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Why You Shouldn’t Give Your Math Skills a Break

In many high schools around the world, students have their courses split into semesters. While it might be easier to manage projects and exams with fewer subjects at a time, not all courses are the same. When students find themselves studying North American History in one grade and World Wars the following year, the months that fell in between don’t necessarily matter as much as they tend to with other subjects. For example, what you learn about electricity in this year’s science class may have no direct relation to the optics concepts you learned the year before. But math? That’s a different story!

Math curriculum is made to be built on similarly related concepts, growing in complexity as the student gets older. Starting from elementary years, what a student learns in math in one grade needs to be recalled in the next level. In this sense, math is much more like English than science – it is not necessarily about just knowing facts, but also requires continuously re-using them as a tools. Your skills in English help you to write increasingly better in all areas of academics, from essays in social studies to lab reports in science. Your skills in math will help you manipulate formulas in physics, chemistry, and solve problems whenever there are numbers involved. The difference is, you never stop practicing your English, even when you are not in an English class. You use it in your daily life, and in all your other subjects. But if you take a six-month break in math, you risk spending the first several weeks of the new grade struggling to recover concepts that you had already learned.

For some students, this may not be a big deal. For many others, it becomes a struggle as the years go by and they are expected to quickly remember past concepts while simultaneously being introduced to newer, more complex topics. Science and math teachers at senior grades have a lot to cover, and often times students that are having difficulty recalling prior concepts at this point end up lost in the new concepts as well.

That’s where we come in! A math tutor can help a student year-round. During a semester in which math is currently a subject in school, the focus of private tutoring can be to reinforce the concepts, complete homework, and prepare for tests as they happen in class. This will all lead to a better understanding of the material and increased performance on exams.

But the best tutoring has to offer sometimes happens after the course is finished! Tutors can go at a pace catered to the individual student, either by working ahead on the next grade or re-working specific topics, and thus keep the math skills going until the following year. Being able to mix concepts (as opposed to only working on one chapter at a time) is particularly useful.

For example, it is relatively easy to learn to add two fractions when all a student focuses on is addition of fractions. After working with enough problems, students often end up memorizing the procedure. The big leap happens when the student can now naturally add fractions when newer fraction-based concepts are introduced (like probabilities). This will occur over time as the student matures and the topics keep coming back, but the road can be much smoother with the help of a tutor to make sure nothing gets rusty or forgotten! Not to mention the huge boost of self-confidence that happens when the student starts a new grade and already knows how to do it!

Why You Shouldn’t Give Your Math Skills a Break

In many high schools around the world, students have their courses split into semesters. While it might be easier to manage projects and exams with fewer subjects at a time, not all courses are the same. When students find themselves studying North American History in one grade and World Wars the following year, the months that fell in between don’t necessarily matter as much as they tend to with other subjects. For example, what you learn about electricity in this year’s science class may have no direct relation to the optics concepts you learned the year before. But math? That’s a different story!

Math curriculum is made to be built on similarly related concepts, growing in complexity as the student gets older. Starting from elementary years, what a student learns in math in one grade needs to be recalled in the next level. In this sense, math is much more like English than science – it is not necessarily about just knowing facts, but also requires continuously re-using them as a tools. Your skills in English help you to write increasingly better in all areas of academics, from essays in social studies to lab reports in science. Your skills in math will help you manipulate formulas in physics, chemistry, and solve problems whenever there are numbers involved. The difference is, you never stop practicing your English, even when you are not in an English class. You use it in your daily life, and in all your other subjects. But if you take a six-month break in math, you risk spending the first several weeks of the new grade struggling to recover concepts that you had already learned.

For some students, this may not be a big deal. For many others, it becomes a struggle as the years go by and they are expected to quickly remember past concepts while simultaneously being introduced to newer, more complex topics. Science and math teachers at senior grades have a lot to cover, and often times students that are having difficulty recalling prior concepts at this point end up lost in the new concepts as well.

