You wouldn't know by looking at my transcripts but I know what it's like to struggle with math. Even though I was a straight-A student, school never came easy to me. Lectures always seemed to move too quickly and were hard to understand. I asked multiple questions during class that seemed silly or easy to other students. I went to nearly every office hours available and wondered if some professors may have moved them to avoid me! With time, effort, and the help of many people, I succeeded. This experience taught me two things. One was what made math hard and how to learn effectively. The other was that everyone has the potential to learn and feel comfortable with math.
I was able to put these lessons into practice as a math tutor and grader at Carnegie Mellon University, where I attained my bachelor's in mathematical science. Although some students were future engineers and scientists already quite proficient at math, others were studying the humanities or fine arts. Not all students had the same background through their prior coursework or in high school. I quickly recognized that students struggle with topics in different ways and learned to identify where they needed help most.
Finally, after college I further developed my ability to explain difficult concepts as a corporate actuary. I was often required to communicate complex concepts to all types of professionals, from sales and marketing to operations and legal. I supervised and trained new employees, many of whom were new to our processes. All these experiences often required a lot of patience and good listening. However, seeing people get to the "light bulb moment" was very gratifying. It made me realize how much I enjoy helping others gain the same understanding of something as me. I hope to gain more of this rewarding experience with you!
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Carnegie Mellon University - Bachelors, Mathematical Science
Basketball, snowboarding, chess and weichi, card / board / computer games
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy revolves around fun, trust, mindfulness, and accountability. Even though we all learn at our own pace, I believe that everyone has the potential to excel in math!
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I would start with small talk, and try to establish a relationship around trust and mutual respect. Then I would identify the student's strengths, weaknesses, and preferred learning style to build a lesson and progress plan.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I believe people are most motivated when they have their own reasons to do something. They may take pride in their ability and good marks, have a specific goal in mind like college, or simply have a desire to feel relaxed and build comfort with a subject. The other important aspects of independent learning are exercises and material that can be tackled without anyone else's help.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
In my experience, accountability is the best way to stay motivated. Setting clear, specific, and reasonable goals week-to-week create a sense of urgency and a feeling of accomplishment when I meet those goals. It's also important to show people that math requires time and effort, but it can be fun and rewarding to see a growing pool of problems you can solve. Saying, "been there, done that," is a great feeling!
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Be relaxed and make light of the situation. Affirm that it's okay to struggle, and take a step back to figure out what makes the concept or skill challenging. Then, I believe in starting with breaking up a topic into smaller ideas that are more digestible or using simple versions of the same concept.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I think building a relationship of respect and trust is key. Finding common ground through shared interests or experiences is also very important. I like to tell people that math was hard for me even though I became good at it. I also believe in starting easy and small to build confidence, then give the students more as they feel capable.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I believe that you can show students learning can be fun. This is especially true if you can show the relevance of what they are learning to their everyday lives and goals. For math, you can use stories and pictures to turn problems into games or a fun puzzle to solve.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I think the best way to test understanding is to ask them to explain the material in their own words. If they can do that or solve new practice problems they have seen for the first time, you know they have absorbed the lesson.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I believe that starting small with what they know will surprise them that they know a lot and are more capable than they think. I also like to share my struggle with school and point out that it was hard to learn it when I first saw the same material. I encourage them that with time and effort, it can be fun to learn and that having new knowledge or a new skill can feel good.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
The best way to determine a student's needs is paying attention to their body language and careful listening. Are they struggling or anxious? Do they feel bored or confused? I believe people in general will open up about what they need if they feel safe, accepted, and free of judgment.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Each type of need requires a different response. A struggling student might need encouragement and affirmation. They may need you to figure out where their weaknesses are. Some students learn very differently and need to see something visually or with a story. The key is to maintain a two-way dialogue and practice good listening.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
If available, I like to draw or write on whiteboards or chalkboards. I also bring a reference book such as a textbook and practice problems. I may also bring my own calculator and phone or computer to look up useful videos or pictures.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
As someone that has had difficulty with reading comprehension at a young age, I found that critical reading was the most helpful way to learn comprehension. I read slowly and actively to make sure that I understood every word, or had enough context to make a reasonable guess. I also learned common indicators, which gave clues to the author's intent to determine which points were major and which were minor.