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Physics and Mathematics

Two types of studies that many people despise the most are Science and Mathematics.  Some people cannot even stand to hear them mentioned.  Truth is, whatever you are actually extremely good at, others may need some improvement.  Although there are scientists and mathematicians out there who are able to analyze and engineer scary and complex looking graphs and three-dimensional shapes and models, they do have some weaknesses.  One of my weaknesses in academia is reading (especially when it is uninteresting to me).  I have struggled with reading for quite some time and there are times where I actually have to force myself to read, not because I can't do it, because I can.  This is the same for many others, it's not that you do not like math/science, its just you were taught to memorize it and not understand it.  Back when you did adding and subtracting, math was pretty fun right?  Well I am sure you will find science and more complex... read more

Tutoring and this week's Southern California weather (2/24/14 Forecast)

Hello!   To start my first blog post I wanted to say a little something about how much I love tutoring and the weather forecast for Southern California since my main passion is meteorology. Tutoring is something I started in the latter half of college once I started to take upper level math courses. I loved tutoring and wished I had a team of tutors to help me when I was struggling in some of my courses at the time. Sometimes teachers can only do so much or you cannot feel like you can approach them or ask them for questions. Tutors on the other hand are always eager to help students in their studies. It's more than just helping the student, you are creating a brighter future with every student you tutor. Additionally, each time you tutor you feel even better and learn each time you do it. It's both a learning and rewarding experience.   Also, for those that live in Southern California (San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego, and even... read more

Favorite Cross-Categorical Resources, Gr K-12

Here are some of my favorite resources that cover multiple subject areas in a single resource. Check back again soon, this list is always growing! I also recommend school textbooks, your local library, and used bookstores.     (All grades) www.wyzant.com/resources/answers - homework help from real tutors and teachers (All grades) http://www.wyzant.com/resources/lessons - lessons and tutorials from real tutors and teachers (Varies) FactMonster.com – Formulas, practice, and basic information for chapter reviews or previews. (PreK-8, 12) SheppardSoftware.com – Math, Language Arts, Science, Health and History games, + SAT vocab flash cards (K-8) Softschools.com – Flashcards, practice lessons, and general guidance in all core subjects (K-6) Eduplace.com – Online textbook-based lessons and practice for elementary school students- a GREAT resource if you’ve left your textbook at school or if you need more worksheets to... read more

Favorite Science Resources, Gr 6-12

Here are some of my favorite Science resources. Check back again soon, this list is always growing! I also recommend school textbooks, your local library, and used bookstores.   (Gr. 9-12) CellsAlive.com – Learn about the life cycle of a cell, including reproduction, structure and live cell growth videos. (Gr. 9-12) Zooniverse.com – A fabulous resource for science projects; you can even participate in someone else’s live science project (some are even from NASA). Focuses on astronomy, biology, and chemistry. (Biology) KhanAcademy.org/science/biology – Tutorials and information on all things Biology related (Biology) SpellingCity.com/biology.html – Provides a list of vocabulary terms typically seen in Biology courses   (Biology) Biology-online.org - Provides quick explanations of concepts, with examples (Bio/Anat/Physics) BiologyCorner.com – Lessons, tutorials, definitions, and practice problems.

Another way to look at WORD problems

A few years ago, I began to teach a noncredit science class at a local community college. One of the lessons was how to solve word problems. This is what the material gave us to teach the students. 1.Read questions carefully 2.Define terms, think about relationships 3.Identify key or clue words 4.Identify the problem to be answered 5.Analyze the problem 6.Plan a solution 7.Answer the question 8.Evaluate the solution Over time I began to realize that this was too much info to give, so I began looking for better ways to explain the process. I finally stumbled on an acronym that was simple and yet explain the steps in a concise way. The acronym was WORD which stood for: W- What does the question give you and does it want for answer (covers points 1, 3, 4) O- Organize the information. Most science questions have a distinct order to them that can either be organized or diagrammed to assist in ‘seeing the problem’... read more

