One thing that I notice is that when students get good at doing mental math(math calculations in their mind as opposed to on their calculator or on paper) they really light up with a sense of confidence and accomplishment. This fuels a positive cycle that propels students to convince themselves that they are indeed good at math and to enjoy getting even better at it. It all starts with knowing your basic multiplication tables, then understanding a bit about the distributive property, and it goes on from there. Take a look at the video below it truly is amazing! You don't have to be as good as this guy but learning a few mental math tricks can go a long way to helping you with almost every math problem you do, making it quicker, and more fun.
Should you get a private tutor for your child or take them to the local Mathnasium, Kumon, or Sylvan? That depends on a number of factors:
What grade is your child in?
If your son or daughter is in 6th or 7th grade or lower I will often recommend this route to parents. These centers really give students the fundamentals they need to be successful at math as they progress to the higher grades. Students become comfortable with all their multiplication tables, fractions, decimals, develop an overall good number-sense, and more.
Are general math skills needed or help with what your child is working on in their class today?
Often these math learning centers have their own math curriculum that a student progresses through step by step at their own pace. But, if what your child needs at the moment is help with what is happening yesterday, today, and tomorrow in their class then private tutoring is often a better option.
Group sessions or individual one-to-one attention?
If your child is easily distracted or very much confused or challenged currently in their class then 1 on 1 tutoring could be more effective.
All of these are worth considering when deciding which is the best fit for your child and they both have their good points.
Is it ever too late to improve? Of course not. At least I don't think so. As soon as a student decides THEY want to make more of an effort things can start to turn around for them. I just bumped into a former student today that is just about to graduate college. This particular student really decided to take it up a few notches once they got to college. They started really digging into their math now that they had a clearer picture of where they were going and that math was a hurdle that they needed to get over to get there.
There are so many factors as to why a student doesn't excel in math. It could have to do with a student's early experiences with math that caused them to perceive themselves as 'bad' at math. It could be a lack of effort. A bad repoire with their math teacher could be a deciding factor. A lack of understanding the fundamentals or a poor background with previous math courses can be one's downfall, as well as many many more possibilities exist.
Almost regardless of the cause, a student can begin the process of turning things around. Numbers are not going anywhere anytime soon. It's not like you are trying to keep up with a moving target that keeps changing every month or year. So, realizing that, you can begin to go back over what you don't understand with patience and calmness and with a new perspective. What you didn't get before now you can begin to understand which will in turn make other concepts that depend on those fundamentals easier as well. You will begin to fill in the gaps and be able to see how the pieces of the whole fit together. Start where you are and improve from there. The best time to plant an apple tree is 20 years ago but the second best time is today, as the saying goes!
Ok you've taken the test and you've gotten a lower grade than you hoped for. You look at the ones you missed and you say, 'I know how to do those now.' Does this sound like you? Why is it that you know the concepts but the test doesn't reflect your 'knowledge?'
One of two things is at work here:
1. Either you understand but haven't put yourself through a simulated test taking experience, thus proving to yourself that you need more practice.
2. You are in fact catching on but you are a half step behind where you need to be to really excel on your test.
In the former situation, more practice is the remedy. Make sure you aren't just a spectator but an active participant and are putting pencil to paper and working through the steps yourself. If you are in the second camp, you need to get ahead of the game. You need to flip the situation around to where you are a half step ahead. You can do this on your own or with a friend or tutor. Here's what you do: right before class or the night before quickly skim the next section and mentally create the container for what's coming. Some teachers jump around, so you can periodically ask your teacher what's coming up next. You can also preview upcoming topics with a tutor or even watch a few Youtube videos. Hope that helps...if you KNOW a fastball, sinker, or curveball is coming you'll be ready for it.
The end of the third quarter is quickly approaching and with the onset of some nice weather ahead keep focused and prioritize your studying.
Changes are coming to Rochester area students in the very near future. As you've probably heard by now, the district is swiching over from the ACT test to the SAT test which itself is being revised this summer.
The SAT differs in that there are actually two math sections as opposed to just one on the ACT. Also, did you know that you actually lose points if you get a problem wrong? It is only 1/4 of a point, but if you absolutely don't know the answer or can't narrow down some of the choices, guessing can work against you. Furthermore, 20% of the test is "free response," whereas the ACT is 100% multiple choice. On the SAT you bubble in the answers to these questions as a fraction or rounded decimal.
Furthermore, the terminology that is used is being changed to reflect our current use of vocabulary. Content is being geared to better suit what is needed in current college degree programs and careers.
All of this is being rolled out starting this summer(2015) and it looks like juniors will begin taking this new SAT test starting in the spring of 2016.
