One thing that I have noticed about many of the students I work with is how they go through stages.
At first, students can often be very tentative, shy, and unsure of themselves. They don't know what to work on, what questions they have, or why they are even getting tutored. I'll ask them something like, "Do you have any questions?" and they'll say "no, I pretty much get it"...which doesn't match up with the "C" they just got on their last test.
After students work with me for a few sessions they start to get more comfortable and start asking questions.
As more time passes they start taking more and more responsibility for their math success and have an idea for what they would like to work on in a given session.
Eventually, many students take complete ownership of their tutoring and they want to get the most out of their sessions as possible. When I arrive they have their book and materials out, a list of questions and topics they want to work on and in what order, and are ready to dive in and get to work. They actively take charge of their learning: making notes to themselves, tackling difficult problems, skipping parts they already understand and they have a laser like focus.
Students are getting something even more important than just a better grade or math knowledge out of the sessions. They are learning to be mature self-directed adults. It's great to witness their increased confidence and the skills they are learning will serve them well in college and beyond.
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One thing that I have noticed recently among a few of the students that I tutor is a discouragement with math. These students however have turned their present lack of success in math into a harsh self criticism.
I have talked in previous posts about how math is completely neutral. Your math book is completely unaffected by whether you love it or hate it.
Similarly, just because you make a numerical or calculation error is no reason to berate yourself. I recommend just calmly taking a step back and seeing what it is you don't understand. Once you understand where you went off track you can even completely rework the problem from start to finish. Create the repetition for yourself of doing the problem correctly then pat yourself on the back.
You are excellent at the math that you know you just need to keep building on that strong foundation and keep moving forward.
I recommend a positive approach and positive self talk. Encourage yourself and congratulate yourself on your successes. Look on your mistakes as part of the process needed to get to the understanding you want.
Tutoring can help accelerate the learning process but it is you that are doing the work, asking the questions, making the mistakes, correcting your mistakes and improving. Adding some positive self talk can help you create a more conducive internal learning envirionment plus it makes you feel better too!
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A few days ago I met with a new student and within a short time of beginning the session she made it a point to tell me "I'm really good at other things, but math I struggle with."
I find this really interesting and hear similar things from other students and parents as well. "Johnny is very intelligent but he doesn't put in enough time on his homework." Or, "Kelly is really bright but she has a personality conflict with her teacher."
And sometimes in trying to break the ice with a student and lighten up the session I ask students if they play sports or do other extracurriculars. Come to find out, they tell me that not only do they play football but they are the quarterback(an important position). Or, not only are they on the cheer team but they are the captain(important). Or still yet, they are a leader on student government(important).
What I believe all these students(and parents) want is to be respected, treated with dignity, and seen in a positive light. They don't want to be talked down to, judged negatively, or receive inferior treatment or inferior tutoring.
One of the reasons I feel that I am effective with the students that I tutor is because I really understand and "get this." I treat my students with kindness, patience, encouragement, positivity, respect and dignity. I believe in students' capacity to learn and improve and I recognize that outside of their math class, regardless of their math ability, they have amazing talents and skills and are important as people.
Students pick up on the way they are being treated immediately and they either shut down or they are receptive to the assistance that I am offering. I never try to pretend to be a certain way because young people especially know if they are dealing with a phony. Math is one of those core classes that often requires more time and effort than some others and I understand how it can be challenging.
I got my official start in tutoring working for a retired 30-year Detroit Public School teacher. I asked her once what was her secret and what she told me resonated with me and I never forgot: "When students do something correctly praise them to the moon!" She was a super positive lady and her students felt good about themselves and they did well.
I've been able to make a similar positive impact on a number of students over the years. One in particular goes back maybe 8-10 years now and about once a year I bump into this student's mother in the grocery store. She always tells me how I really helped her son's confidence. He's long graduated from college and is pursuing his dream of being a filmmaker out in California.
As you can imagine, events like these keep me going and reinforce my belief that if you believe in people you create the environment for better learning and even other positive qualities such as better self esteem and self confidence.
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When you play a sport you're aggressive, right? Why not be as aggressive with your math? Of course, we are talking about a positive form of aggressiveness where you aren't sitting watching on the sidelines but rather chomping at the bit to get in the game.
Let me ask you a question: When you are in your class are you leaning against the back of your chair with your arms folded and your pencil lying on your desk?...or are you leaning forward with your pencil in hand actively involved?
When you are doing story problems you should be filling up your paper with diagrams, equations, notes and sentences with intensity!
When I was in college, I was told that when taking a test if I happened to drop my pencil that the students sitting next to me would kick it across the room. The tests were graded on a curve and everyone wanted an advantage over one another. This, of course, is not the aggressiveness we are going for. By the way, this never actually occurred but gives you an idea of how competitive you should be with yourself.
