My experience teaching, tutoring, and living in a boarding school environment has shown me that there are many factors that contribute to success with math at the secondary level. When a student is having trouble learning new math topics, it is common for there to be underlying causes beyond the new topics themselves.

 

Upon my first meeting with a student, I aim to identify and address his or her individual challenges that cause unnecessary difficulty in math classes. Here are a few examples:

  • Gaps in prior knowledge: Math concepts build on each other. Algebra will not come easily to a student who is not fluent manipulating fractions; calculus will be a challenge for a student with a shaky understanding of functions. I constantly look out for such gaps when I tutor, because addressing the root causes is often what enables students to learn new concepts.

  • Low confidence: Math can cause anxiety, frustration, and hurt feelings like no other discipline. Building confidence in one's ability to understand and do math is crucial in order to create effective habits for mathematical success. I carefully sequence a curriculum for each student that builds confidence over time. If I find that test anxiety is a problem, I can write practice tests tailored to the individual.

  • Organization: Poor organization creates unnecessary work. Let's fix that! Different organizational methods work for different people, so I offer suggestions and and materials that work with the student's learning style.

  • Study skills: Ineffective study habits waste time and give a student a false sense of his or her own understanding of the math. I help students "work smarter" to get the most out of study time.

  • Lifestyle: A bright student who understands the course material will underperform on tests if he or she has not slept well the night before. I encourage healthy habits that support maximum realization of a student's potential.

  • Mathematical literacy: Understanding the language of math must come before understanding the logical concepts. Whether it's interpreting a word problem or debugging a solution, I have found that an emphasis on the connection between language and mathematical symbolism often creates an easy fix to a challenging problem.

I love math and seek to be someone that students can relate to and feel comfortable asking for help. I ask students many questions about their thought processes when I tutor, and I encourage them to ask me at least as many about the math! My tutoring style is flexible yet firm, encouraging yet realistic, enthusiastic yet focused. I strike a careful balance of short term and long term goals so that students can improve immediately and succeed on their own in the future.

©Copyright 2017 - Laura Bradford, MAT

laura@bradfordmath.com