My experience teaching, tutoring, coaching, and living in a boarding school environment has shown me that many factors contribute to success with math at the secondary level. When a student struggles to learn a new math topic, I find there is usually a set of underlying causes beyond the topic itself.

 

During my first meetings 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 causes anxiety, frustration, and hurt feelings like no other subject. Building confidence in one's ability to understand and do math is crucial to create effective habits for mathematical success. I sequence a curriculum for each student that builds confidence over time, adapting the pace as needed. 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 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.