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Over the years, I have started to identify the kind of student with whom I work most effectively, whether in tutoring or in a traditional college setting. My kind of student is one who is serious about learning, is willing to think beyond an immediate problem, and has an open mind. Being serious about learning means that one is actively pursuing knowledge without waiting to be told what should be learned. Understanding that any knowledge gained in this pursuit is a treasure, not a waste of time, is paramount. Knowing that this pursuit extends outside of the classroom and outside of a tutoring session is key as well.   As a tutor, I receive many initial student requests to help with an assignment that is, typically, due within a few days. I generally turn these down and here's why. To me, it is not clear that these students are willing to think beyond what is immediately in front of them. If I have lessons with them, would they accept that I would teach the necessary concepts... read more

There is no such thing as someone who doesn't get math. Instead, it is the teacher who "does not get how to teach math".   I have come across many very good teachers, and the thing that differentiates them from the less amazing ones is this: they do not have a single "tried and true" method. The teachers who do have this type of "tried and true" method always find problem students, and those students get discouraged. However, those students need to know it is not their fault.   When teaching Multivariable Calculus this past semester, which is infamous for failing engineering students at Cornell, my fellow teachers came from different backgrounds. The less experienced ones would always complain about their students "not getting it" and it was because the teachers themselves did not understand the material to a depth that they could explain the math in multiple ways to students.   In my experience, I have... read more

There are three important aspects of tutoring: initial design, day-to-day, and student to tutor rapport.   Design   The first meeting is an assessment where we develop a study schedule and talk about the students needs in order to achieve the goals they set. It's important to allow the student to design the goals with as little aid from the tutor as possible. Allowing the student to set the goals is important since it teaches students time management, something that will serve them well beyond the bounds of the class or classes. Once achievable goals are set, the tutor and student create a Gantt chart or a visual representation of the tasks to achieve their end goal. This visual aid should be updated as much as possible, so they can track their progress and continue to stay focused on the end goal.   Day-to-day   Regular meetings are important to help the student keep on track of their goal, and to help the student learn in areas... read more

Understanding your child's / student(s)' learning styles is one of the most important factors in helping them reach success.  At the end of the day, why else did we become parents or teachers but to watch the next generation learn?  The problem is that we often assume that everyone learns and processes information the same as we do.  If they don't, does that mean there is something wrong with THEM?!  Absolutely not!! Respecting and building on the natural learning style of the learner, in my opinion, is the most important role of the tutor.   In my day, everything was pretty much done by taking turns reading aloud.   The problem for me was that I was not good at processing information while reading aloud nor was I savvy at auditory processing.  For several years I was treated as though something was wrong with me and given that I had an older sister who processed information "normally," I internalized that message for a very... read more

It's sometimes too easy to get bogged down with textbook definitions and explanations, but how many times do students (and even educators) actually understand what it is we're reading? At the end of the day, what we remember is what we discover for ourselves. During education classes in college, my professor time and time again emphasized the important of leading the student to the door, but letting them walk through it themselves. Socrates was notorious for this method. Many of his students got frustrated with him since he rarely gave his own opinion on a matter. Instead, he developed a method that allowed his students to think for themselves, abandoning the lecture technique all-together. Here are three ways of student-centered teaching that Socrates has inspired:   Know when to use lecture.   Lecturing can be productive under the right circumstances, with the right students, and with the right content. However, many times the students only remember bits... read more

Prompt: What do you hope to be doing in 5 years? In 10? How to do you plan to reach these goals and what will motivate you along the way? Growing up, I’ve always wanted to make some “major change in the world”. I dreamed of inventing the newest innovation in technology, or discovering the next important cure. But recently, I realized that sometimes, dreaming too far fails to recognize the importance of the little contributions, the “puzzle pieces” that make up the big picture. Would a person be able to discover the cure for cancer had someone not influence him or her in their life to strive for such a discovery, or had previous scientists not studied the same concept? Long story short, I decided in the end that these little puzzle pieces were more important. As such, I found my still-strong desire to become a teacher, a position in which I could contribute and leave a part of myself in the next generation, and hopefully encourage or contribute to a student’s development into... read more