Creating a Culture of Excellence

Everyone wants our children to have excellent educations, yet our schools too often fall well short of this goal. Why is this? Bad teachers, bad parents, bad kids, lack of funding for programs, there seems to be no shortage of reasons. A closer look at our schools however, will show that almost without exception there is at least one activity at each school where the students truly excel. One school may excel at volleyball and another at football. It may be choir or the art program, but these pockets of excellence exist where these bad kids of bad parents, led by bad teachers are consistently outperforming their peers year after year. Ironically, at many schools these programs are often viewed as detrimental, distracting the students from the core curriculum. Nothing could be further from the truth; these are the programs we need to emulate. You do not become a sectional or state champion caliber athlete or artist by accident, it takes a great deal of focus,... read more

Vocabulary & Reading Comprehension

In my work as a teacher, I cannot help but notice that many of the reading selections written for our students include words that are beyond our students' experience. Students simply do not have & could not usually acquire the background knowledge necessary for understanding some words they encounter in subject-specific reading selections, such as social studies & science. Reading instruction in language arts classes cannot adequately address all the words students need to know, as language arts teachers have other specific concerns to address every day. This is why every teacher must be a reading teacher & consider reading an integral part of their subject. Certain subjects are the best place for students to encounter, learn, and understand some of the vocabulary they need to know, while context clues are only useful if students already have the needed background knowledge. In other words, a context clue is not really a clue at all if students do not have the... read more

The Reading Whiz

My first grade student blew me away today. He not only read the word, 'interesting,' all by himself -- but he also knew exactly how many syllables it has!  After a full year tutoring, we have a great connection and each weekly session has its surprises.  I find I learn from my students, just as they learn from me.  Age does not seem to matter, each individual has his or her own personality and interests.   We read a book about bats today.  With terms like hibernation and echolocation, it was inevitable that we discussed a few definitions during the reading.  First graders can be quite inquisitive, and we were pressed for time.  So, I continued reading and before we finished, I learned something I did not know.  Of course, I knew the early American settlers once lived in 'colonies.'  Somehow, though, it never occurred to me that large groups of bats also live in colonies!  I also never thought about how the closeup photos... read more

The power of Math!!!!

Galileo was a famous astronomer who was the first scientists to point his telescope towards the heavens and view the moon, rings of Saturn and other amazing objects. When he began to study the moon he noticed that there were craters and plains on it. He also noticed that there were mountains on the moon by noticing light patterns on the moon.Many people would have gone on to the next observation, but Galileo began to measure these mountains.   I, like many other students, would always ask "what is the point of math?" "when will I ever use this?" so on and so on.Well depending on the career path you may never need the high level math you are required to take, but I hope that you at least appreciate math for the power that it holds in unlocking mysteries of our universe. Think about it the moon, is 238,900 miles!!!! And in the 1600's without any sophisticated gadgets like we possess, a humble scientist was able to measure the height of a mountain... read more

Equations and Analogies

I was tutoring a student the other day in physics and, in trying to explain the usefulness of writing the fundamental equation before solving a problem, the strangeness of spontaneous analogy struck again.  Looking at my teenage protege, I told him, "Physics is like a soap opera.  Unless you define the relationship, you won't have any idea of what's going on."  After a stunned moment of silence, we both laughed then went back to the problem. But oddly, after thinking about it, this analogy works better than any I have ever come across or invented when describing the math-intensive sciences.  There are so many equations and variables out there for chemistry and physics that keeping them straight is like trying to work out a relationship tree for "All Our Children" or "The Young and the Restless".   That's where practice comes in. Like watching a soap or any tv show weekly, daily practice with equations... read more

Living Science in this World

I have been tutoring for about a little over a month now and I have come across students asking me how science is important in their world? At first I was not sure how to answer the question, and then I started looking around me and found the answer.    Science is in everything. The electricity I am using right now to type on this computer, see with my light bulbs, and be cool from the Florida heat are all created because a scientist found that electricity has power, and then stated to harvest that energy for daily use. The technology created in making a phone or computer was all done out of science. The cars that we drive came because someone decided to use scientific theories and facts about gravity, friction, and movement to figure out how to power a car. The food I eat is derived from someone experimenting with how it is best to grow an apple orchard through experimentation. The different breeds of dogs, or flowers come from science. Then just to think about... read more

Students need to have a passion for Science.

