Have you ever had a terribly boring school teacher? I bet you have because we all have at some point! It doesn’t mean that these teachers are all uneducated in their subject, (although they might be…) it just means that either: A. They aren’t involved enough in their field to have passion for it or B. They don’t know how to transmit that passion to students effectively To be able to have fun or at least gain respect, understanding, or interest in a subject - the subject must be presented in an interesting way. It seems obvious when you put it that simply, but some or most teachers don’t care enough to even pretend to be excited, passionate or involved in their field. This makes learning from these teachers very difficult, especially if the students are self-sufficient learners. ——That is where... read more

A question that I have heard many times from my own students and others is this: "When am I ever going to use this?" In this post and future posts, I'm going to address possible answers to this question, and I'm going to also take a look at what mathematics educators could learn from the question itself.   Let's look at the answer first. When I was in school myself, the most common response given by teachers was a list of careers that might apply the principles being studied. This is the same response that I tend to hear today.    There is some value in this response for a few of the students, but the overwhelming majority of students just won't be solving for x, taking the arcsine of a number, or integrating a function as part of their jobs. Even as a total math geek, I seldom use these skills in practical ways outside my tutoring relationships.   Can we come up with something better, that will apply to every student? I say... read more

Since it's Thanksgiving week, let's think about pie for a second. No, not mathematical pi, just actual real edible pies. For Thanksgiving I'm in charge of making dessert, so I'll be bringing two pies, one pumpkin and one apple. Let's say that I sliced the apple pie into 12 pieces, and the pumpkin pie, since it held together better, into 18. Fast forward to the end of the evening. My pies were a big hit, and I have almost none left. In fact, all I have is three pieces of apple and four pieces of pumpkin. I want to combine the remaining slices into a single pie pan, so that they take up less space in the fridge. How do I figure out if my remaining pie will fit in one pan? Well, let's start by writing down the remaining amounts of pie in the form of fractions. Remember, one of the definitions of a fraction is parts of a whole, so let's apply that definition to figure out our starting fractions. The apple pie was cut into 12 pieces, and we have three... read more

The primary student baseline communication skills a student should learn from their tutor are the following: Precise use of vocabulary  Express complete thoughts Asking questions Interpreting and following instructions These baseline communication skills are common in academia, particularly Mathematics.  Any behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, philosophies, etc. that hinders these baseline communication skills presents learning hindrances for the students and tutors. Let me know your thoughts.

Purpose:  This series shares tips on how to identify, manage, and overcome Mathematics Negative Self Talk (NST).  We cannot avoid NST totally because the NST about Math skills in general is a widely accepted habit. So what is Mathematics NST anyway?  Mathematics NST is when we speak in our minds or to others about an inability to learn, do, and/or understand Mathematics in general.  Focus here is what we cannot do or have never done in Mathematics.  For example, "I hate Math."  "I  can't do Math!"  "This is too complicated!"  " I could never do Math!" "My parents aren't good at Math either." "What can we use Algebra for anyway?"  "The teacher is confusing me."  The NST phrases list is endless, but also popular in today’s culture. Downside of NST: NST in Math is simply a bad habit of thinking and attitude.  This habit limits learning... read more

When is it a good time to look for a tutor?  Some students wait until a big exam comes up, and do lots of cramming at the last minute.  While that strategy may work for some, others may need to take a different approach.    What if you need to take a mathematics or physics course and you know you will have difficulties?  Maybe the course is really advanced or it is not one of your best subjects.  The best approach would be to work with a tutor on a regular basis throughout the semester.  They can help you with any misunderstandings that may come up along the way, and help prevent you from falling behind in the course.  This also ensures that you get the individual attention that you may need.   

There are many situations in which a student or parent might want to seek extra help with math.  Does the student often need to retake assessments? As a teacher, I like to offer make-ups because I want my students to know it's more important to learn the material than to move on before they're ready. Needing to frequently retake assessments means that the student needs to reevaluate how they are preparing. Often, getting a tutor can help them figure out how to best study independently. Does the student freeze during assessments? Does their mind go blank? Or do they think they did well but it turns out that wasn't the case? It's possible the student has test anxiety and needs to build their confidence. Talking through the material with someone is one of the best ways to alleviate that anxiety. Does the student have a difficult time staying caught up with the material? Do they feel like they always get it after the test or quiz but not before? This... read more

One of the first things you notice in algebraic expressions (besides the sometimes haphazard mix of operations) are numbers that appear with a smaller number above them (like this 54). These smaller numbers are called exponents and, in this post, I'll give a basic rundown of what they represent and a few basic rules that you will need to follow when dealing with them.   So, you're probably thinking, what do exponents represent anyway. In short, it's a special way of writing a special form of multiplication. I know it sounds hard to grasp, so I'll give you an example:   - Let's look a 3*3. Of course we know it as 9, but in dealing with the order of operations writing a number multiplied by itself may be combersome if you already have several parentheses in the expression. so the way that 3*3 would be written is 32 as your multiplying 3 by a second 3.   But what if you want to represent 4*4*4 or need to multiply 10 5's? Simply count up... read more