I believe each child is a star. Every student has the ability to learn and should be given the support and opportunity they need to succeed and reach their full potential. Each child should be seen as a unique contribution to the class and the student should always come first. As a teacher, I am here to keep high expectations of every student and set standards that align to goals that the student wants to achieve. I believe in each child who steps into my classroom and as their teacher I will help them discover who they are as individuals and guide them on their journey of who they want to become. By letting students showcase their unique talents and interests through alternative assessments and assignments, I can make sure every student is having the opportunity to showcase what they have learned while still being the shining individuals that make up my class. I believe teaching and learning needs to be outside the box. As an educator I need to provide creative... read more

Criticism is something that will be done every single day of your life in some aspect. However when it comes to learning, the way we criticize can be harmful to someone's behavior and learning environment.   How many have test anxiety? How many start to feel anxious, or nervous when you get called into your bosses office, or parents office? I know I did. Until I begin to observe and learn students behavior patterns in a testing environment.   Criticism can be positive, it can be something we all enjoy... How? Well it is easy.   Allow the students to express themselves, by now, most everyone has a smart phone, computer, and are part of some type of social media. If you are someone that is responsible for teaching a student so they may be successful, if all you do is criticize poorly, not allowing them to express themselves, whether happy, sad, excited etc.... it will make them have a more difficult time learning the subjects.   Provide... read more

Although new to WyzAnt, I have tutored mathematics for the past four years at college. One thing I notice among many students is a great deal of annoyance towards mathematics. They feel mathematics to be too abstract, rigorous, relentless, and just plain boring. Most students either prefer a subject they will end up using in "real life", or a subject that gives them a sense of wonder. However, the amazing thing about mathematics is how truly wonderful it is for me. Most people who see my attitude towards mathematics (including others who are reasonably adept at math) find this odd or misplaced, and I fully understand their lack of sympathy. Perhaps you are one of them. But I can assure everyone reading this there is something truly mysterious about mathematics that breaches the very foundations of astonishment and awe. Take prime numbers for example. It's pretty clear that you can take any whole number and decompose it down into a product of prime... read more

A question that I have heard many times from my own students and others is this: "When am I ever going to use this?" In this post and future posts, I'm going to address possible answers to this question, and I'm going to also take a look at what mathematics educators could learn from the question itself.   Let's look at the answer first. When I was in school myself, the most common response given by teachers was a list of careers that might apply the principles being studied. This is the same response that I tend to hear today.    There is some value in this response for a few of the students, but the overwhelming majority of students just won't be solving for x, taking the arcsine of a number, or integrating a function as part of their jobs. Even as a total math geek, I seldom use these skills in practical ways outside my tutoring relationships.   Can we come up with something better, that will apply to every student? I say that... read more

I've been through a long journey with music, and have changed my style and genre focus according to what is fun for me. Music is my profession and my passion, so if I'm not absolutely loving it, why bother?   Here are my tips that make my tutoring fun!   1. ASK QUESTIONS! What does my student want to learn? What musicians do they admire? Who do they want to sound like? What songs do they want to cover? Why do they love music so much? This lesson isn't about me, it's about the student. I'm here to help them along on their journey, and give them the skills and reinforcement they need to get there!   2. BE SILLY! Music is personal, and I have experienced musician's shyness myself from time to time. By letting my students know that lesson time is the time to learn, be silly, be yourself, and make mistakes, they can let go of needing to feel "perfect" and just focus on improving! Music isn't about perfection, it's about expression.   3... read more

To many students math is a difficult time consuming process. In many developing countries they learn by rote and memorization. This inefficient teaching method leads to 12+ hour school days. The end result is a student who has less understanding and has learned that math is boring.   I see math as like solving a puzzle and playing detective. Math is how we used to entertain ourselves before video games and smart phones. Ultimately, math is the silent rhythm by which the universe dances. Math is a universal language that transcends historical, cultural and language barriers.

