It may not seem like it to many students, but learning should be fun, or at least not stressful. My goal as a tutor is to help students recognize that, with a little help, they can enjoy learning without needless upset. My goal is to teach not only the subject matter, but also reinforce methods of learning, which will carry over to all their subjects.
I have a BS degree in Economics (honors) and Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin Madison, and a Masters degree in Economics from Stanford University. After leaving graduate school, I taught Economics and Business Statistics for five years at several universities, including Tulane and SDSU. For the last 25 years, I have worked in the utility and energy industries as an economist and analyst, performing cost allocation and rate design, developing policy and designing electric markets. This combination of experience means that I bring not only an understanding of the material, but the ability to communicate that information in a clear way while showing how the material will be useful to students in the future.
My approach to tutoring starts with getting to know the student, so that I am familiar with his/her interests and background. In Math and Statistics especially, I've found that students learn better when the problems and examples are in areas that the students are interested in and already understand. I also find it is important for students to not simply learn to plug numbers into formulas, but to understand what the formulas do and why one would use the formula and technique. I often start by demonstrating how to solve a problem, but then will watch the student attempt a similar problem. Students learn much better by actually doing, rather than just watching, but they need to be led through the process. I also emphasize skills such as how to approach problems, test-taking strategies, and good study habits.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Wisconsin-Madison - Bachelors, Economics and Mathematics
Graduate Degree: Stanford University - Masters, Economics
Electric markets; bicycling, hiking, and motorcycles
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I believe that the first important factor in helping a student to understand the math is to use it connection to something that the student is interested in. Oftentimes the student already does something similar or could find the problem applicable to something they are interested in and, putting it in such a form will help them understand it. It is also important that the student realize that they can get the concept if it is explained well.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Understand the student's issues, background and interests. This helps explain problems or concepts in a way that the student will understand and be interested in, and can help me to see if their problem might be tied to test taking issues. If this is the case, the student can be helped by explaining test taking strategies, as well as ensuring that they understand the subject.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
By teaching them to think of problems in terms of something they are interested in, and showing them how concepts often build on previous concepts. I think it is important they begin to understand these ideas and then start to work through new concepts in the same way.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
To keep a student motivated, the most important tool is to be encouraging and ensure that they see their work is paying off in being more successful with the problems. It is also helpful to explain how what they are learning will be useful in the future, either in other classes, or when they are out in the real world.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
The first thing to do is to make sure that they understand the underlying concepts. Walking through the entire process for a problem, even if the student believes that they can skip some of the easier steps, may show that the student actually needs to brush up or re-learn those concepts in order to be able to understand the new concept. It is also important to continually encourage the student, and take each step slowly so the student sees they are actually making progress and will eventually learn the whole concept.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I'm teaching mostly math and economics, so this won't be an issue. However, what I believe is important is to encourage the students to read many different things and discuss them.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
The exact strategies often depend on the particular student and what issues they are having. I believe that the most effective strategy is to use examples from areas that interest the student - students feel more comfortable, and don't have to worry about understanding an example they know nothing about. Also, they often intuitively do what the concept that is being taught does. For example, in statistics, I've had students who were struggling, but could do very complex calculations about baseball, such as batting average; putting examples in terms of these sports statistics makes use of things they already understand.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
The answer to demonstrate to the student how the subject can be useful to them, either in a hobby they pursue, or how it will be helpful to them later in life, when they are working, for example.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
After showing them how to do a specific problem, give them a similar one and ask them to do it on their own. Then walk through it with them. This allows them to reinforce how to do the problem, and allows me to see if they get it, or where they may be having issues. The problem should be similar, but not exactly the same as the one we did together.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
It is important to always be encouraging, and to start with simple problems and advance only when they can solve the easier problems.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
The most important thing to ask the student what they feel they need help with. In addition, by working through problems with the student it will become evident what areas are giving them the most problems.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
By listening and observing the student. Some students need a lot of help learning the material and you will need to help them through numerous examples. Other students simply need someone to watch what they are doing and let them know when they have made an error. For students like this, simply point out something they have missed will put them on the correct track, and they will then work through the solution on their own.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I prefer to work with the book and homework, and tests from the student's teacher. This means the student is learning what and how the teacher wants, which is important for doing well in the class. If the student needs additional methods I will bring those in, but show the student how they relate to how their teacher is teaching.