You know that final lap your track coach makes you do before practice is officially over? Or the last 10 push ups and 20 sit-ups before your football practice is dismissed? Likewise, you want to be doing one more challenging word problem, asking one last question, and proving one last theorem.
I've got to tell you a secret. I wasn't the smartest kid in my classes but I worked at school harder than my average classmate. Oftentimes things didn't "click" until that 5th or 10th time...but once I got it - I really got it.
I'm sure a number of students I work with are in that same boat...so keep on working at it, be aggressive, ask for help when you need it, and keep on improving....
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Occasionally I come across a student that absolutely has a bad relationship with math. They don't believe they are capable of being good at math, they don't see the point in it, and they don't want to try and understand it.
I met with one such student recently. We went through the 'mechanics' of how to execute certain mathematical operations. We then took that one step further and discussed some real-life parallels and applications. We then repeated this pattern a number of times and then it occurred to me to ask this student, 'do you like math?'
Aha! Problem solved, or shall I say semi-solved. To make a long story shorter, I could try and teach, assist, and tutor this individual but without an internal shift my efforts would continue to be largely rejected.
My suggestions to a student and family such as this would be to first work on changing the student's relationship with math to more of a friendly one.
Second, there is talk these days of 'helicopter' parents. These are parents that are continually 'hovering' over their children too closely making sure all their i's are dotted and t's crossed, etc. There needs to be a shift in responsibility and accountability from the parent to the child. It may take some time but the parents need to empower the students to be more self accountable, self responsible, and to take pride in their own efforts to learn and manage their time and studying.
As a tutor, I aim to provide good quality instruction in a positive reinforcing manner. When I see obstacles to learning that go beyond just understanding math concepts I will tactfully mention these to parents. I always try to take a positive approach but some aspects of learning go beyond what I can personally provide.
I know of one tutor that won't tutor students unless the parents agree to make sure the students get 8 1/2 hours of sleep minimum per night otherwise he won't continue helping them. I haven't gotten this strict(...yet : ) ) but I do think it's important to continually look at all the factors that contribute to successful learning.
So, in conclusion, first check in with your child and see how they feel about math and their math class. Second, see if they are taking an active role in their own learning. Thirdly, look for other obstacles to successful learning such as lack of sleep, etc. Then allow tutoring to build on this excellent foundation.
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If you have never been tutored or have not found success with tutoring you may be wondering what goes on in a tutoring session-right?
First, let me start by telling you that a tutoring session can potentially be anything you would like it to be. The better a student is prepared with questions, topics they would like to discuss, etc. the more the session can be optimized to what a student would like to see happen.
Not every student is as self directed as above and some students are overwhelmed, lost, or at a loss as where to begin so I have a time tested approach that I generally follow and one which I find works for most students.
I start off by asking if there are any questions or concepts they don't understand. If so, we go over those items first. Then we spend some time going over current concepts followed by reviewing past topics and previewing upcoming sections. Lastly, we simulate the test taking experience to uncover hidden areas of difficulty and to iron out areas of confusion before exam day.
I've mentioned what can be covered in a tutoring session but I should also mention what should be avoided.
You don't want to turn your tutoring sessions into homework completion sessions. It's ok if you need some help with some problems on your homework but you don't want to spend your valuable time with a tutor just doing homework. Attempt to complete your homework before you meet so you can spend time on the few problems you might not understand.
Don't use your tutoring sessions as a replacement for classroom learning. Combine the two together so that they build on one another and you further refine and solidify your understanding.
Lastly don't be satisfied with 'good enough' and go into 'coasting' mode. Challenge yourself to go further and achieve higher than you even thought possible. Synergistically combine your effort, your classroom learning and your tutoring for optimum results!
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Mario DiBartolomeo shares his enthusiasm for learning through the math tutoring (PreAlgebra through PreCalculus) he offers and through his blog at www.mariosmathtutoring.com
Copyright 2015 Mario's Math Tutoring
What do you want from tutoring?
As this school year begins take a few moments to ask yourself what you want from your tutoring. If you know what you want this will help you focus your efforts toward your desired goal(s). Now, I must say that parents have hopes and dreams for their children but if the students themselves don't share those same ambitions there will be a disconnect and mixed results.
Let's look at some of the outcomes students may want to achieve from their tutoring:
1) Higher grades (this seems always to be #1 doesn't it?)
2) More confidence (less able to be quantified but also important)
3) Less Stress (Tutoring can help you get a grip on where you are at, help you review, and even get a head start so you are better prepared and ready for what comes your way)
4) Less time spent studying to achieve the same or better result(Tutoring can accelerate your ability to understand and apply concepts but still requires your own independent study)
5) Deeper Understanding(going beyond just good enough, and "passing" the test)
6) Study Skills and Organizational Skills(Learning how to learn will help students as they go on into college and are expected to be more self-directed in their studying)
...and I'm sure you can come up with even more beyond these but this is a start...
