Many students make Mathematics harder than it needs to be because they lack confidence. My success in teaching has been due to the ability to give the student that confidence. I have never met a student who could not do the work, only who choose to not do the work. Once a student begins to get the confidence, the fear subsides and they begin to feel better about themselves.
I think mathematics is a key skill that all people should possess. Aside from the direct usage in solving mathematical problems (such as how long it takes to get from A to B and do I have enough gas), but also how to think in a logical manner to solve everyday life problems that probably do not include math.
I have ten years experience teaching in Florida public schools and 27 years experience as an Engineer in the power generation sector. My undergraduate degree is in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Tech and my graduate degree is in Mathematics from the University of Central Florida.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus - Bachelor of Science, Chemical Engineering
Graduate Degree: University of Central Florida - Master of Arts, Mathematics
What is your teaching philosophy?
TEACHING PHILOSOPHY "An experienced and knowledgeable teacher who is comfortable with his/her craft is constantly adjusting the lecture, in real time, to suit the expressions on the students' faces, to suit their responses to queries and prods, to suit the rate and thoroughness with which they are absorbing the material." Author unknown Mathematics is a process of logical learning that is beneficial to many other subjects. The student who is properly trained in mathematics has the skills to logically evaluate many of life's lessons. Mathematics is a language, and as such, it is often difficult for many students to learn. The goal of the Mathematics instructor should be to remove as many of the obstacles that are incorrectly perceived by the student to be in place while at the same time inspiring and challenging the student to learn the material. The Mathematics instructor should recognize those that do well and gently guide those who exhibit problems learning. Many students, mostly those not attempting to obtain a technical degree, have difficulty with Mathematics. This difficulty is often rooted in a fear or a certainty that the student is not good at math. These students also tend to find math boring. My philosophy of teaching Mathematics is to help the students convince themselves that math is not boring, that math can be fun, and that they can succeed in mastering the subject. It is also important for the students to understand that Mathematics is important to their everyday lives, not just a required course for their chosen field of study. For the good student, a problem with lower level Mathematics is boredom. Although the student would still learn on their own, relieving the boredom aids in better attention and understanding. For the not-so- good students, boredom is also a problem, and they can benefit in the same way when this boredom is alleviated. To that end, I try to maintain a high level of discourse during the lectures to keep the students' attention. I try to keep everyone's attention by light humorous conversation and examples of how the material is important to everyday life. I sometimes relate my own experiences. Students need to feel comfortable approaching their instructor with questions during class and for discussion outside of class. Otherwise, the student may fear the teacher or think the teacher does not care about them, which could result in the student withdrawing from the learning process. When a student shows a lack of understanding of a topic, the teacher should guide them in finding the answer without providing the answer unless the student simply cannot find it themselves. The teacher should maintain a high level of discourse during the lectures to keep the students' attention. The teacher should encourage all students to visit during office hours for extra help. I find helping the individual student to be the most rewarding aspect of teaching. Technology has a place in the teaching of Mathematics, but it is not a cure-all. The calculator can be used to illustrate concepts that have already been learned to show the student a visualization of the problem. The calculator can also be used to perform repetitive and/or tedious calculations with the understanding of the principles behind the calculations. A danger of being overly dependent on the calculator is not being able to recognize when the calculator gives an incorrect answer because data or formula were entered incorrectly. If the student understands the concepts, he/she is more likely to be able to estimate an answer to compare to the exact answer given by the calculator. This list is my teaching philosophy I have made to guide myself. It is by no means all-encompassing, but it does provide a basis for what I feel is important. The education of the student is the primary concern, and as an aspiring "good" instructor, I am always looking for ways to improve, to generate more interest in my classes, to create a better environment for learning, and to see better results in my students' comprehension and mastery of the material.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I like to get to know a little about the student. This includes their fears, expectations, strengths, and weaknesses.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I always try to guide a student to the answer rather than directly give the answer. This helps train the student to find solutions on their own.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
To stay motivated, a student needs to gain the confidence that they can learn the material. Once they show themselves that they can solve a problem, they naturally become more motivated for more.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
If difficulty persists, I would try to change the approach of teaching to further break down the concept into simpler pieces. Also, sometimes it is beneficial to relate the problem to something in real life.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Reading comprehension in math is different from reading comprehension in the language/arts. First, a student needs to understand that reading a math text is a slower process than reading a different type of text. One must not get impatient with slow progress.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I like to have the student know that I am very knowledgeable and can help if he or she is willing to be helped. I convey to the student that their success requires effort on their part, but with my help, there is nothing that they cannot accomplish.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Developing excitement in math is difficult for many students. My best approach is a mix of humor to keep them relaxed and taking the content in small bites. Covering small bites develops the confidence and desire for more.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I prefer to not give answers to problems directly. A student who understands the material can work out the problems that I provide with little or no help.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Again, confidence is very important to an understanding and excitement in math. Confidence is built through small steps building to the bigger problem. By sheer repetition, confidence grows.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
First, I ask a student what they think their weakness is. Then, by watching the approach a student takes to solving a problem and what mistakes they make, one can determine their needs.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
After determining where the weaknesses of a student are, I can provide targeted problems that concentrate on practice in those areas.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Over many years of teaching, I have developed the ability to create pertinent problems quickly. As a student's needs are discovered, problems can be provided.