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Sundays are days to be lazy, to hang out with friends, to read books or swim in pools or play outside. Today is an exceptionally hot Sunday in early June. Since I got up, I've been holed up in my home office, working on tutoring. Even though I've spent the past nine or so hours (with breaks for shrimp tacos, diet Coke, and ice cream) working, I haven't actually had any students today. I realized that not many people are aware of the "behind the scenes" of tutoring (well, at least of good tutoring), and it's gotten me to think a bit about the concept of having an "hourly rate." Realizing that mine is one of the higher rates on WyzAnt, I thought I'd share a bit of the "secret life of a (good) tutor," so you might have a better idea of what you're getting for your money. Although I work very hard during our tutoring sessions to make them as productive and educational as possible, it's everything I do when you aren't around that helps me do that. Before... read more

Flash cards -- highlighting -- writing down definitions. Do you do all that and still have low test scores? Often, straight memorization is not enough to really learn the subject well. For example, in biology you may learn that proteins are formed from peptide chains. You may also learn that a polymer is a chemical compound that has repeated units. But if an exam question refers to a "polypeptide," you might not realize that it was talking about a protein. The key here is to make associations. What are polymers? What type of biological compounds can be classed as polymers? "Poly" means "many." So, a polypeptide would be "many peptides." What compound is composed of many peptides? A protein, of course. This type of reasoning is not developed by straight memorization. You need to reach for the meaning. Make lists, tables, or diagrams; look up words; make links and associations. Write definitions in your own words only. Don't guess.... read more

As a classroom teacher, I had parents/guardians say that they could not help their students because they didn't understand the math that their student was doing. I thought that I would try to help bridge a connection between the parents/guardians and students with the topic, "What does that REALLY mean?" So when I was in school there were math concepts, skills and strategies that were referred to differently than they are today. For instance, when subtracting 2 two digit numbers, we would "borrow" from the tens column and add to the ones place to be able to solve some problems. That same action is now referred to as "regrouping". Regrouping is used to assist students in addition, subtraction and multiplication, depending upon the problem. If there are any other terms that you are unsure of how to address/apply, just send them to me. We will try to assist.

You might already assume that I will be talking about how to get a scholarship or a grant for a college or the university, but this is not the purpose of this blog post. What could save you a lot of money down the road when your kid is ready to go to the college or a university? First of all, most of the higher education schools require an assessment test for math and English. The results of these tests determine what level of math or English your child will get placed into. For example, a high school graduate wants to become an engineer. After getting admitted to the university, the student takes a math placement test and gets enrolled into a trigonometry class. How is it going to affect the student and parents, who will pay for the tuition? Most of the schools require engineering students to take Calculus I, II, III and Differential Equations in the first two years. If the student is enrolled in the trigonometry the first semester then it will take him or her three years just to... read more

Some students forget their skills and knowledge of subjects during the summer because they do not practice and receive tutoring. Other students maintain or increase their skill and knowledge during the summer by practicing and receiving tutoring on their subjects(s). To help maintain skill and knowledge level, many parents and students are having me provide tutoring during the summer for one or both of the following reasons: 1. tutoring for reviewing current subjects for practice and maintenance or enhancement of knowledge and skill levels 2. tutoring on upcoming subjects for learning so that when the student starts back after the summer, not only are they still at an enhanced skill and knowledge level for current subjects, but they can master the upcoming subjects from the beginning because they have received a preview and practice during the summer. Starting on May 30, the parents are having me tutor their student(s) in various subjects on one the following frequencies:... read more

It is no surprise that students lose some of their edge for education over the summer. After all the saying goes, "if you don't use it, you lose it." Summer is a great time to prepare students for the next school year. Tutoring can provide a means to not only stop the loss but also allow students to gain valuable skills for the next year. Imagine the edge your student could have in next years' math or science class if he or she had summer sessions with a certified teacher familiar with the state board curriculum and requirements? Summer is also a great time to prepare for standardized tests. SAT, PSAT, ACT or ASVAB. All of these tests provide information about a student's future potential. Students who are better prepared will score better and be given greater opportunities. That is why the test-prep industry is such a huge market. If you don't believe me, just stroll down that aisle of your local bookstore. However, as helpful as these self-help books can be, how... read more

