A photo of Starlie, a tutor from Occidental College

Starlie

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When I was a high school student, I thought math was a boring subject that required zero creativity and even less excitement. As I studied Physics as an undergraduate, I developed a deep appreciation for mathematics as a tool to model just about anything. I took a class called Math, Equity, and Access to Power and was inspired to become a mathematics teacher. After earning a Masters and Secondary Math Credential in California, I taught at an LAUSD school for four years. During those four years, I learned to discern when students were going to need support, what common misconceptions were, and how to best help students be successful depending on their personality and learning styles. My approach to working with your student is to help them develop an understanding of the mathematical topics they are learning in a holistic way. Your child will do more than simply practice problems, they will discuss and explain how the mathematics works. I implement strategies from Kagan and Equity and Access to help keep your child engaged and focused during a tutoring session.

I believe every student has the potential to be successful in mathematics and I am excited to be a part of helping your child succeed.

Starlie’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: Occidental College - Bachelors, Physics

Graduate Degree: University of Southern California - Masters, Teaching

Test Scores

GRE Quantitative: 165

Hobbies

I enjoy learning and teaching math and science, watching soccer, playing music, doing arts and crafts, and playing with animals.


Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

The traditional methods for teaching mathematics focus on students performing mathematical operations. My philosophy on teaching is one that involves context and meaning. Even though many students never use the quadratic formula after they leave high school, understanding complex modeling and a context in which the quadratic formula is useful makes learning more meaningful.

What might you do in a typical first session with a student?

The first thing I always do in a tutoring session is give a diagnostic. I like to know where a student's strengths and areas of improvement are. During the assessment, I carefully watch the student work, noticing where they pause, the mistakes they made along the solution path for different problems, and the decisions students make for problems with multiple solution paths. After the assessment, I ask the student the student specific and intentional questions about what they were thinking at different parts of different problems. This gives me a base understanding of the way a student thinks about each type of problems and allows me to see where a student's misconception may lie.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I use a few different strategies to help students become more independent learners. 1. I do, we do, you do. This practice models for students how to solve problems. First I do a problem and the student watches, observes, and asks questions. Having the student simply watch allows them the opportunity to focus all their attention to the correct process without the distraction of having to write or answer. The second phase is "we do." In this phase, I continue to write as the student instructs me on what to do next. If the student has trouble remembering what was next, I ask a series of questions to prompt their thinking. Next, the student does a problem independently. Again, if there is a step where the student has trouble, I ask questions to prompt the student in the right direction. 2. Use of graphic organizers and other tools. Many students have become accustom to simply asking for help and getting it and sometimes more. To help students become more self-reliant and see the value in the tools they have access to, I create graphic organizers. Sometimes this is a foursquare that facilitates the solution process of a problem. Other times it is a foldable in which students take notes or list the steps to solve different problems. Next time the student has a question about that topic, they can refer to their graphic organizer for help.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

Many students do not like mathematics. I find that most times when I delve into what students do not like about mathematics, it is their belief of what mathematics is. At the end of each tutoring session, I bring in a 5-10 minute activity that helps students see that mathematics is more than basic operations. I have brought in projects like the Pythagorean spiral, probability games, Fibonacci sequence art, and others that help students see the beauty of numbers and patterns.

If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?

I would first use a series of questions to identify the specific point(s) at which the student struggles with the skills or concept. If the struggle is with a skill learned in the past (i.e. when factoring, the problem is really with combining positive and negative values), I work with the student on that specific skill. If the problem is with negotiating different options (i.e. when graphing inequalities, which side do you shade?) I like to have students create a graphic organizer to help student compartmentalize the different parts to the problem.

How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?

I find a lot of students do not enjoy word problems, mainly because it is difficult to sort through the words to find the necessary mathematical parts. When students struggle with this, I help them by giving them different strategies to approach the problem. I model these strategies with the student and slowly take the scaffolds away to help the student work independently.

What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?

Math has been stigmatized to be a very individual subject. Many of the students I have worked with come to me without ever having had to speak up in class. When I first start working with a student, I ask a lot of questions. Sometimes about them, their feelings about math, what they like, and questions about the content we are working with. I believe this process is extremely important because it builds rapport between the student and myself, breaks the "taboo" of talking about math, and gives the student a voice.

How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?

I would show the student videos/imagines/problems that give an example of what the math their learning is like outside of a textbook. I would also have a conversation with the student about their goals, dream, and the path they need to take to get there.

What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?

At the end of a session, I like to do a re-cap of what we worked on. I have the student describe to me what they learned and explain a problem. Sometimes we do this verbally, other times, in the form of a report.

How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?

Baby steps! If a student thinks they're bad a math, they usually have thought this for a while. To help a student gain confidence, I "chunk" learning into bits that are appropriate for each student and give positive feedback along the way.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

There are a few ways I evaluate a student's needs: 1. Communication with teacher and parents 2. Observing how a student solves problems 3. Asking a series of questions that prompts student understanding 4. Analysis of homework and past tests/quizzes

How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?

My experience with teaching has helped me to develop flexibility. If we are moving on to work on factoring, but a student has trouble understanding the properties of exponents, I alter the lesson to be more appropriate. Each student also has emotional and social needs-I have experience working with people of all ages, and try to find ways to make the other person feel comfortable in a space. If a young child is non-verbal or extremely shy, I ask questions that students can respond to in a way they feel comfortable (i.e. can you point to...)

What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?

The materials used really depends on the needs of your student. We may use paper, pens, tape, glue, scissors, protractors, rulers, calculators, etc.