A photo of John, a tutor from Franklin and Marshall College

John

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I graduated magna cum laude from Franklin and Marshall College with a major in Physics and a minor in Chemistry. I work as a Research Scientist. Therefore, I have real life experience in what math enables us to do. A favorite slogan of mine is that math allows us to figure things out. For example, we can understand why it only takes about a group of about 20 people to get to a 50% probability that two people will have the same birthday. We can calculate the area of a triangle if we only know the lengths of its sides. I have been involved with tutoring math since 2000. One of my greatest joys is helping students develop to their full potential and achieve some important life goals. I was able to help a student pass her Praxis test in Math after failing about 10 times. She was planning to try one more time. And, with my help, she made it and became a certified teacher. Another student couldn't pass the military entrance exam, but succeeded after working with me. Math at higher levels becomes a struggle if there are holes in the mathematical concepts that came before. It is possible to gain mastery of math so that it is fun to do instead of being something to dread.

I coached baseball while my two sons were growing up. I follow the Yankees, Eagles, and Penn State football. I do a variety of outdoor activities including: biking, hiking, gardening and playing recreational sports such as softball and tennis. The longest bike trip that I have taken was a two day 185 mile bike hike on the C & O canal tow path. Indoors, I play table tennis and like to read. I read biographies and histories of wars and I like to play the computer game called Shanghai. I enjoy reading Scientific American to keep up on the latest developments in science.

John’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: Franklin and Marshall College - Bachelors, Physics

Hobbies

Sports, outdoor activities, table tennis, reading, and computer games.


Q & A

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

My first task is to get to know who you are as a person. I will want to know what you do for fun, for example. If you are an older student, I would want to know what your future goals are. Then I ask you where you are in your study of math, what courses you have taken and what math you are now taking. And, finally I would want you to feel completely free to interrupt and ask questions. When working with me, there is no such thing as a dumb question.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

A key to learning independently is the ability to be able to work through the examples in math texts and understanding each step that is taken. I can assist on improving your ability to do this.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

I like to keep a playful attitude while working on math. So, whenever possible, I will try to interject some humor. I also will give you immediate affirmation, like saying "Great job" anytime even a small step is taken in mastery of the concept being worked on. Getting the feeling that "I can do this" is one of the best motivations. Also, when possible, I will relate the math concept to ordinary life.

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

The skill or concept needs to be broken down into its simplest form. I would take nothing for granted in terms of current understanding, but go back into previous skills or concepts that need to be understood before getting to this skill or concept. Also, I would talk about the skill or concept in different ways.

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

It is important to be able to pick out key words that indicate type of problem it is and what is the nature of the question to be answered. Using a sanity check of the answer will almost always let you know if you have chosen the right operation.

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

It is important that I listen to the student to get a clear understanding of what are the issues that prevent success.

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

The excitement that I have for all of math and what can be done with it will come through. Getting to some very early small successes can quickly build to greater successes. Success is then its own motivator.

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

It is important for a student to be able to repeat back to me what I have just gone over. I like to try one additional practice problem after understanding appears to be achieved to be sure that we have gotten there. Also, it is important that the understanding of a particular skill or concept is generalized enough to be able to used in various types of problems using the skill or concept.

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

I start where you are being successful and build up from there.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

For lower level students, I would want to know if they have full and complete mastery of math facts. For older students, I would make sure that there is mastery of the calculator. I would have them tell me as much as they can about how they would solve a particular problem. This lets me know where the holes are in their understanding.

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

Some students need physical representation of a problem. Others need to know how to focus on the essential elements of the problem. As examples, this could be what are the numbers and what they represent or what are the terms in a polynomial.

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

I would use drawings, diagrams, and physical objects where applicable. Once, I know what is the area of math I would use math textbooks from which I could bring examples.

What is your teaching philosophy?

Knowing math facts cold is essential in becoming a good mathematician. Starting where the student has obtained mastery is crucial and building up from there. Holes in more basic math knowledge only cause bigger and bigger trouble as the levels of math increase. Virtually everyone can become skilled to at least the level of Algebra I. It is important to be able to reach a point of being able to "think" mathematically. Numbers then will become a friend rather than something to dread.