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You might wonder what emotion has to do with learning, and why I am writing a blog about sleep and emotion. If you think about it, though, how you to react challenging situations - the emotions you feel, and the cognitions, physiology, and behaviors that accompany them - can have a profound impact on how you learn. Indeed, emotional reactivity can have a profound impact in multiple domains, but in this blog we will focus on its impact on learning. Modern neuroscience is not necessary to understand that sleep is fundamentally important. However, it increasingly allows us to understand why that is the case. Andrea Goldstein and Matt Walker reviewed the literature on sleep and emotion and make a compelling case for the causal role of sleep in optimal affective brain function. For our purposes, I want to focus on the overarching theme of how sleep deprivation diminishes effective emotional reactivity. When people are sleep deprived for even one night, functional... read more

The Importance of Study Skills Study, as defined by Oxford Dictionaries, is the “devotion of time and attention to acquiring knowledge on an academic subject, especially by means of books; a detailed investigation and analysis of a subject or situation.” Merriam-Webster defines study as an “application of the mental faculties to the acquisition of knowledge”. My personal definition is a combination of both. To study is to devote time and energy/attention to gain an understanding and knowledge of a subject. Study skills, therefore, are the set of strategies that are used to adequately acquire and gain knowledge about a chosen topic or subject. When we possess these skills or strategies, we are able to increase the efficiency of learning. We are also able to increase the likelihood that what we are to be learning is retained in our long term memory for future use. Which brings us to the definition of learning. Learning is a lifelong skill, that when successful and... read more

As we get closer and closer to the end of the academic year, a lot of math students will be studying for exams.  Some of these tests are comprehensive exams that cover everything from day one to the day before the test.  I believe that as tutors, we need to help those we teach with ditching old, faulty study habits in favor of successful, incremental approaches.   What is the biggest bad study habit you might ask? Cramming...   Cramming, at best, will help students remember the material the day of the test and promptly forget it the next or, at worst, actually degrade their academic performance.     Researchers at UCLA have found that excessive "cramming" actually makes students perform worse on average than those who adopted daily study habits.  This was published in the Journal of Child Development in 2012.  In another study conducted by Time.com in 2011, the average student who crammed for the exam only passed... read more

Our understanding of the relationship between memory and learning continues to improve. Why not benefit from the latest research by incorporating some of these findings into your own study habits? I help my students come up with creative ways to do this all the time, and wanted to share one of the more helpful summaries I've come across about what works and what doesn't.    Here are a few highlights: Link new information to things you already know Actively participate in your own learning Create both a visual and a verbal memory for the same information Whenever possible, study in an environment that is similar to the testing environment Spread studying out over several days, rather than cramming Avoid multitasking when learning difficult or dense material Review information you're trying to memorize right before you go to sleep Quiz yourself frequently to practice retrieving these memories, making them stronger in the process   You... read more

Here is a study tip for all you science students.     Go to the library and find all the textbooks you can on your given subject - especially for Organic Chemistry.  Since I am referencing Organic, I will use the subject as an example.   When I was in first semester Organic Chemistry, there was an Emeritus Professor who left the department.  He was a great teacher, but more than that, he was a mentor and a friend to many of the undergraduate students.  When he left, his office still had all of his books in it and come to find out, he left all the books to the department.     There were only a handful of students who went to collect books and see if we wanted any of them.  I found a page labeled with the semester, year and exam number next to a problem.  That gave me the idea that there are books with old exam questions.   So, I not only took all the books that I could to practice the problems... read more

It is hard to believe Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was first published nearly 30 years ago. Although all 7 habits are excellent tools for both tutors and students, I believe the Second Habit -- "Begin With the End in Mind" -- can play an important role in creating the foundation for a productive and satisfying learning partnership.   For example, it is no use for a tutor to expect a student to go back and read the assigned book when the analysis paper is due in 48 hours. Similarly, a parent will be bitterly disappointed if they expect an "A" in Chemistry after only a few tutoring sessions. And a student shouldn't expect to learn a semester's worth of Physics without completing a single assignment.   Tutors can start this conversation by asking a few key questions: "What would you like to accomplish during our time together?" and "How would that accomplishment look to you?" Follow up questions... read more