In most cases Science today is driven by the test.   In order to meet those standards teachers teach Science through the content, the students meet the standards and have for the most part no true love of science.   What is coming down the pipe are the National Science Standards and they are truly different.   The National Science Community wants students to develop a true passion for science so that they will become life-long learners in Science.  They want that passion to be the force that will move students to choose Science as a career.   They want science to be hands-on, inquiry based and project driven.  If teachers do not generate that passion, then I want students to generate that passion for themselves.   If the school has a Science Fair, I want you to do a research project and if there is no Science Fair I still want you to do a research project.   Research allows you to see Science through... read more

Things a good tutor should say and discuss with you:

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

Why would a group of parents want to have small group tutoring?

The most obvious answer is cost. If a tutor charges the same rate for one or four students, it becomes cheaper per hour as you increase students and share the costs with other families. It is often believed a tutor is best when working 1:1 with a student. In some instances it is well worth the time and money to have 1:1 tutoring and sometimes it is appropriate for students to study and do school work in small groups. What is not obvious is the dynamics of small group tutoring. In a variety of circumstances it is invaluable for students to learn how to study “what needs to be studied”. The acts of independence and self regulating behavior have far reaching benefits. Groups need to learn to share and take turns. This seems simple and yet there is the underlying tendency to allow the ‘smart one’ in the group to carry the burden of work. Assuming each student is in the class and has a different point of view/observation about what is happening in class, they should share... read more

Earth's Magnetic Field - Not What You May Think

Quickly, think about your first answer to this question. What's the magnetism of earth's magnetic field at our geographic North Pole? I recently watched a video of Minute Earth on YouTube saying how earth's atmosphere is escaping. In it, the artist/scientist drew the earth with its normal magnetic field. And that got me thinking about an age-old problem that I've seen online. So horrible of a problem in fact that I've had to write a letter to NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (not the guy from the Bible), to correct a problem that they had on their website. So, hold onto your hats folks, because we're going to dive into magnetism. In elementary school we were all introduced to the basics of magnetism. Opposite poles attract, and like poles repel. The red ends of the magnet, commonly the north ends, would rather hang out with the south ends of a magnet, commonly the white ends. This is a concept that seems simple to most of us, and it is... read more

Be Like Water...

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

Holistic Tutoring

One of the more frustrating things about tutoring is when students or their parents want to treat tutoring like a quick fix. In other words, sometimes they want to meet the night before a test and cram for said test in hopes of getting a better grade. On the surface, this problem might work, but it treats the symptoms rather than the root of the problem. If you're going to take the time to invest in a tutor, then here are a couple of suggestions. First, try to catch the problem early. If you (or your child) is struggling in a subject, get help right away. Don't wait until you (or your child) feels that overwhelming feeling that comes when one is completely lost in information. The sooner a tutor can get involved, the better the tutor can help a student to stay on track. Work with your tutor to adopt a thorough approach to the subject. It is not enough to learn the facts of a subject, but also to learn the reasons behind those facts. If you want to do well in a subject,... read more

Spiral Learning

Spiral learning is a natural way to learn, and was explicitly used by Cherokee Indians in the Americas long before European culture arrived. The technique is probably even much older, and has regained acceptance in recent time. The spiral technique is in contrast to a linear approach, which attempts to provide all the necessary information in a logical argument. With “Spiral Learning” most key concepts are introduced early, but only lightly touched on. Once the big picture is understood, the key concepts are revisited with a little more depth. As the same concepts are examined and used, again and again, more complex situations are applied. Practice in inter-mixed with concept development. Spiral learning works well with pattern delivery. Humans have a natural tendency to look for and see patterns. If we see a pattern in a problem, identifying the type of problem often suggests a method to a solution. Patterns can be described in a somewhat standard way:... read more

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