That’s where we come in! A math tutor can help a student year-round. During a semester in which math is currently a subject in school, the focus of private tutoring can be to reinforce the concepts, complete homework, and prepare for tests as they happen in class. This will all lead to a better understanding of the material and increased performance on exams.

But the best tutoring has to offer sometimes happens after the course is finished! Tutors can go at a pace catered to the individual student, either by working ahead on the next grade or re-working specific topics, and thus keep the math skills going until the following year. Being able to mix concepts (as opposed to only working on one chapter at a time) is particularly useful.

For example, it is relatively easy to learn to add two fractions when all a student focuses on is addition of fractions. After working with enough problems, students often end up memorizing the procedure. The big leap happens when the student can now naturally add fractions when newer fraction-based concepts are introduced (like probabilities). This will occur over time as the student matures and the topics keep coming back, but the road can be much smoother with the help of a tutor to make sure nothing gets rusty or forgotten! Not to mention the huge boost of self-confidence that happens when the student starts a new grade and already knows how to do it!

Tips and Resources to Help You Successfully Transition to Homeschooling

You’re not alone if transitioning your children to homeschooling is on your mind.

According to 2016 United States Department of Education data, the homeschooling population for ages 5 - 17 had swelled to 1.7 million students. And as a percentage, homeschoolers doubled from 1.7% to 3.4% from 1999 to 2012.

Homeschooling has gained in popularity for three main reasons:

Not limited to rural families and households, homeschooling advocates and practitioners include 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow; NFL Hall of Famer and ABC Good Morning America co-host Michael Strahan; and Jessica Mendoza, ESPN baseball analyst. They cite family influences and an educational system that accommodates the travel demands of their professions as reasons homeschooling has worked for them as students and parents.

The following considerations can help families successfully make this important change:

Know your local rules and regulations

Though legal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, homeschool education requirements can be as different as the states themselves. Variables include the number of required homeschool days, support options, curriculum, the educator’s qualifications and record keeping. Your state’s Department of Education website is the best initial source for this information.

Understand the college or university perspective

College requirements can differ by school or state, whether public or private. Accordingly, you’ll want to research whether homeschoolers are held to different admission standards than traditionally educated students. Expect that your student will be required to take an ACT or SAT-style standardized test. Something you can control is how you document the homeschool experience, test results or other thresholds. Know before you start or decide to homeschool how colleges and universities evaluate homeschoolers. This can help balance a short-term decision with long-term effects.

Combine structure with flexibility

Schedules and discipline deserve added emphasis when schooling occurs outside traditional classrooms. Many homeschoolers still need a proper routine and dedicated space to achieve in this learning style. This applies to wake-up time, meals, active learning, breaks and even exercise and activities. If possible, a dedicated space in the home will help promote discipline and assert your expectations for academic achievement and study time.

Think integration, not isolation

The growing numbers of homeschoolers likely means that many homeschool households are already in your community, adapting the same as you. While learning will largely occur family by family, local resources can often provide the equivalent of gym class, field trips and similar events that bring homeschoolers together. Try searching Google, Facebook or a local parenting blog to find locales that connect students and parents for everyone’s benefit.
 

If you’re only in the consideration phase for a homeschool transition, these resources can help make your next step an informed step:

Tutor Doctor’s Top Tips For Writing a Great Essay

Writing an essay can definitely be a challenging task, and many people have trouble figuring out where to start – commonly referred to as “writer’s block.” Being able to effectively compose a written response to a topic is a vital skill you will use throughout your educational journey, and many students will find themselves submitting heavily-weighted essays with their college applications. Here are some quick and easy tips to help write a great essay!

  1. Always make an outline first. Students often skip this step, especially if the required essay response is timed (like a prompt on an in-class exam). Although it may seem difficult to justify spending the first 10-15 minutes creating a detailed outline, the results will pay off later. Having an outline prepared helps to avoid getting stuck in the middle of your response, and also provides a definite “game plan” for your essay.

