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I have been a tutor for many years. I have been an advocate for bullied kids for several years as well. But only recently did I begin to see that even tutors can offer relief to kids who are bullied, and point bystanders in a proper direction as well. The tutor's secret is really simple: we don't even have to know whether or if the students we work with are having bullying problems. All we have to know is that they sometimes exhibit the same symptoms as a bullied kid, and those symptoms can be brought on by stress. The student who needs a tutor is often dealing with stress already, because the homework isn't done, he doesn't know how to do it - not the first thing, time is running out and there's nobody to help.   When I was younger, you know how I handled that kind of stress? By hoping the problem would go away. I would go into class the next day, the teacher would relent and say "hey, this is too hard for you guys, so let's go over... read more

In math or science we come across terms such as inverse proportion and direct proportion. When two variables are directly proportional an increase in one variable causes an increase in the other variable. When two variables are inversely proportional an increase in one variable causes a decrease in the other variable.    Inverse Proportion: To illustrate inverse proportionality, I will use a common physics problem. Two golf balls are thrown down from a tall building at the same time and one ball has twice the velocity of the other ball. Which ball hits the ground first assuming only velocity is different?  We already know that velocity is approximately equal to distance / time. Let the velocity of the slower ball be v. Assuming only the velocity of the two balls is different, we can say approximately v = d / t. We can eliminate wind force, atmospheric force, and force of gravity since both balls will be affected equally. If you increase v,... read more

When designing your manufactured product, you never forget to work on the process selection. The same applies when designing your app or your computer programming project. The designers of applications such as Twitter, Angry birds, Uber or the Wyzant application you are currently accessing engaged in their process selection work in order to give us these fine products.   As a major in computer science and a professional who develops anything from Android applications, websites, and client server applications, I have learned that a good software product is not good because it works but it has to meet the requirements too.    Process selection refers to the strategic decisions involved in choosing the production process to have in your production environment. Sometimes, this is already chosen for you when working on a school project. However, when working in real industry and creating your own Android apps or iPhone apps, you need to choose your own... read more

Often times experienced mathematicians tend to get comfortable with certain problem-solving strategies. For example, in a problem one might use a system of equations to solve a problem rather than employing a simpler more easy way to solve it. Though using system of equations are great, knowing how to solve problems using different approaches is important, not just for oneself, but for their students.   Take for example the following problem: A farmer has both pigs and chickens on his farm. There are 78 feet and 27 heads. How many pigs and how many chickens are there?   Solution 1: (Using Algebra System of Equations) 4p+2c=78 (pigs have 4 feet and chickens have 2 feet with 78 feet in total) p+c=27 (27 heads mean that the number of chicken and pigs total 27) Then by algebra p=27-c. Therefore by substitution, 4(27-c)+2c=78. 108-2c=78. 2c=30. c=15. Since, c=15, p+c=p+15=27. p=12. Therefore, the farmer has 15 chickens and 12 pigs... read more

I had a burst of math-fueled nostalgia earlier this week when I found out that one of my favorite 'edu-tainment' games from my childhood has just been re-released for modern systems, and I'd like to take this week's Ellen's Choice to tell you about it. Allow me to introduce the Zoombinis. “The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis” was a PC game back in the 1990's that combined surprisingly challenging problem solving with adorable animations and catchy music to create an incredibly memorable experience. In the game you serve as a guide for the Zoombinis, a peaceful, fun-loving race of little blue creatures who need to escape persecution by traveling to a faraway utopia called 'Zoombiniville.' You guide the little guys in groups of 16, leading them through four different legs of the journey, each of which contains obstacles in the form of three different logic puzzles you must solve to get them past. As you get better at the puzzles the difficulty gets harder, so... read more

We all have one: that one subject that our brains just refuse to understand, and no matter how much we study or how hard we work, we never feel like we really truly GET what is going on.   For me, that subject was always Physics. No junior high or high school teacher could ever answer the unending string of "...but WHY?" questions that I needed answered before I could understand even the most basic concepts of our Introductory course. It wasn't that I couldn't understand, but rather that I wasn't being taught these ideas in a way that made sense to me.    As an adult, Physics is now actually one of my favorite subjects to read about because I have found some books written for people just like me, people who need explanations fulls of examples and explanations and lots of pictures! I may never discover black holes or split an atom, but I now know enough that I can understand the people who do those things. :-)     So,... read more