I'm about to share a secret with you that can instantly reduce the amount of time spent on math tests and homework where you need to find the greatest common factor (GCF) of two whole numbers, such as when reducing fractions to simplest form. This is a methodology/short-cut that I came up with long ago, but never saw described in any textbook, much to my surprise. The basic idea is actually quite simple: Given two whole numbers A and B where A > B, the GCF of A and B must also be a factor of their difference: A-B. Here's an example. You need to reduce the fraction 84/105 to simplest form. It might take you a minute or two to figure out all of the factors of these numbers, but you can get it by simply subtracting 105-84 = 21. The number 21 divides evenly into both 84 and 105, so that also happens to be the greatest common factor! Using this method, the final answer of 4/5 comes quickly and easily. Just to be clear, the difference is not always the GCF, but the GCF is... read more

For someone who loves helping people, nothing is better than getting a phone call from a parent saying that their child, who came to you failing prealgebra, has a 95 average, and that they will be calling you for help next school year! I am so proud of her for working hard and doing what she needed to maximize her potential. On an tangent thought... Second best feeling in the world is having your 1st grade sister come up to you, bursting with happiness and explaining to you that math is fun, and she wants to learn multiplication. I only hope that someday, when I have my own children, they will be that excited about learning.

Recently, after I tutored two of my favorite students to prepare them for upcoming tests in Pre-Algebra and Geometry respectively, I received positive reinforcement for the importance and value of customizing the tutoring approach, information, knowledge transfer, and tutoring style. After the first tutoring session, I was approached by three people as I was waiting for my next student: 1. An elementary school teacher – she complemented me on my knowledge and tutoring style, and asked me for my information to refer students to me for tutoring. 2. A parent seeking a tutor for their daughter – he complimented me on my tutoring style, my patience, and my problem solving ability, He said, “I saw how you tutored him and I want you to tutor my daughter the same way” He booked a tutoring session for the next day. 3. An adult student preparing for a standardized test – she worked at the café, came over and said that she saw me tutoring the student and saw how he was excited... read more

I invite all students who are faltering in Mathematics, from Algebra through Calculus, to get help as soon as possible. The right kind of skilled help, which gives you INSIGHT and thus understanding, can build your confidence and raise your level of achievement. That's what you want to do--because those who do not address these issues usually experience disappointment and failure, and the effects of failure have a significant impact on your life, such as lowering self-esteem and interfering with your plans for college and career. That's why I tutor--to help you. All of my customers experience marked improvement. I wish the same for you. Kenneth S.

A few keys to success in school (for people with or without A.D.D.): We need to concentrate on taking notes in classes, and possibly use a digital recorder to record some classes. (That makes a tremendous difference for many of my A.D.D. students, because they can "go back and listen" to things they missed when distractions occurred.) Examples of distractions include when other students are moving or making noises, worries or concerns**, being hungry, needing to go to the restroom, looking for a pen or pencil, or needing to sharpen a pencil, etc. There are many sources of distractions. Even **fear of failure** can be a distraction! What about memory problems? Actually all of us have trouble with remembering from time to time--it's part of being human, right? Heck, even computers have memory problems occasionally, so it seems that some degree of "forgetfulness" is basically a universal condition. Some good news for A.D.D. students: If we are able... read more

Wikipedia defines a mnemonic, or mnemonic device, as "any learning technique that aids memory. To improve long term memory, mnemonic systems are used to make memorization easier." Algebra is a subject with many rules, which can be challenging and frustrating to memorize. Anything that can help make this part of learning easier should be used whenever possible. There are no magic tricks, or silver bullets that will make every subject fun to learn, but algebra seems to give many students a particularly difficult time and is the source of much frustration and angst. Let's take a look at a simple example of how mnemonics can help. The addition or multiplication of a set of numbers is the same regardless of how the numbers are grouped. So, a quick tip to remember the rule... Associative Property: To associate with people is to group up with them. The Associative Property is about grouping: (a + b) + c = a + (b + c), or (a × b) × c = a × (b ×... read more