  2. Start with a standard five-paragraph essay. The standard essay format should consist of at least five parts – an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. You can always go back and add more supporting arguments or additional paragraphs later, but it’s important to get the “meat and potatoes” of your essay done first. It also helps to arrange your outline into five parts, making this step even easier!

  3. Make sure you have a thesis statement and topic sentences. It’s important to remember what you are specifically addressing in your essay. Regardless of the essay type (persuasive, descriptive, personal anecdote, etc.), you should have a thesis statement at the end of your introduction that states the main theme of your essay. This same thesis statement should be reiterated in your conclusion. Also, make sure to double check that each paragraph has a clearly stated topic sentence and appropriate transitional words or phrases.

  4. Revise, revise, and revise again! This is probably the most important step to writing a great essay. You should always expect to write at least a couple drafts before editing your final product. If you’ve been focusing on a certain paragraph for a while, it can really help to take a step back and read your essay in its entirety. In the case that you are writing a timed-response essay, a draft may not be possible. However, we still recommend devoting at least 10-15 minutes (at the end of the exam) to revise your essay before submitting it.

  5. Add the final touches and polish your work. Although perhaps not as time-consuming as the writing process itself, it is still important to make sure your essay is formatted properly. Make sure you have an appropriate title and any information that is requested by your teacher. Many high school and college students will be expected to compose an essay in a professional format, such as MLA or APA. These styles have specific requirements, ranging from page numbers to citation formats. The last thing you want is to lose points for a formatting issue, so make sure your essay adheres to the required guidelines!

Extrinsic Motivation Works (Until It Doesn’t): How to Cultivate Intrinsic Motivation

Motivating students to perform can be a challenge. In times of struggle, tutors and parents will often choose the path of least resistance to help bring a child’s focus to the task at hand. It can be easy to settle for any port in a storm.

Nevertheless, when these strategies rely on extrinsic rewards, they may be doing more harm than good. Praise, punishment, and bribery may be easy, low-hanging motivational fruit, but they aren’t the ideal choices.

Shifting away from this type of superficial reward model isn’t always easy, but it provides enough short-term and long-term benefit to make the effort worthwhile.

Extrinsic rewards work (until they don’t)

There’s a reason extrinsic motivators have been used by teachers, tutors, and parents for generations: they work. That is, they work in the short-term.

Sticker charts, prize boxes, snacks, token economies, grades, approval, and threats are all examples of extrinsic “if-then” reward structures that adults use to get children to engage with tasks that they otherwise wouldn’t choose to do.

Whether it’s test prep or learning a language, when students are baited into working based on these types of rewards, the larger aspirations of personal accountability and fostering a growth mindset are hamstrung. As education and parenting author Alfie Kohn explains:

Extrinsic motivators do not alter the emotional or cognitive commitments that underlie behavior–at least not in a desirable direction. A child promised a treat for learning or acting responsibly has been given every reason to stop doing so when there is no longer a reward to be gained.

To achieve meaningful and long-lasting growth, motivation must come from within rather than without.

Making the switch to intrinsic motivation

Education is as much about promoting learning as it is teaching content. Once dismissal bells ring and tutoring sessions end, students still need to have the drive to live as active learners. With all that has been made about promoting grit and confidence in children, how do we, as adults, help them to get there? Extrinsic motivations clearly aren’t the ticket.

The challenge in shifting away from extrinsic motivation models is something needs to fill the resulting vacuum. The natural choice is the converse of extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation.

However, cultivating intrinsic motivation is hard. It is a highly personalized process that will play out differently for each learner. To promote it effectively requires relationship building and purposeful formative assessment on the part of those tasked with guiding young minds.

