The ability to approach a problem through different methods is the key for success in any math-based subject. During the two years and a half that I've tutored as a volunteer at my community college (under a MESA program), I learned a lot from the inquiries that college students had and, as a consequence, from my mistakes as well. I realized that the processes taught by their professors more frequently confused most of the students in science classes--such as physics, math, and chemistry. As...
The ability to approach a problem through different methods is the key for success in any math-based subject. During the two years and a half that I've tutored as a volunteer at my community college (under a MESA program), I learned a lot from the inquiries that college students had and, as a consequence, from my mistakes as well. I realized that the processes taught by their professors more frequently confused most of the students in science classes--such as physics, math, and chemistry. As an inexperienced tutor back in those days, I tried my best to make them understand or in the critical cases to memorize those processes. However, as I gained experience as a student myself and passed through those moments, I came to the conclusion that sometimes more complex problems need the student to employ his own tools to approach a problem. From that moment on, I implemented my own methods and those from other students to attempt different paths to solve problems. To my surprise, this new way of tutoring was very efficient because it increased the capacity of other students to tackle problems by themselves, and that is my ultimate goal as a tutor. In other words, my role as a tutor consists in picking up the ideas that students developed in the process of solving a problem and to try to arrange them in a way that they are able to see how powerful their own ideas are to solve problems. This as well, makes them feel exited and gives them the sensation that they always had the answer, but they couldn't see it. Thus, they develop this inspirational motor or engine that allows them to keep on trying till they reach a solution. To summarize, my technique as a tutor has been efficient because students get to use their own ideas to develop their own source of inspiration and continue tackling problems from their own perspective that will allow them to identify their mistakes efficiently.
I currently tutor calculus-based physics (mechanics, electricity and electromagnetism, optics, heat, and part of Modern Physics) single and multivariable calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, as well as college algebraâ€”among other related subjects. I identify three different aspects to teach, and they depend on the type of problem being solved. To begin with, problems in math and physics could range from practical to theoretical problems. Practical problems usually vary from pure simple mechanical to complex puzzling problems, and theoretical problems are always puzzling and challenging. For the problems that are simple, like finding the value of an unknown from an equation, the processes followed to achieve the answer follow the same algebraic rulesâ€”which limits the amount of work a student needs to do when trying to figure out how to approach a problem. However, when dealing with more complex problems like proofs or applications, students need more background knowledge of the situation before attempting any approach. Finally, for theoretical problems, students need to have a good domain over the two aspects I mentioned before.