As a college student with a difficult major and two minors, my timetable is my best friend.  It's not an exaggeration when I say that I live and breathe by it.  I don't schedule anything without looking at it, and if anyone (friend, professor, boss, etc.) asks me, "Do you have free time at [X]?", I just email them a copy of it.   If you don't have a timetable, then that might be why you can't seem to manage your time properly.  And I don't just have my classes scheduled.  Every single thing I ever have to do is logged in it.  This includes, but isn't limited to :   Classes Work study Work (outside of work study, like here!) Meal times Homework times (further divided up by class) Tutoring appointments (for me and my classes) Extracurriculars (the number of which has shrunk as my college career has gone on) Cleaning the apartment Me time (because who can live without down time?) Sleep time Now,... read more

Everyone knows that in order to do well in school you have to study. No-brainer (all-brainer?). However, what a lot of people don’t know is that what you do while you study can make or break your GPA. I’m not talking about the material you’re studying, because professors usually make PowerPoints or study guides to help you narrow down the material. I’m talking about the little habits that you developed that you didn’t know even played a role. So, without further ado, here are the 5 habits you should try to break immediately when you study.   1. You aren’t taking breaks   Sometimes students think that if they’re going to study, they need to sit down and get it over with. Maybe they think they can power through and that if they take a break they’re wasting valuable time. This couldn’t be more wrong! If you’ve ever heard of HIIT (high intensity interval training) routines, you know that this type of training is used all of the time and is meant to give you “more... read more

We've all had those days when the sun is shining beautifully, and we're stuck inside at a desk. Wouldn’t it be great to find places to write, or study, that actually capitalized on all that vitamin D and felt inspiring and comfortable enough for effective work?   Heck, yes!   Here are four outdoor venues that can help aid in creativity and success:   1. Coffee shops. Coffee and tea shops are great choices if you’re communal and don’t get too easily distracted by the hubbub. One suggestion is to claim a table outside—in the sunshine if you’re writing or in the shade if you’re on a laptop. This way, you get some fresh air and a taste of what’s going on in the world, yet there are less distractions.   2. Parks. Picnic blankets are your best friend when it comes to park writing time, as are big beach towels and camp chairs. Personally, with chronic back pain, I’ve laid out on a blanket in the sun for a good hour or two before rotating... read more

The most requested tutoring subject is MATH! Many students struggle with math (algebra, geometry, calculus) because there is no easy way to learn it. It is nice to have someone to break it down for you and talk you through your problems. But, what happens when you do not have your tutor next to you?!?!   PANIC?! OF COURSE NOT!   Although it is my duty for you to have a firm grasp on the math concepts, I may not always be there when you need me (of course, I will always try =)). What I used as a math student and what I use as a math tutor is a study "cheat-sheet" guide. I would make my own cheat sheets that broke down steps and had formulas with explanations of what each variable meant. This was a HUGE HELP when learning new concepts or having to remember old concepts for a final exam.   As you continue to learn new concepts, you add it to your cheat sheet. These should be very short blurbs like a formula or a short example of the problem... read more

Sure, we have all heard our math teachers say "Study for your test tomorrow." While we can all agree the importance of studying and getting prepared for an exam, not many math teachers actually tell you HOW to study. I am sure we have all spent time making flash cards, staring at our notes, or watching last minute videos on youtube, only to realize the test results often don't correlate to our effort. Before long, these upsetting experiences and test results created a scar in our minds, that statement we have all heard before: I am just not good at math.   The truth of the matter is, many people who have expressed their inability to understand and perform well on mathematics simply don't know how to study for a math exam. After all, those negative signs and multiple choice questions are often so tricky, even though you calculated every step correctly until the very end, all it took was one single mindless error that can well ruin the entire result. If we closely... read more

Would you like to earn a grade that is one letter higher?    Here's the tip!   Before you turn in your paper, make sure to follow these basic steps:   Make sure you answered all the questions.  After all that work you don't want to miss points because you forgot to go back to that question you skipped. Make sure you followed the directions all the way.  Be careful and re-read the directions for each section.  Sometimes students miss a lot of points because the questions were two part questions, and the students only answered one part on each question.  In which case, half of the points would be lost. Make sure to double check all calculations if doing math work, and double check punctuation, spelling, and grammar if writing an English document.  Sometimes students miss points because they were going a little too fast, or for whatever reason made "silly" mistakes.  Just double check.  That... read more