In my experience both as a student & tutor in various math disciplines (especially algebra) I have encountered many students that struggle with the subject.  Some students have never been exposed to the material in over a decade; others avoid it like the plague & yet others struggle with test anxiety.  Based on what I have seen I have a few pieces of advice that warrant sharing.  Hopefully this will help the students that struggle with it as well as offer tutors some guidance on dealing with the most difficult learners.   (1) There is a definite emotional aspect in any subject that involves numbers.  Math brings out the emotions of frustration & fear (or some combination) in those that struggle with it.  The frustration comes from not being able to understand the concepts, while the fear results from failing a test or assignment.  In either case, these emotions drastically affect the student's thinking to such... read more

Hi Everyone! As the school year kicks into full swing, its important to monitor your child's progress. Some schools are great at doing this, and some... not so much. It is up to you as parents (or students!) to take control of your student's education and make sure they are at least on track, but hopefully excelling. That's all for now, take care!

I recommend Wolfram Alpha to all of my math and physics students, and to many others. It calls itself a Computational Knowledge Engine which doesn't do too good a job of describing itself but it is very useful as i'll explain below. It does quite a number of things that aren't comparable to other search engines. Wolfram Alpha First, one of its central components is based on Mathematica which is a mathematical programming language. Because of this it can solve problems in algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, matrices and many other subjects. This is largely what I use it for; as in if I want to quickly solve or check a problem. If i can't remember exactly what the half angle integration of tangent is, or if a problem results in an answer to large for my calculator to display.   Second, it has large data sets available to it. These vary from current and historical weather data, i.e. what is the current temperature/chance of rain and what was the temperature... read more

I am excited to begin a brand new school year. There are always anxieties students face. There are tests. And projects. And the teacher who wears the purple pants three times per week.    But now we have ways to search for the best tutors. I cannot wait to see who will find me. I cannot wait to meet more students, help them study for tests, projects, and vent about their old-fashioned, purple-polyester-pants-wearing teachers who need to slow down the pace.   I want to help with all of that. I want my tenth year of tutoring to blow the red socks off the teachers with purple pants! Let's do this!   -Mrs. Becky

Don’t be stubborn: its The Monty Hall Problem. This is one of the least generally understood problems of all time. My hypothesis: the reason most people fail on The Monty Hall problem is that it isn’t straight, and it involves changing plans. If you don’t know, the way this works is that you are on a game show and must find a prize behind one of three doors. You pick a door and then The Game Show Host reveals that the prize is not behind one of the two remaining doors. With due intellect your supposed to reason that it is always advisable two switch your selection. What isn’t understood during the time the game show hosts open the door is that he will never open a door that has the prize in it. He will always open a null door. Vital information is encoded by the pact the game show host has with the producers and it moves in the transaction between the game show host and you. Think of it as the elements of America being encoded to the writing and voice of Stephen... read more

In math you learn new terminologies and many significant things pop up. Guys, do you ever dream about analytical calculus? No? Well, why not!   As a high school student you learned algebra and pre-calculus and those are great, but you can really figure that there is more to math than just that. I assume you were dazed and confused. That's okay. Perhaps though you enjoyed your subjects. That is pretty good.   There, you must try to learn analysis, because it is the most-funnest part of mathematics! Do you think I'm wrong? Well, begin with a subject like real analysis. During your study of analysis, you learn about continuity, metrics, and integration. I would like to know more about metrics.   The weird thing is that math is everywhere. Sorry, but I like math because of this fact.   It takes a real scholar to learn math. Got me wrong? Gals sometimes support the most advanced mathematical conclusions. You can make their notions... read more

If you are like me, you want to get a head start on things -- "hit the ground running," as they say. What better way than to get started on the new year in academics! I always found that when I was in high school or college, summer reading was very enjoyable. There were no deadlines -- I could nestle up by a tree and read for hours. I recommend giving it a shot.   When it comes to chemistry, what better way to get started than reading some basics. One of my favorites is Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. It is a great overview of science in general. I also recommend John Gribbin's In Search of Schrodinger's Cat. It is an amazing story about the discovery of quantum mechanics and is a must for all explorers of science.   It is also a good idea to get a chemistry set and do some basic chemistry experiments. It is a fun and interesting activity! A lot of chemistry experiments can even be done in one's own... read more

Hello Students!   Start this year off strong with good organizational and note taking skills. Make sure you understand the material and are not just taking notes aimlessly. Try to take in what your teacher is saying and don't be afraid to ask questions!! If you start taking the initiative to learn and understand now, college will be a much more pleasant experience for you. Trust me!   Stay organized and plan your homework and study schedule!   Quiz yourself!   Study with friends!   READ YOUR TEXTBOOK! :)    Remember, homework isn't busy work and a chance to copy down your notes, it is part of the learning process. This is especially important with math, as it builds on itself and understanding the basics will make the other subjects easier!   Have a fantastic and fun year!

Before starting a new math topic, you should always write down the steps that you need to solve the problem. Then start the topic and when you are doing the problem put those steps in front of you and you will never get that question wrong. After a while you will remember those step in your head and you don't need that paper any more. 

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