To begin with, tutors, teachers, and parents need to solicit student input and examine students’ learning needs to cultivate authentic reasons for engagement. From there, stakeholders can tap into a student’s felt need for learning with some practical strategies:

Intrinsic motivation is the gold standard when it comes to engaged, resilient, and purpose-driven lives. While everyone has their own preferences and inspirations, sometimes it takes a little targeted effort for the uninitiated to tap into them. Trade the unreliability of extrinsic motivation for the important work of helping students to find this self-guided enthusiasm for learning.

7 Ways to Overcome Test Anxiety and Conquer Your Exams

Have you had that nightmare?

You know - the one where you show up for a final exam and realize you’ve hardly attended class all semester? Many people have. It often features high anxiety or waking up in a cold sweat, and then joyous relief when you discover it’s not Final Exam day after all.

Whew!

We all take tests that can cause stress - English, math, driver’s education or college entrance exams to name but a few. And what we find - regardless of subject or potential consequence - is that feeling prepared is the #1 tool in pushing back against test anxiety.

Preparedness requires more than becoming a subject matter expert - in math equations, chemistry symbols, historical facts - whatever! Preparedness is mental and physical, and can be a preemptive strike against test anxiety.

Try these steps to help you reduce angst and achieve peak performance:

1. Plan for each exam

A test-taking luxury is that the Day of Destiny is known, allowing you to plan accordingly. With your calendar marked, your study plan should include knowing the importance of the exam; the range of information to be covered; the types of questions to be answered; your best study methods; tools that can help you; and how to minimize distractions. Check out last week’s blog post for more tips on preparing for your exams.

2. Get sleep

Anxiety on or before test day will increase if you’re not well-rested. Showing up over-stimulated or sleep-deprived will cloud your mind or jeopardize your scores. Beginning two weeks out, try sleeping at consistent times to condition your mind and body appropriately.

3. Feel physically fit

Walking, running, a gym workout or yoga will get the blood flowing, release endorphins and disperse tension. Consider adding in a favorite playlist or podcast to heighten the distraction from intense study. Exercise and diet work hand-in-hand to help achieve an optimal test-taking, anxiety-reduced mindset.

4. Eat right

Incorporating a balanced diet into your test prep routine has many benefits. You’ll have to eat, so why not do it right - especially at this critical time? An excellent place to start is with less of the sugary stuff, and more fruits and vegetables. Having proper foods on-hand and accessible is a way for your family to contribute to your success.

5. Relax your way

Building up your relaxation or chill mode is a great antidote to anxiety. Consider socializing, seeing a movie, taking a power nap, listening to music or visiting a park.

6. Reduce obstacles and obligations

Simplify your life. A cluttered calendar can cause stress and confusion. Move appointments that can be rescheduled, or trade responsibilities around the house with another family member.

7. Leave nothing to chance

On exam day, awake promptly (having set two alarms), eat properly, leave home and arrive at the test center early - and even have contingencies for road congestion or accidents.

By following these seven steps, you - yes, you - can master anxieties, avoid nightmares and advance towards the school of your dreams.

Year-End Exams are Right Around the Corner: How to Prepare

It’s soon time to plan for year-end exams. But before getting too wrapped up in the Periodic Table of Elements or quadratic equations, look at the big picture and strategize to score your best.

Know the territory

Quickly learn each exam date and mark your calendar accordingly. Next, answer these questions to determine what’s at stake:

Implement your best learning style

You likely know what study methods work well for you. Does silence, music or ambient noise feed you or distract you? Will you study alone, or, will you convene a study group to divide, conquer and reconnect the pieces to get up to speed? If it’s a study group, keep it manageable with perhaps 3-5 total students, and clearly define deadlines and deliverables.

Know the tools of the trade

Using available tools wisely will contribute to your success. Ask your instructor if study guides or prior years’ tests are available. If the exam is open-book style or technology-permissible, create an outline to guide your answer-execution skills, and confirm that your apps or online-accessible resources are current. From the get-go, use a calendar to plan and guide your study time. Your phone likely has a calendar app; Gmail’s calendar provides easy color-coding of study times and milestone by subject. If you need additional help, consult a tutor, recent graduate or knowledgeable grad student.

