I have taught math at private high school for 4 years. My subjects have included Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, pre-Calculus, and Linear Algebra. I have tutored in all of those subjects as well as pre-Algebra.
As a teacher, I prefer open ended questions to multiple choice questions precisely because of the insight they provide on what each individual student may be struggling to grasp. A missed question is often the best way to discover and correct a misunderstanding.
I understand how middle and high school math courses fit together: not just which concepts are important for this year's curriculum, but how and why they will be useful as the student advances to higher levels.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Virginia - Bachelors, History
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Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Students must be challenged. They must think beyond the formulas in the "little blue boxes in the book." Students should recognize alternative methods of solving a problem and have the confidence to choose the best option.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I want to see the textbook, the syllabus, and a copy of a corrected assignment. I want the student to share with me any weaknesses that should be addressed. Then we will immediately set about trying to get ahead of the class. My goal is for that student to attend the very next class with confidence.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
You must impart enthusiasm for the topic, but being an independent learner is something that affects every subject the student encounters, not just the tutor's specialty. Independent learners are students who realize that it is far easier to understand any subject (from within) than it is to memorize things (taught by someone else).
How would you help a student stay motivated?
First, the student has to enjoy increasing confidence that is based upon achievement. Second, students must be challenged with new material. Third, students must be given context as well as technique, so they know why what they are learning is important.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
First, question the student to see if the roadblock can be identified. Second, the best alternative is to explain it a different way. That often means going beyond the textbook. I try to emulate my best teacher who could always demonstrate everything he taught in more than one way.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
I have taught many ESL students both in ESL classes and in other classes. If it is a vocabulary problem, then it is sometimes possible to get precise translations of technical terms in a worksheet. Word problems are a particular bane for many students. They must be taught a skill set for tackling them. The three key questions are: What is the unknown? What data has been provided? What are the conditions? (Polya, How to Solve It).
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I want to know what is coming up in class, because I want to get ahead from our very first meeting. If the classwork is not useful to me for diagnostic purposes, I have worksheets that I will ask the student to do for "next time". Most importantly, I try to show the student what lies ahead: not just for the next week, but next year as well.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I prefer to give them options. It may seem hopeless when one technique is mysterious and difficult, but a student armed with two techniques that address the same problem has the freedom to choose the easier of the two for that particular problem.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I prefer to pose a question, or series of questions, in the session to assess understanding. In tutoring, I never move on until the student can demonstrate the ability to use the new technique. I have also resorted to asking student to write down a strategy for solving a problem, rather than solving an actual problem. I can also leave problems as practice to be reviewed next time if that is what the student wants.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Practice, alternative techniques, and understanding the proper context. A student's confidence must be built on these or it is a delusion.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
The first step is to ask students about their goals and their perceived weaknesses. For SAT students, I require them to take practice tests, under realistic conditions, on their own time. For math students generally, I find that working through problems together will quickly reveal any weaknesses that are holding them back.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
I welcome the one-on-one attention that is only possible in tutoring. I enjoy the challenge of trying to convince this one student that this new method is practical and interesting. In order for me to feel the challenge, I have "sell" the student. So, I am prepared to alter my teaching style for every student on any question. At a larger level. I am prepared to spend more time on practice or theory as the student requires. That is why tutoring is fun.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I have a few worksheets that I have prepared in advance. If I find the student has a particular need, I will pull out a worksheet to work over in the session or for next time as is best. Other than that, I sometimes use a small whiteboard rather than blank paper to work through problems. I have found that once an idea that confuses a student is committed to paper, that the offending paper becomes both indestructible and omnipresent. I also have a few leave-behind pieces that I have developed.