I have some additional things that I would like for students to get from tutoring as well...
1) Learn how to take an active(not passive) role in your learning. Know what you want to get out of your sessions and ask questions. Be involved and aim to get the most out of your sessions.
2) Have Fun. Really get immersed in the learning process and be interested in what you are studying. Even if it doesn't seem on the surface that interesting if you look at it more deeply and dive into it you will find something that is fascinating about what you are studying and will make learning easier and more satisfying too.
3) Don't be afraid of what you don't know. Students often tell me, "Oh this is so easy!" And I agree...What you don't know is difficult but once you really understand it it's super easy. So dig wholeheartedly into the tough stuff so that it can be "so easy."
I'm looking forward to helping you make this a great year. As I always say: Don't hesitate to call me, text me or e-mail me anytime and I'll get back to you ASAP.
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Sometimes parents call me and say, "you tutored so and so can you tutor my child? When can we start?" These parents know, like, and trust their friends, coworkers, etc. so they feel confident about working with me. Other parents read all about me on my website and get a feel for me, my personality, and my tutoring style. Still others want to know more so that's what this blog post is about...
Where do you teach/Why don't you teach in the schools?
Great question! When I did my student teaching at Ann Arbor Huron High School I found to my dismay that a lot of students weren't interested in learning(and they made it difficult for others to learn and extremely difficult for me as a classroom teacher). I made the decision that I only wanted to work with students who actually wanted to learn. They don't have to be great at math but as long as they have a willingness to improve and work at it I'm happy to help. So long story short, I passed all my certifications, received my degree in secondary education from the University of Michigan but at the present time I only work individually or with small groups of students as a private tutor.
How did you get into tutoring?
There is a retired Detroit public school teacher named Mrs. Sweet who gave me my first regular opportunity to work individually with students. She ran 4 tutoring centers in the area that no longer exist. I once asked her, "After 30 years as a teacher, what is your secret?" She told me, "When students do something correctly praise them to the stars!" I've always remembered this and she is one of the people I credit with helping me to be a good tutor.
Are You Married?
This is kind of a funny one because I'm not sure how to take this or where people are going with this one : ) I'm engaged to be married. No date set yet.
Where Do You Live?
I have lived in the Rochester/Rochester Hills area for many years. My fiancee and I recently bought a house in Rochester Hills.
How Old Are You?
This is a funny one too! Remember Doogie Howser, M.D.? It was a T.V. show about a child prodigy who became a doctor at a young age and on the show nobody could believe that here was this kid who was treating patients. Anyhow, people always wondered how old he was. If you remember the show then you'll have a clue of my age.
How Many Students Do You Tutor?
I don't share this information because a quick math calculation would tell you my income as well and.... well... that's kinda personal...right? But just so you don't think I'm practicing tutoring for the first time on your student....I actually work with quite a few students! I really enjoy it and wish I had even more time to offer to students and families.
Now you know some of the common ones I frequently get asked. If you have others let me know...I can add them to this post. And now that you know a lot about me...you'll have to tell me something about you!
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Ok, I hope you are enjoying your summer but I know in what seems like the blink of an eye school will be starting once again.
So, right now as you are enjoying the wonderful relaxation of summer, set a goal for yourself this year with regard to your math performance.
If you normally get C's make it your goal to get a solid B this year. If you usually get B's make it your goal to get up into the A/A- range, etc.
Ok, now that you've set your goal, work backwards from there.
What will it take to get that result? Daily studying? Extra help from your teacher or classmates? Studying and practicing for quizzes and tests(not just taking them)?
Ok let's take another step backward from there.
Make a list of all the things you have to do, want to do, and would like to do and block off the time that you will dedicate to all your activities. Is math in there? Figure out when you will do your math and study your math(two different things!)
I used to use different strategies when I was in school. Sometimes I would do the subject I disliked the most...to get it out of the way and off my plate. Other times I would do the most important thing first to make sure if I ran out of time that at least that one was completed. And still other times I would get the little things done first to help me feel like I was checking things off and building up momentum before tackling the dreaded subject. Find out works for you and use/devise your own special hacks to maximize your results.
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I'm always encouraging students I work with to continually improve. I, too, work on continually improving my math skills and tutoring skills. In addition to the in-person tutoring that I offer, I'm now adding online tutoring! The possibilities here are endless. If a student is out of town, but still would like to get some tutoring in, we can still meet. Or, some of the seniors I work with go onto college but occasionally wish that they could review some concepts - now they can. And I'd like to make Mario's Math Tutoring available to English speaking students in other places around the world. My first priority is with my local in-person students and would like to use this mode of tutoring to further help them, but it will also be great to help others too. -Mario
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Helping students succeed in math for over 15 years. Individualized attention makes the difference!