Minimize distractions

With test dates known, it’s buckle-down time. Although you may worry how you’ll fit exam prep into your already busy schedule, turn that upside down and make exam prep the rule, not the exception by:

Think repetition, not competition

It’s only natural to wonder how your exam scores may compare to fellow students’, however, that’s neither productive nor purposeful. Instead, focus on what you control - your time and concentration commitment. Review until the correct answers become habit. Know that excellence results from subject mastery and repetition, whether in music, athletics or other endeavors, and the same applies to achieving outstanding exam scores.

Although the school year-end is the destination, don’t overlook exam preparation along your educational journey.

Year-End Exams are Right Around the Corner: How to Prepare

It’s soon time to plan for year-end exams. But before getting too wrapped up in the Periodic Table of Elements or quadratic equations, look at the big picture and strategize to score your best.

Know the territory

Quickly learn each exam date and mark your calendar accordingly. Next, answer these questions to determine what’s at stake:

Implement your best learning style

You likely know what study methods work well for you. Does silence, music or ambient noise feed you or distract you? Will you study alone, or, will you convene a study group to divide, conquer and reconnect the pieces to get up to speed? If it’s a study group, keep it manageable with perhaps 3-5 total students, and clearly define deadlines and deliverables.

Know the tools of the trade

Using available tools wisely will contribute to your success. Ask your instructor if study guides or prior years’ tests are available. If the exam is open-book style or technology-permissible, create an outline to guide your answer-execution skills, and confirm that your apps or online-accessible resources are current. From the get-go, use a calendar to plan and guide your study time. Your phone likely has a calendar app; Gmail’s calendar provides easy color-coding of study times and milestone by subject. If you need additional help, consult a tutor, recent graduate or knowledgeable grad student.

Minimize distractions

With test dates known, it’s buckle-down time. Although you may worry how you’ll fit exam prep into your already busy schedule, turn that upside down and make exam prep the rule, not the exception by:

Think repetition, not competition

It’s only natural to wonder how your exam scores may compare to fellow students’, however, that’s neither productive nor purposeful. Instead, focus on what you control - your time and concentration commitment. Review until the correct answers become habit. Know that excellence results from subject mastery and repetition, whether in music, athletics or other endeavors, and the same applies to achieving outstanding exam scores.

Although the school year-end is the destination, don’t overlook exam preparation along your educational journey.

Celebrating Influential Women in Education During Women’s History Month

March 1st marked the beginning of Women’s History Month! All of us here at Tutor Doctor would like to thank the many magnificent women that have changed the way we look at education. Here are some influential women in education that we’d like to thank for making the world a better place!

Anne Sullivan

“Children require guidance and sympathy far more than instruction.”undefined

Often recognized as Helen Keller’s lifelong teacher, Anne Sullivan changed the way people with disabilities are approached in education. Due to Sullivan’s diligence, Helen Keller was able to learn to read, write, and communicate despite being blind and deaf. In fact, Anne Sullivan had overcome her own obstacles as well – due to an eye disease, she was left blind as a child. Anne Sullivan’s incredible work with Helen Keller is a testament to the great things that people with disabilities can achieve.

Maria Montessori

undefined“Early childhood education is the key to the betterment of society.”

Maria Montessori pioneered the concept of child-centered education. Using creative hands-on learning methods and encouraging self-directed activities, Montessori was able to form a unique instructional approach that provided successful results even in students that were considered “unteachable.” Montessori believed that early child education should encompass all parts of growth, including social, cognitive, and emotional development. To this day, the Montessori Method is featured in schools all over the world.

Michelle Obama

undefined“We can't afford not to educate girls and give women the power and the access that they need.”

In many parts of the world, educational resources are already lacking. For young women and girls, education can be virtually inaccessible, and sometimes even frowned upon for cultural and societal reasons. Michelle Obama has done an incredible job creating programs and resources for girls living in disadvantaged countries that do not have access to education. Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative has made huge advancements in providing schools and education to adolescent girls in Africa. For example, programs in Liberia are fighting to end gender violence in schools, as well as provide “second chance” opportunities for women who have become pregnant at a young age.