 I have a few steps and guidelines that I try to always use when I approach a problem, and I'd like to share them with you.   Here they are:   1) List the your knowns and unknowns. This means write down and label the values that are given to you in the problem, and then list the things that the problem is asking you to find.   2) If possible, draw a picture. Include all the relevant information that has been given to you in the problem.   3) Based on the "form" of the problem and the information given to you, recognize what type of problem you're dealing with and what techniques and formulas are needed to solve it.   4) Show all your work when working through the problem.   5) Check your work, and make sure your answer seems reasonable.

1. "Knowing what topics will be on the quiz is half the battle" Start by asking the teacher tons of questions like "will we need to know this for the quiz?" or "is this one of the key problems that we should know how to solve?" or "would you say that this is a topic of major importance for us to learn in this class?"  If you can, look at the teacher's past quizzes and talk to former students (seniors) about this teacher to see what his tests are usually like. Do they look the same from year to year? Google terms like "inverse trig quizzes" to test yourself and compare what you find to what the teacher gives you.   2. "Be prepared" Get enough sleep.  Eat a good breakfast. Use the bathroom before the quiz. Have extra paper and pencils. Bring your calculator with extra batteries.  Bring your "Note Sheet" with everything you need on it. Do NOT lose this. Don't put too... read more

I am a High School Science Teacher and we deal with a lot of word problems that contain many variables that could fit into many different equations. Here is how I break down the content step by step for my students.      Physics Problem A box is accelerating across a frictionless surface. It is being pushed with 75 newtons of force and the has a mass of 10 kilograms. What is the magnitude of the box's acceleration?   1) You want to identify and label all variables presented to you in the problem.      Ex: F = 75 N, m = 10 kg   2) Identify and Label the Variable the question is asking you to find.      Ex: a = ?   3) List possible known equations that have the variable you need to solve for.      Ex: a = v/t            F = ma   4) Choose the equation that has variables that are known from the problem.  ... read more

Everyone knows education is vital to learning. You learn facts. You become familiar with a process. You discover tricks and tips and mnemonics. You notice details. You explore possibilities. The flow of information from source to student can be like a river or like a trickle. Either way, this is all contained in the education part of learning. But this is only one-third of learning.   Where are the other two-thirds? Hidden inside the other two 'e's.   First was education. The second is edification. If your spirits are not uplifted, if you are sad or frustrated, if you are tired or bored, learning can't happen. No matter how many times you rinse and repeat, your brain does not absorb the information. The simplest form of edification is entertainment. When at a loss, I have been goofy for students, (yes, on purpose!) to get a laugh and to break the tension. Two of the highest forms of edification are positive reinforcement and affirmation. Hearing and seeing... read more

Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer...   ...because it teaches you how to think.   -Steve Jobs     Knowing how to program is an incredibly important skill that is becoming more and more valuable as technology is becoming extremely important in our everyday lives.   And even if you don't plan to be a tech-savvy computer geek who is shaping the future, programming can still greatly help you reach your goals.   I have met many mathematicians, biologists, chemists, statisticians, and accountants who used their programming knowledge to make programs that help them reach their goals.   Many scientists who conduct research program their own applications that help them conduct research or properly store/interpret data.   I have met accountants who used programming to make Excel application tools and other database tools.   If for no other reason, one... read more

“When are we ever going to use this?” It’s a question that has plagued math classes for years beyond count. The answer to the question depends largely on what is meant by, “this.” If it’s mathematics that is being referenced, then the answer is most likely to be never. If, however, “this,” is taken to mean step by step problem solving, then the answer is a resounding, every day. Consider the following. Recently, I’ve been volunteering at an elementary school teaching algebra to fifth graders. The main problem that I’m seeing is not that they don’t understand the mathematics behind the problems. The problem is that that they haven’t yet learned to approach the problems with a systematic approach. When faced with a new problem, they stumble around with a guess and check approach until they find an answer that works. Contrast that with an experience that I had the other day. My mother-in-law was talking about music time with her class. The students were gathered into... read more

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