A photo of Cindy, a tutor from Washington University in St Louis

Cindy

Certified Tutor

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When I was in business, I found myself helping co-workers and their children with math. Since I liked tutoring math so much, I decided to go back to school for my Masters in Education to become a certified math teacher. My certification is for grades 5 to 12, but I have worked with adults of all ages as well. Now with Varsity Tutors, I will have the opportunity to work with more students in St. Louis and around the country online.

My personal goal is for my students to say that math is much easier than they ever thought. To reach this point, I study how each student learns, what makes sense and where they get lost. We move forward by building on their strengths and filling in any missing concepts along the way. Seeing my students understanding the material, becoming more confidence and improving their scores is exciting. I am delighted to be a part of the Varsity tutoring community.

Cindy’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: Washington University in St Louis - Bachelors, Asian Studies

Graduate Degree: University of Phoenix-Online Campus - Masters, Education

Hobbies

hiking, biking, cooking, reading, home rehab projects


Q & A

What is your teaching philosophy?

My personal goal is for my students to say, “This is much easier than I thought!” To reach this goal, I start with learning about my students to understanding their individual learning styles. I look for their strengths and rely on those to move forward and build confidence. Student mistakes can be just as enlightening, allowing for an identification a misconception. Clearing up a small misunderstanding often paves the way for big successes. I thoroughly enjoy the process of helping students redefine themselves as being not only capable at math, but also really good at it.

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

After I introduce myself, I ask my student what they are working on and how do they feel about it. Since they are requesting tutoring, they usually convey some kind of negative experience or attitude. Listening to their response helps me to start to build my understanding of them as a learner. I let them know I think I can help. Then I would look at an example of the current topic and ask them how they would start it. If they don’t know how to begin, I give a tip for the first step. If they do something totally mathematically incorrect, I tell them that they are being too creative. I talk about the specific idea they need to be successful at that point. When they are going down the right road, I praise the correct choices.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

I use scaffolding to help students become independent. When going through a math problem in the beginning, I ask leading questions and never leave the student stranded. As time goes on and the student seems to understand, I back off as much as possible. Finally, I just do the problem on the side to demonstrate that they got the correct answer on their own.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

One way to motivate a student is with encouragement and praise during the learning process. When a student sees that they can be successful, whether in a single step or completing the entire problem independently, they are often more motivated to forge ahead.

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

First, I try to pinpoint where they are getting lost. Then I try to use an alternative way to explain the issue. I keep notes on students so that I know what works for them individually.

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

So many students hate word problems. When that is the issue, I work with them to develop an approach to help make sense of the paragraph without being overwhelmed. I recommend to start by going over the last sentence, the question. Then we write them down the given numbers with an identifying word or phrase. Now it is time to read through to make sure we got the correct information and understand the question. By identifying the question and some of the information first, it makes reading the problem more manageable. By now, the student is ready to develop a plan for solving the question. I have also used a graphic template to help organize this process. When the student is ESOL or simply cannot read well, they usually benefit from vocabulary reinforcement. For example, an Algebra student will not be able to identify a perpendicular slope if they do not know the meaning of perpendicular.

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

If the student is being tutored for a class, they usually have an assignment that is giving them trouble. Addressing the questions and scaffolding the help is usually a good place to start. This allows me to start to get to know the student and they have something tangible completed. If the objective is ACT prep, then I ask about their personal objectives and the kind of topics that give them trouble. I have sample tests and choose appropriate problems. As we move along, I offer test-taking strategies that I think might be helpful.

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

Success is a great motivator. When a student sees that they can solve a problem they thought was difficult, they get excited and want to do more.

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

Checking for understanding is always important and ongoing. When a student can successfully complete problems independently, I know they are grasping the material. Asking them to perform that type of problem at a later time helps them to review and become more confident with the new skill. While I do not give formal assessments like those that they would see in class, I like to review missed questions when possible. Correcting mistakes can really help the student comprehend the concept at hand and address any misunderstandings.

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

I like to point out what they do right. Successes, big and small, build confidence. If a student makes a minor calculation error and gets the wrong answer, I make a bigger deal about having performed the process correctly. When the mistake is a whopper, I emphasize that this is the perfect time to make that error because we can figure out where they went off the road and how to get back on the path to finding the correct answer.

How do you evaluate a student's needs?

First, I try to evaluate their needs by being a good listener. Students often talk about what gives them trouble. Observing their practices and asking about their thinking helps me to understand their level of understanding. When I spot a missing necessary concept, we stop to address it. I help to fill in the mathematical foundation when needed.

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

Always keeping in mind the student’s objectives and goals helps me tailor my instruction to them. Observing their learning style helps me to approach them in a way that they will best understand the material. Often there is more than one way to solve a math problem. I will show them different approaches and ask them what their preference is. Then we continue on with their preferred way. While the student is learning about a topic, I am learning about them and how to best approach new material.

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

This depends on the student. For ACT prep, I have practice test booklets, print and scanned materials according to topics. If the student has their own book they want to use, that is always fine. The classroom student usually has materials they want to look at, but I can certainly provide materials when needed. For online tutoring, I am prepared with the graphics board.