There are two basic levels of study skills with which I attempt to help people. The first is what we might call basic or rudimentary skills. These have to do with establishing good habits that lead to successful study. The latter is more advanced and has to do with conducting research, discerning the authenticity and value of sources, and so on. The purpose of this article is to provide basic advice to those struggling with basic study habits.   Difficulties with basic study habits are usually rooted in a lack of understanding of the subject being studied -- leading to frustration -- and general distractions. If you are having trouble progressing in your studies consider trying the following:   Study at the Same Time Every Day Find a time of the day when you typically feel calm and there aren't a lot of interruptions. Make that your routine study or self-improvement time. With practice, this will condition your mind to go into "study mode"... read more

Just the other day  I had a conversation with a parent about what's wrong with schools today.Among many things, we agreed that students don't get the chance to really learn the material. They just don't practice the skills enough. Is it because they spend all their time preparing for standardized testing? Is it lack of time in the classroom? Or is it just plain old boring ? Well, boring or not,  repetition is necessary. You heard me right. If you practice something over and over again you will remember it! I can prove it . Marketing gurus use this all the time.  How many of you reading this blog know about the Geico Gecko? Now prior to that commercial, how many of us would have known to call that green  lizard a "Geico"? Very few, I am sure. We would've just said it was a lizard but  because we have seen that commercial pop up on our screen thousands of times. We know about the Geico Gecko even if we didn't want to know about it.  Here's the... read more

I recently read an article which reported the favorite books of 50 celebrities (actors, musicians, politicians, etc). I noticed that several of them mentioned that they started out hating reading because it seemed to always reminded them of schoolwork and school until they made a special connection with a particular book. After that, reading became a joy!   I've long found this attitude surprising because I can't remember a time (after I learned to read, of course) when I didn't love to read. Weird, right? I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority here, but I think I can explain why reading has just never felt like a chore:   1. My parents never placed restrictions on what my siblings and I could read.   This may seem like a terrible idea to parents wary of their children getting their hands on "Fifty Shades of Gray" and similar age-inappropriate material, and I can't blame them. While my parents did not place formal restrictions, they made... read more

I remember how nervous I was during every major test in my life. The SAT, AP Tests before undergraduate school. Then there was the dreaded GRE required for admission to graduate school. Fast forward: my master's degree test involved a full day of writing (with no notes or books). My doctoral exams involved a full day of writing, three times a week for one week (also with no notes or books). Talk about torture! And then there was the faculty review ... whew! But you know what? I needn't have been nervous and neither should you, because "testing" begins the minute you walk into the classroom door. If you pay attention in class, do your homework, stay focused (you can always "play" later), take good care of your mind and body -- exercise a little to relieve stress and stay healthy -- and create a peaceful environment in which to study a little bit every day during the school week, you should be able to retain information and write to the best of your... read more

A lot of people - especially high schoolers and college students - are anxious about math and other subjects. Do you know why? It is because they take them and their ability to achieve high marks in them as a measure -maybe the only measure - of their worth. They are terrified of failing and of losing out, be it on money or prestige or anything they value. Or maybe they're anxious about some future scenario like getting into college. They kick themselves to work harder, achieve more, but this never works. The only way to understand anything is in the present. Presence makes problems easy or irrelevant.    You can practice presence in many ways. One good way is to sit quietly doing nothing. Another is to fix your eyes on a point for five minutes. Yet another is to repeat a sound for a long time, or count to a large number. The ability to be still inside is so important. It lets all things be known.

In my experience as an educator, certain factors are more intimately tied to academic success than others. The all-too-common assumption often made by those struggling in the classroom is that some students are born intelligent, while others are not. This assumption generally takes it for granted that intelligence is some innate property, with the unfortunate effect that those who feel they are less intelligent often feel discouraged and are tempted to give up. If you have struggled with the temptation to accept a failing or barely passing grade, then I hope I can offer you ways to improve! While it is true that different individuals possess different levels of intelligence, I have not found intelligence to be anything like the most important determinant of success. The reason that intelligence alone is insufficient for long term success is that just because a person has a quick mind, or can understand difficult material faster than the average person does not mean that she possesses... read more

Many students do not realize that they need to invest time and focused personal study in order to pass challenging subjects such as Geometry, Algebra II, Advanced Math, Chemistry, or AP English.     These classes need to be taught carefully, step by step, and the student needs to make sure they master each class before entering the next class.     Many students do not take the time to look up vocabulary words they might not be familiar with.  The student should use a good dictionary, look up each unfamiliar word, write down the word and its definition so that the student can learn the word, even if it has not been explained in class.  This way the student can build upon prior knowledge.     Students need to sit and read, carefully and thoughtfully, about their subject matter.  Alone, with no distractions.   And they need to develop these habits as they proceed along throughout high school and college... read more

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