I've been teaching math and science for 25 years and just love it. One of the best things about the job is seeing and hearing when a student truly understands a math concept. They always look so happy that they figured it out! I also really enjoy thinking of the best question I can ask in order to make the student think more. It's tons of fun!
Georgia Institute of Technology-Main Campus - Bachelors, Biology
Washington State University - Masters, Educational Administration
What is your teaching philosophy?
I feel all people inherently want to learn. My job as a teacher is to help them explore new concepts by demonstrating how concepts they already know are similar to the new ones. This approach helps break down any preconceived notions about the difficulty of a new concept. It also helps build self-esteem in the learner.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I'd want to talk with them a bit about any preconceived difficulties in math. Some teachers call this a “math-o-graphy.” It helps the learner think about both the difficulties and the successes they've had. I'd build on the successes. We'd look at the first assignment and talk about how they approached the problem. This gives me an idea of what problems from earlier grades I can draw on to show similarities in the new assignment.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
In math, organization is key to understanding the many, many rules that govern the subject. I'd work with the student to develop an organizational system that works better for them. From how to take and interpret notes to how to study, these strategies help the learner know where to start looking for help. Next is the linking older more understood concepts to new learning. Math is full of similarities in processes, and pointing them out always helps build confidence in a learner. Once similarities are pointed out, the student starts to look for them independently. While this can take some time in developing this habit, it's well worth the effort as it develops mathematical thinking and pattern recognition.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
We'd break down each step and look for analogies in concepts the student already knows. I find that in breaking down a problem, a student can identify at which point they start to lose understanding. So, I start to identify the concepts or steps they understand, and this builds confidence.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I like to weave in questions about the math at hand, how they approach it, how they feel about math in general, and get to a little about their personally. When I ask about their hobbies or movies they've seen, they feel more at ease and ready to learn.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
With so many math concepts it's easy to find connections with what the student likes to do. If they like skateboards, we can talk about rate of change and how that relates to a graph. We can draw skateboards on graphs of different problems and talk about which graph would give the greatest speed. If they are struggling with rate of change, we can also time how fast they can walk, or text, or almost anything and turn it into a math problem. If a student is struggling with graphing, we can play the game battleship, which is the same as graphing. Or we can play the online math game 'Green Globs', which teaches slope in a very intuitive way. When tutoring one-on-one, I have the advantage of getting to know the student's likes and dislikes, and can work on relating math to the activities they enjoy.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
First of all, ask problems with a variety of difficulty levels. That way I can easily identify exactly what the student understands. I also like to discuss the meaning in everyday language of vocabulary. I'll ask about the word from a variety of perspectives to get a sense of how deeply the student understands the idea.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
Many times, a pre-assessment does the trick. This can be done at one sitting, or I can build in the problems over a few sessions. I can also take a look at pre-assessments done in class. Many teachers love it when tutors reach out to ask questions about a student, with student and parent permission of course.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
My style and choice of strategies have everything to do with the student's needs and their personality as well. If a student has difficulty visualizing a concept, we work on making appropriate drawings. If a student needs to work on some prerequisites (and the parent agrees), that's what we do.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Any resources the student has, like the book, handouts, or notes. I frequently use websites I know that help in visualizing a problem, or offering realistic word problems. I'll use a calculator when appropriate, and make sure the student knows how to use the calculator. I'll also use various manipulatives I've learned over the years.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
In math, many times drawing a problem out really helps a student understand how the numbers and words relate to each other. I've thought for some time now that if I can't draw a problem out, I'm not much of a math teacher.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Praise success. Praise success. Praise success. Build on success, and then praise that success.