Math does not need to be painful! Everyone can learn and benefit from mathematical study. It is simply exercise for the brain. Just like physical exercise, the more enjoyable and less stressful that you make it, the more effective the training and more apparent the results.
Having worked in academic research for the majority of my career, it has been the interaction with and mentoring of students that have been the most rewarding aspects of my work. For the past few years, I have also had the opportunity to home school one of my children and tutor another. My youngest daughter was struggling in the traditional classroom, especially in mathematics; she is now excelling in her studies and is a year ahead of her grade level in mathematics. My son, whom I tutored and helped through online math courses, completed his high school math by 8th grade and last year received a score of 5, the highest possible, on his Calculus AP exam as a high school sophomore. The approach required for these two "students" was drastically different, exemplifying the need to tailor teaching methods to the strengths and needs of the student. In addition to working with my own children, I have also recently tutored a number of college students and volunteered extensively in my local school district.
My degree was received from the University of Minnesota, Institute of Technology, where I graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in Mathematics. I intend to resume my education shortly to attain my teaching certification and further pursue my career in education.
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I have a very strong belief that everyone can and SHOULD learn math. I often compare it to "taking your brain to the gym." We don't learn math because someday our life may depend on finding the slope of a line (most of us anyway!) but because math makes our minds stronger and smarter and there is no time or place where being smarter is not in your best interest. I try to take the stress out of it and turn math into puzzle solving. I am also a firm believer that different students have different learning styles and that a teacher/tutor must adapt.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Find out from the student what their learning goals are and have them describe their strengths and weaknesses. I also like to familiarize myself with their curriculum. I also share a little about myself, why I choose to tutor students and, of course, I give my math pep talk.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
One of the key components of mathematics is practice and more practice. Once a student has mastered one topic, I like to offer them a chance to apply their knowledge in different ways that allow them to extend and build upon what they have already learned.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Frustration kills motivation; success feeds it. Quickly identifying areas of struggle is paramount in mathematics. Often by breaking down the problem, these areas can be quickly identified and focused on until the student attains mastery.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Break the problem down to identify and isolate the area of concern. The specific concept can then be focused on until the student shows mastery.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
First and foremost, get to know the student. I am a firm believer in modifying the instructional approach to adapt to the student's strengths and learning style.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Provide real-world examples of how studying the subject will serve their best interests. You cannot get a student motivated about math by telling them some day their life may depend on finding the slope of a line. You can, however, highlight the fact that mathematics improves critical-thinking skills.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Observing how a student approaches a problem offers additional insight to the standard tests.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
By letting them prove to themselves that they CAN succeed. In math, this often involves breaking problems down, finding the area of concern, and focusing on that specific skill until mastery is obtained.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Students can tell you a great deal about themselves. Listen! You can then initially tailor your teaching approach accordingly and continue to modify it based on observations of and interactions with the student.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Be flexible and listen. Let the student set the initial style, then modify based on observations.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Pencil, paper, computer, calculator, textbook or coursework.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Have the student stop periodically and think about what they have read. Encourage them to go back and re-read anything that may not be clear to them. Take the stigma out of reading pace and put more focus on comprehension and the enjoyment of reading and story-telling.