Archives for November, 2009


5 Tips to Get Writing Rolling

I love to write, but on some days the words flow more easily than on others.

So many students resist writing and it’s often because they can’t get started. I try several approaches:

Brainstorming ideas and jotting them down as they emerge can help by getting those ideas out without worrying about the shape they’ll take. I tell my students that Step One is to locate your thoughts and Step Two is to worry about how...
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Five Tips for Helping Your Child (or Yourself!) Learn Math

Many kids (and adults) struggle to learn math because classroom instruction isn't enough to master this subject.
For one thing, math is cumulative.

A student needs to master the earlier concepts before being able to understand the later ones.
This means that if a kid falls behind the pace of the class he's going to rapidly become more and more lost and confused.

Another problem is that becoming good at math requires active practice.

Listening to a teacher explain math simply isn't enough.
Even if a student feels like she "gets it" at the time, she must practice on her own to really entrench that understanding in her head.

Five Tips for Coaching Your Child in Math

(Adult learners: Be your own coach, or help each other!)

1. Remind him that it's hard work

I tell my students that their brains are going to do hard work and sometimes feel a little bit sore. That's to be expected! Just like exercise, math requires effort and sometimes you have to push your brain and tire it out somewhat.

2. Enforce regular practice

Math should be practiced every day. On light- or non-homework days, go back and review concepts from previous lessons. Take hard problems and rework them a day or two later. If your child is struggling, she should be doing some math for at least ten minutes every day, even if it's just reviewing the basics. It will get easier over time!

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“Math” and “School” Are an Imperfect Fit

It's no wonder that learning math is quicker or easier for some people than for others. Math is not a natural skill. There's no "math part of the brain" that automatically seeks out and absorbs algebra.

We learn math by painstakingly linking each new concept or procedure to what we already know. Our brains do this by building complex webs of connections between neurons leading to multiple brain areas. This process can't happen overnight!
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Your Brain on Math

So many of us have negative feelings about our experiences learning math, and we walk around thinking of ourselves as “not math people.” And there is so much hype these days about math being easy and natural and fun for kids to learn, but then again we see so many of our children struggling.

Why, truly, is math so hard (let’s face it, it is!) for kids and adults alike? Part of the answer lies in our brain structure and the sorts of mental contortions math requires.
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Doing the Math: A Tutor’s Bread and Butter

This series of blogs is devoted to learning and mathematics.
Having said this, half of you are now on your way out the door…but please wait! We’re going to start by looking at why so many of us hate and avoid math, and why so many of our kids have trouble with this subject.

True Confession:  I’m a math tutor, but I'm not “a math person.” I’m much more of the literary, writerly, psychologist type.

But because I tutor math people assume I’m a whiz, and often they ask me very hard math questions I then can’t answer, or they challenge me to calculate big numbers quickly in my head, which I also cannot do.
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