My goal has been to become an educator for over a decade now. I was inspired at a young age by educators in my favorite grade school subject throughout High School. Ever since, I’ve wanted to leave marks of inspiration in other people. However, this is not my only objective.
I’ve seen fellow students struggle in the subject of Mathematics and as my experiences and awareness grew it seemed to me that the “great” teacher, the one that is able to communicate with a variety of people, were in short supply. My perspective on subjects allows me to view things in a variety of ways allowing me to create different methods of explaining the same problem. This skill helps me to find the most efficient descriptions of processes based on the student. Different people need different explanations for the same material. This has been proven time and time again from my helping with Calculus as a teacher’s assistant to Statistics; as a teacher at the college level to helping children learn fractions. My wish is to help students build a confidence through what they know and discover that they know more than they give themselves credit for.
SUNY at Fredonia - Bachelors, Mathematics
Rochester Institute of Technology - Masters, Applied Mathematics
What is your teaching philosophy?
There are many things potentially laying in a student’s way of learning in mathematics. One might say that it's too confusing, it isn't even useful, or that it's just plain boring. These are the big three outlooks students usually have which makes them the top things to counter. "It's just too confusing." I find that this usually stems from a student not being able to make connections, when learning a new branch of math, to older things that they already know. They're trying to build new knowledge, but the foundation being built upon isn't stable. I'll be there to not simple tell a student what the answer is, but give them reason as to why the answer is what it is, how it's found. This helps ensure that when the student sees a similar problem, they know what it's like and know that it doesn't just come from some random question. "This isn't useful." People come up with this argument for not just math, but almost any subject that they have a poor understanding of. It's always difficult to see the relevance of a tool when you don't know what job the tool is meant for. I'll be ready to help give a student examples of why this information is good to know so that it can seem relevant to their life. "Math is so boring." This argument is much more subjective as there's always a subject a student simply sees as the least interesting. Math is often labeled as this when it becomes a compilation of formulas that need to be memorized so that "If I'm asked to do 'this' then I need to use 'that' formula." Formulas aren't just random things; they're important for a reason and come from answering questions people have previously asked in the past. A student will find something much more interesting if they can see the need for a way to solve a problem. Other thoughts or issues a student may have are usually smaller, but no less important to take care of. I'll always look for a way to make this subject one of wonder to spark interest and one of relevance to give a reason for knowledge.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I'm here to help a person struggling, and it can be difficult to accept help from a person you don't know. I want to know who my students are and I'd like them to know a bit about me. I'd spend a small amount of time asking what they have trouble with and let them know that I'm not some all-knowing being of unknown origin; I've had to struggle with many similar things. The first meeting is a time to show the student that they can do as I've done and overcome the obstacle in their way.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Memorization is not the key to learning mathematics. That comes when the learning is complete and learning can be done with help, being dependent, or without help, being independent. To become independent, the person needs to know where they can find the information that they seek alone. Books and websites often offer this, but it can be hard to understand everything when you look at it all at once. It's simpler to teach oneself when they know how to ask the proper question. "How does this work?" can be such a big question as it encompasses everything "this" might be. I'll help the student understand what questions we can ask as they learn a new process so that they can feel that they had many, if not all, important pieces of information. They just needed to see how the pieces were connected to see what "this" was.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
To stay motivated, a person needs to be reminded of previous accomplishments they've had and are proud of. This is just the current challenge and like many other challenges before, they can conquer this as well.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Practice, practice, practice. It's a bit cliche, but learning a new skill comes with practicing said skill repeatedly. To help with that though, tasks of varying difficulty can be given so that the student can see what they can do right now and how far they've come to learning this new skill. It's not just a situation of "I know it." or "I don't know it." They're in the middle somewhere learning said skill, not at the beginning seeing the skill for the first time.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Vocabulary is the usual culprit here. A lack of understanding the words being used will clearly act as an inhibiting factor. If someone has difficulty comprehending what's being asked of them or what they're reading, then the information should be given to them again in simpler terms. The message isn't necessarily hard to comprehend, but rather how the message was delivered. I'll do what I can to make the message clearer using words the student has a better understanding of and then explain how the original message says the same thing. This will help them to learn different ways of saying the same thing, perhaps even better ways of saying the same thing.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
The student comes to me when they're in need of learning something new or something they are struggling with. The best strategy is to identify precisely what's holding them back from understanding the subject. I'll ask questions that they can answer so that they can see that they already have some answers. Students are here to expand on knowledge that they have, and what they already know needs to be recognized so that they can feel confident in themselves.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
What can the subject relate to that the student already has vested interest? A link between the two should give more meaning to the subject being learned. I'll do my utmost to no just ask standard questions, but give a small story to make it more interesting or provide a picture to provide some sort of visual stimulation.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Why? This is the question which often has the hardest answer. "Why do I use this method to solve this problem?" While learning, the student learns "what" needs to be used to answer the questions being asked. If they can explain "why" this process is going to work before answering the question, it shows they recognize what the problem is asking, the job, and know what they need to use, the tool, to do it. When they know both "what" to use and "why" it will work, it shows that they know and understand the material.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Constant reminder of successes when a failure emerges is the key to building confidence. We can't dismiss a failure, but we can remember when we've failed before and how we were able to triumph over it in the end. We gain confidence not from knowing that we will succeed, but in knowing that if we stumble at some point, we'll be able to continue to move forward and persevere until we find success.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
I'll be looking at what the student needs to best understand. Do they need visuals or stories to make the material more tangible? Do they need simpler problems to create a stronger confidence? Do they need harder problems to challenge them? The needs of a student can only be determined by interacting with them.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Questions always have different ways of being asked and being answered. I change these two things to match the student. The question needs to be asked in a way such that they can comprehend what's being done. When answering this question, we can provide different types of answers to show that there isn't just one way to fix a problem, there can be many. Finding the right question and right way to answer it help address what the student needs to see and hear to give them clarity.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
As a math tutor, there are a variance of tools that may be used depending on the branch of mathematics being discussed. The tools that are fairly universal would be paper, pencils (NOT pens), eraser, straightedge, and a calculator. Tools that may be used include a graphing calculator, compass, protractor, graph paper, and possibly computer software or website. These things are not necessary but may be of great help in offering more hands-on experience with the material.