Over the many years I have been tutoring, I have time and again found myself hating the teachers that assign the homework and tests my students have to work on. Of course, this doesn't happen every time, or even most times, but it happens often enough that it prompted me to write this.   The reason I dislike these teachers so much is not related to how much work they create for me (I love my work!) or how much they make my students suffer (they don't), but rather to the fact that I consider some of the things they do to be the mark of a bad teacher. A lazy teacher. A complacent teacher. A teacher more intent on getting a grade from their students that on actually teaching them. A teacher, in short, who should not call themselves 'teacher'.   Naturally, this led me to think about my own teaching style. If I have things to complain about in others, surely I know exactly what I'm doing? A little bit in horror, I realized I had never truly thought about which... read more

         After 30 years of tutoring special education children, I have decided that all academic problems are mine, not the students. Thus, I analyzed what has already been provided in detail to determine what does and does not work. For example, children have different learning styles that are not rigid, but flexible. Each of us may be good at a tactile sport but not efficient at a sport requiring gross motor skills. Or a student may read silently better than aloud, yet prefer to read aloud to younger siblings. Another child may draw a concept better than listening to a teacher's lecture. Learning by both visual and auditory processing may be best for others, who do not prefer writing. Tactile learners can use both visual and auditory means for success.          I was talking with a student about his needs who listened attentively, yet was not making progress. I switched to a visual approach, placing my directions on 3 x 5 cards... read more

"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." This quote, attributed to Albert Einstein (Dodd, n.d.), expresses the idea that is embodied by the Theory of Multiple Intelligences. This theory, developed by psychologist and neuroscientist Howard Gardner, states that intelligence is not a single, fixed attribute--but, rather, multi-faceted in both capacity and degree (Koch, 2012). Far more than what can be measured by an IQ test, the multiple intelligences in Gardner's theory allows for many areas where people can be gifted in varying degrees. There are eight areas of intelligence that are widely accepted, plus three more that Gardner has proposed, but remain tentative. These areas include (Koch, 2012): Linguistic Intelligence, verbal or "word smart"-- the ability to manipulate words and languages; strength in reading, writing and other related applications... read more

Introduction   Teachers carry a tremendous responsibility. Their job is not just to educate the next generation of human beings that may one day shape the destiny of mankind, but they also have the opportunity to inspire the students that enter their classroom--to encourage creativity, to instill confidence and self-esteem, and to help students attain their fullest potential. It is not a profession for the weak or timid--there are many extraordinary qualities that a good teacher must possess. There are many complex issues that must be carefully considered by an individual aspiring to work in this noble field. Attributes of a Good Teacher What is it that makes a "good" teacher? There are several attributes that can be found in those individuals who fit this description.   A good teacher is knowledgeable. He understands the field of teaching as well as learning in the content areas (Koch, 2012). When a teacher makes an effort to know... read more

Title 1 provides academic assistance to selected students who are failing or are at risk of failing to meet the State’s challenging content and student performance standards in reading and mathematics.   The challenge lies in pinpointing where each student is struggling and providing support to each student individually.  You cannot simply help in general terms, you must be specific and goal oriented.   I have found that most importantly, the classroom environment has to allow for every student to be comfortable in trying out new things, making mistakes, learning from them and from other students.   In my Title 1 classes, although I am the teacher, I encourage the students to explain their thought process when solving problems.  Other students will agree or understand a different approach, which is more efficient than just hearing my methods.  The board has now become their scratch paper and they use it constantly to work out... read more

I see a lot of advice going around about why students have trouble solving math problems.  It's always easier to blame the crime on the victim.  So, here is my advice, and it's very simple.  If you are a student not in college yet, and you don't understand some math concept or have trouble solving the problems - well, it's the teacher's fault, not yours.  The solution: find a better teacher!   I know my advice will offend a lot of people because there are a lot of bad teachers out there, especially in Mathematics.  Many teachers below University level think that because they've studied teaching methods, and got some teaching credential, they don't need to understand Mathematical concepts.  They teach Mathematics as a set of rules.  And when the rules don't work they simply give up.   Mathematics is not a right-answer game.  Mathematics is a form of art, just as much as painting or photography.  But many teachers... read more

Growing up, it was common for myself and my peers to consider pursuing career paths that weren't related to education. Being brainwashed by other professions, I never realized my natural gift of teaching until later on when I began tutoring a fellow student in high school.   And to be clear, teaching and tutoring do have their differences. For the sake of simplicity, I'll mesh them together since both serve students and help mold the future generation of leaders.   What I've noticed is that overall value of teaching is unfortunately undermined in many parts of society. Why pursue a career as a teacher when you can be a scientist, engineer, or doctor and make much more money? Who needs teachers now when online education (through the power of Google) can be your best friend?    One moment that struck me was when a fellow college classmate went over a business case study about TFA. He commented that "teaching is so easy, anyone can do... read more

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