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I will be finishing up my Astrophysics undergraduate work at UC Berkeley this fall. Before coming to the Bay Area, I attended Santiago Canyon (Community) College near my home in Orange County, though initially I was a Communications major. After a few semesters of general education with the occasional astronomy and non-calculus physics class peppered in for fun, I realized it was worth conquering my terrible fear of math to pursue this exciting material further.

In an effort to spread the joy of learning about our world and the tools required to do so, last fall I began tutoring math at a local middle school through the Bridging Berkeley program at the University of California. Though the Common Core curriculum is quite different than what I learned at this age, I've had a blast working with the bright minds of these sixth, seventh, and eighth graders. From what I've gathered during my time tutoring, I think it's most important to have a thorough understanding of a concept/argument/idea before tackling practice problems - so usually I'll spend more time discussing the problem rather than just going straight to the answer. So far I've mostly tutored math, but I'm very excited to include (or even just talk about) physics and astronomy!

Besides the formality of academia, I live a very laid back life. My free time is most often spent in the comfort of my apartment; either reading, watching movies, or sometimes playing video games - since (regrettably) my bike is collecting dust back home. Sometimes I'll find myself at a concert in Oakland or in the city, most likely an electronic one, or whoever my friends can talk me into seeing. I've slowly become half-decent at cooking, so this summer I'll be trying to speed that up too.

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Darren’s Qualifications

Education & Certification

Undergraduate Degree: University of California-Berkeley - Current Undergrad, Astrophysics


Learning! Cooking, reading, running and cycling, movies and music of all sorts, Adventure Time, etc.

Q & A

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

Get to know them! Discussing expectations, preferences, and areas of particular interest is an excellent way to start - both in the field of study and outside. Once we understand each other, we can move forward more efficiently; as a student it's crucial to know where your strengths and struggles lie, without excess pride or shame, and this applies to me as well.

How can you help a student become an independent learner?

Through practice! Just about everything is intimidating upon a first try or glance - but after gaining a conceptual understanding of a topic, we can build confidence through guided practice. With time, this confidence grows to a point where full independence is achieved.

How would you help a student stay motivated?

We all have trouble staying fully motivated sometimes - and that's okay. But with a reminder of why we started working so hard in the first place, or with a new and exciting view into our subject, we can pick ourselves back up and continue.

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

Try a different explanation! Sometimes just one way of thinking about an idea isn't enough to build a good intuition. If no distinct method helps us move forward, then there's nothing wrong with us going back to roots or the previous section to ensure our earlier understanding - if it's related.

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

As with mostly everything, breaking down something big and unfamiliar goes a long way. Piece by piece inspection of a question, idea, or an answer is always a good idea, even for things we are more familiar with.

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

By showing them what fun it can be! As Feynman wisely noted, "Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough." Sometimes all it takes is a thorough understanding of where the struggle lies, some review, and lastly a taste of what excitement awaits in that subject.

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

It seems like it's best to talk about more general things before jumping into practice problems or anything. Being fully transparent in expectations, ability, and interest is a great way to remove the hardships of getting started on a subject/problem! There's nothing wrong with being nervous or anxious, but it's good to discuss how to minimize these feelings.

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