For more information see
I think technology is making us all a little short on attention and patience too! Lately, what I've been seeing are students who 'don't do' story problems. Whether these story problems are in their math homework or even on the ACT. Are story problems more difficult than regular problems? Maybe a little bit, but after all, math problems in real life are actually story problems, right?! What I recommend is to work with a lack of patience or short attention span and just plow right through those story problems. That's right! Read as quickly as you can through the problem without pausing at all. Even read quickly through the multiple parts a, b, c, and d too all in one go. If you feel yourself getting weak, light headed, or bogged down, go even faster. Get yourself over the initial hurdle...then go back and find out what the question is asking you to solve for(hint: it's usually asked in the last sentence). Then, draw a diagram if applicable, identify your variables, write an equation, then solve. Done!
Here is a concise list of must know topics for doing well on the ACT:
1. Slope formula
2. Distance formula
3. Midpoint formula
4. Equation of a circle
5. Equations of lines (parallel and perpendicular)
6. Area and volume formulas of common shapes
7. Pythagorean theorem and Pythagorean triples.
9. Rules of exponents
14. Trigonometry(soh cah toa)
15. Special right triangles 30-60-90 and 45-45-90
16. Multiplication counting principle
17. Percentage problems
19. Graphs of lines and inequalities
20. Reading and interpreting charts and diagrams.
The key to doing well on the test is RECOGNIZING what the problem calls for and knowing which of the concepts above to apply. This is where experience makes all of the difference. I tutor students on the math section of the test and what I do is have them take a number of ACT tests on their own and then after each time we go over the ones that they miss and I point out what concept is DISGUISED in the problem and a more direct way of solving it. The experience gained is very valuable but it is experience that has to be gained by the student themselves through EXPERIENCE with the test and wrestling with the problems and learning when to apply the various topics mentioned above. This I feel is the best way to spend one's time in preparation for the math section of the test. Again, I am very familiar with the test and have helped many students improve their score but there isn't any secret beyond knowing the key topics and taking a lot of practice tests and have someone point out what to look for and apply to the ones that you miss. Someone just informed me today that their score went up a full 7 points since I started tutoring them. They put in the effort and there is still room for even more from this particular student.
I work with a lot of students on a daily and weekly basis and students often impress me with their high level of efficiency. From how quickly they can locate something in their book or notes to how they prioritize what they don't understand and want to work on in the sessions. Math may not be their favorite subject, but their laser like focus, level of intensity, and willingness to jump right into the heart of it all allow them to quickly overcome any obstacles that may be in the way of their understanding. Not to be confused with hastiness though. Some students may want to hurry through their homework, assignments, and quizzes to be 'done,' but this is something entirely different. It's a willingness to engage fully with math and learning in general with the speed and attention with which teenagers type text messages or play video games. They work at their own pace yet they are challenging themselves and adapting to subtle nuances and variations and integrating these into their understanding like a giant snowball expanding with each successive turn. See if you can cultivate an efficient approach to learning. It starts with a willingness to learn something, right? Being organized helps too. Followed by asking questions on sticking points helps to continue propelling oneself forward. Lastly, being reflective. Pay attention to how your time is being spent. How could it be spent better? Tutoring also can be part of an effective efficiency plan, especially when added to a student's own class and individual efforts.
When I work with students I am cognizant of the fact that I have a limited amount of time to convey a math concept or idea. A student will ask a question or may make a misstep in solving a problem and I know that once I start talking I only have their attention and open-mindedness for a short amount of time. This is for a number of reasons. One reason is that some students just want to know the answer to the current question that they are working on and not necessarily anything more. Another reason is some students have limited patience and/or attention span. A third reason is that some students can get bogged down by too much information. So what is a tutor to do? I am careful to choose my words and examples carefully so as to make maximum impact in the short amount of time that I have their attention and open mind. I aim to answer their questions plus give them a little more to deepen their understanding and improve their math skills.
We could fill up volume after volume discussing this topic but still let's go into it a little bit here. I periodically ask students how they are doing in their math class and what grade they are getting. Sometimes the answers to these questions don't seem to match. A student may say, 'I'm doing good.' What grade are you getting? 'B-' is the response. Some students are just coasting by and not putting in a good effort and seem to casually accept a B- as good 'enough' though they know they could achieve higher. On the flip side, some students are taking an advanced math class or honors class and are working their tail off and earn every percentage point of that B- and are discouraged. There are so many factors that determine what grade a student may get that I wouldn't rush to make any self judgements such as 'I'm not good at math' or 'I'm not A material,' etc. Math is a collection of topics. Some like Geometry you may enjoy while others such as Probability you may abhor. One chapter you may completely ace and with the next you may have quite a struggle. Some teachers make math easy for you to understand and you may resonate with their style of teaching while others you may not. In spite of everything you need to ask yourself if you are putting in your best effort and if there is a way you can improve or are you doing your best already. When the grades come in you can see if you want or need to change your approach.
Helping students succeed in math for over 15 years. Individualized attention makes the difference!