Many of my students claimed something like, "I am not good at math," or, "my mind just doesn't work that way," but I have always succeeded in showing them that this is not the case. I believe we have fundamental and systematic problems in primary and secondary schools in which material is presented such that many students, no matter how capable, cannot appreciate or fully understand it. In 2012 I graduated with a bachelor's degree in Biochemistry from Western State College of Colorado. I also studied mathematics, and physics. I began tutoring calculus and pre-calc while in college, but enjoyed it so much that I continued to do so. Today I tutor math and physics. Solving math problems requires creativity -- most people might not think of it this way, but in math, formulas are only part of the solution; and there is usually more than one way to arrive at an answer. This creative part of problem solving stems from what I like to call the "math mind" and is something I work with my students to strengthen.
It is true that everyone has his or her own style of learning. I have structured the way I teach to help students discover more about their style, and further develop its sophistication and utility. The more you know about how you learn, the more effectively you can take ownership of your potential.
Aside from teaching, learning, and reading, I love to get outside and hit the trail on my mountain bike, or the backcountry on my snowboard -- exploring is my way of life. My dreams include ending our dependence on fossil fuels, going to space, and getting my pilot's license.
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Everyone is good at math. Typically, math is taught in a strict, dry, algorithmic fashion; which works for some students. Math topics provide a multitude of tools, but we must first learn to think and approach problems in order to use them correctly. My philosophy is that everyone learns differently but everyone is capable if he or she has someone to work with one-on-one, in a way that is intuitive to him or her.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
It is important for me to know who I am working with, i.e. his or her interests, goals, strengths and weaknesses. As quickly as possible, I try to get a sense for the student's threshold for working problems, so that we can accomplish as much as possible within a time frame that the student finds manageable.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
The most important thing to know about yourself that will not be taught in school is how you learn. This means different things to different people, but to me it is the learning devices that serve you best for learning new things. My goal is not just to help students with certain topics and problems, but to help them in the future with ANY topic and problem by helping them recognize and develop their best devices.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Connect to something important to the student. Learn about the student's goals and aspirations. Doing well in school broadens one's options.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Find different ways to state the concept. Tie it into a bigger picture. Give examples. Back up. Dive into the "math-mind!"
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
There are many tricks and skills to develop with reading. Like anything else, practice is key, but there are specific things to keep in mind or look for while practicing.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Learn enough about the student to guide my teaching style. The same style will not work with everyone. Since our time together is limited by both scheduling and the student's threshold for learning, it must not be wasted on speaking different languages.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Confidence is a large factor in people's willingness to work on a subject. Once the student realizes that the material can be presented in a way that is intuitive, he/she is more willing to take on more. Challenging ourselves is the best and only real way to develop strategies for problem solving in the future.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
It depends on the student. The only way to test students is to have them solve problems on their own, and see if they can navigate the nuanced differences between and within different techniques.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Help him understand it!
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Based on the performance in different subjects, learning strategies used by the student, and goals/desires for the future.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Based on proficiency (strengths), personalized learning strategies, goals, and current performance.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Since I work mostly with high school and older students, pencil and paper. Graph paper and graphing calculators are useful. When drawing shapes and graphs, I like to use colors to make certain aspects stand out and become clear.