I’m not good at this! I don’t like it! Why do I have to do this? Were these questions my students were asking the other day? No, these were things I was saying at the gym yesterday. I hate to exercise. I’m definitely not good at it. I’m definitely not very highly motivated. Yet, I go there 4 times a week, because I know it is good for me, and I don’t like how I feel when I don’t go. Now, occasionally, a student will ask me these same questions and I admit, until I actually heard myself complain at the gym yesterday, I was sympathetic, but I didn’t get it. I love math. I love science. I find it interesting and I do well in it. Why wouldn’t I want to learn more? Why wouldn’t I practice more? For every question I felt positive about in math/science, I could hear my negative response if I was thinking about that answer in terms of the gym. So, OK, I get it, math-science, not your thing. But I guarantee you that working consistently on something, even if you do not like... read more

"My family feels very lucky to have found Lisa. She tutored my two daughters in math for several years and the results were amazing. They both exceeded expectations and were moved up to the advanced math class in their respective grades. They now have much more confidence in their math abilities, and consistently earn A's. I attribute this success to Lisa's friendly and patient demeanor, assessment expertise, and her ability to design a learning plan customized to each child's learning style and personality." Marlene in Laguna Niguel, CA

The reality is that the student may be “in over their head” and no amount of effort will get a satisfactory result. Or maybe the student does not have the time to overly focus on one course over the others even for a short time to recover from a failing grade. This is a difficult and even emotional decision but should at least be momentarily considered. Is this class a necessity? Is there the ability to drop it? If you feel recovery is possible or if there is no other open option then on to the Recovery Plan. Though I am calling this a recovery plan – this is also a “B+ to an A+” or C to a B+" plan! Strategic Thoughts 1) Understand how the final grade is arrived at in detail as this impacts strategy especially if one part is overly emphasized. Usually the “battle” is between homework and exams. Exams are usually the predominant part of the grade - so rally around the next exam, midterm or final. You need 7-14 days for this Mock Test plan below. If homework plays a predominant role,... read more

I went to high school and college back in the day when computers consisted of eight or ten large boxes, each the size of a dishwasher or freezer and connected to each other by cables, taking up most of a very chilly room. We punched out holes in cards and a stack of cards were needed for simple commands. We'd feed the cards into one of the large boxes, and several hours or days later, we'd have our answer. There was a device that looked like a cash register called an adding machine. If you had a huge stack of numbers to crunch, you could borrow it. For most other calculations, we did them by hand or used a slide rule. There were trig tables and logarithm tables if we had need of such things. What a huge improvement to get the knowledge and the numbers we need with a few pushes of the buttons, clicks of the mouse, or taps on our touch screen phone! Cashiers don't have to figure out change; it's automatic. We don't even need to carry cash or change; the debit card does the trick... read more

I was reading what another WyzAnt tutor said, and I realized that he and I have the same attitude towards tutoring: We cherish each and every student, and enjoy working with them, but we don’t necessarily want to build a long-term relationship with them. I compare this situation to birds learning to fly. They need help at first, but it is important for them to learn to be self-sufficient, and learn to handle the challenges on their own. My goal is to help you to get on track, fill in some "gaps," and then let you "fly" on your own, when you are ready. In the future, if more help is needed with a new challenge, I am always glad to help. As John from California said, "Many students were never taught the basic concepts behind their courses. Because of that, the entire course can be a struggle for them." That problem does not just happen out West. I have found that to be true here too. If you were never taught the basic concepts, we will work... read more

It's important to plan ahead - "get ahead of the game" whether planning for SAT/ACT or planning for this coming Fall, 2012. Most parents and students wait till they get an "unexpected bad grade" - then REACT. A tutor can help things turnaround at that point - but what about your other classes - do you ignore those to catch up? This is not a good situation. Pressure packed. If this happens to be the semester they are preparing and taking the SAT or ACT, or they have to prepare to take an AP exam - even more pressure. I am thinking primarily in terms of math/science. If your student can start a tough math or science course in the fall having already mastered several key fundamentals of that course, it will give them confidence, relieve stress, and move them to a higher level of understanding. Also plan ahead carefully in class selection. You want a strong high school resume, but not at the expense of a significant drop in grades. My own daughter took statistics... read more

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