Mary McLeod Bethune

undefined“Whatever glory belongs to the race for a development unprecedented in history for the given length of time, a full share belongs to the womanhood of the race.”

Mary McLeod Bethune’s parents were both former slaves. As a result, she had very little access to education as a child. Despite this, Bethune went on to become a teacher herself, eventually founding her own school in 1904. Initially starting with only six students, Bethune went on to become a champion of African-American women’s education, founding the Bethune-Cookman College (now university) to help women of color receive access to quality education. Mary McLeod Bethune believed that education was the key to equality, and we couldn’t agree more.

 

Malala Yousafzai

undefined“In some parts of the world, students are going to school every day. It's their normal life. But in other parts of the world, we are starving for education... it's like a precious gift. It's like a diamond.”

Malala Yousafzai’s story of resilience and fighting for what is right is nothing short of incredible. Growing up in Pakistan, Yousafzai became an advocate for women’s rights and education at a young age. However, due to the Taliban rule of Pakistan, freedoms for women were severely limited, with access to education virtually nonexistent. Incredibly, Yousafzai survived after being shot in the head by a Taliban soldier at close range. After recovering, she went on to become an advocate of human’s rights and educational access for women. In 2014, at the age of seventeen, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize for her amazing work in bringing attention to these issues.

How to Teach Your Teens to be Financially Savvy

In today’s modern world, being financially savvy is crucial. Between the changing global economy, the rising costs of higher education, and the introduction of digital currencies, it’s more important than ever to start teaching your teens financial skills early on. Here are some great tips on how you can help your teens prepare themselves for the world of money-management!

Have them open a bank account. There’s no better way to teach a teen about saving (and spending!) their own money than by having them open a personal checking account. By receiving access to a debit card, your teen will be able to make purchases using their own savings. However, because a debit card is only linked to the available funds in their account, there’s no risk of falling into debt (like with a credit card). In addition, most banks have options for young account holders to sign up as a “joint” account under their parents. This way, the teen will still have their own funds, but parents can monitor and access their account. With the large consumer switch to online retailers and internet purchases, cash alone just doesn’t cut it anymore. Your teens will appreciate having their own money they can spend, and more importantly, the responsibility that comes with it.

Let them make mistakes. Although this may sound counterintuitive, it is better for teens to learn what bad or impulsive spending habits are now than later. Consider this – your teen decides to spend all $100 in their bank account on two new video games. They have the games, but they also now have no money left in their account for the rest of the month. This is a great way to introduce budgeting, and more importantly, financial responsibility. It is better for your teen to make a mistake now and spend “too much allowance” than later in life when real money is at stake!

Encourage them to save up for a purchase. Larger and more expensive purchases often require a bit of saving! By encouraging your teen to save a little each month, they will learn the value of long-term financial responsibility. In today’s world of instant gratification, your teens will appreciate the feeling of having earned something they worked towards.

Involve them in real-world financial decisions. Having your teen engaged in the process of smart-shopping is integral. Many teens, for example, get their learner’s permit or driver’s license around this age. They’re going to need car insurance, and there’s plenty of plans, discounts, and companies out there. Get your teen involved in the decision-making process to give them an introduction to these modern necessities (health insurance, car insurance, etc.)

Plan their college finances together. On a related note to our last point, college is a huge real-world financial decision. At Tutor Doctor, we encourage all of our students to pursue higher education, and it’s important for your teen to be aware of the costs. By reviewing tuition costs, room and board fees, textbook expenses, etc., you are helping your teen to understand the reality of what it costs to attend college. In addition, the large number of financial aid, grant, and scholarship programs are another great way to get your teen involved in the process. By filling out these applications together, you can help them to understand the true value of these programs.
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