Archives for Learning Problems

Education

Successful Student Habit #1: Get Enough Sleep!

What is sleep for, anyway? It may seem like a waste to spend 1/3 of every day snoozing; why not binge-watch a good show or do some extra online shopping instead? Yet, research keeps pouring out about the importance of sleep. Inadequate sleep is implicated in anxiety, depression, other emotional disorders, attention issues, unhealthy weight gain and poor cognition. Sleep, literally, clears the mind. The brain cleans out toxins during sleep. That's why you feel fuzzy-headed when you're sleep deprived; your brain is full of gunk! No wonder people don't think or learn well without adequate sleep.
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Education

Ratios Are Hard For Student Brains To Learn

Right now, algebra students are studying unit rates, proportions and dimensional analysis. Geometry students are working on similar figures and triangle proportionality theorems. All of these topics are hard for the same reason: They involve ratios, which may seem easy for adults but are actually deeply challenging for the learning brain to grasp. A ratio is the comparison of two numbers, usually using a fraction bar. If there are two dogs and three cats in a room, I could write that the ratio of dogs to cats is 2/3. Like so many things (reading, driving), ratios become second nature with enough practice, and people lose touch with how difficult they were to learn. And like reading and driving, ratios are hard for the brain because they involve simultaneity of thought. The brain is required to multi-task; it must think about the 2 dogs while at the same time thinking about the 3 cats.
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General

For Efficient Studying, Clear the Decks!

I hear more and more students complaining about the hours they're spending on homework, and how long they study for tests (but then they still don't do well). The culprit is almost always multi-tasking. Human brains are simply not built to do more than one thing at a time. This is true for young people just as much as for adults. These very same students will insist that texting, listening to music, and watching TV help them study. But what's really happening is
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Education

ADHD Types I and II?

One of my students included this very interesting 9-minute TED talk in a psychology class project. The speaker proposes that, as with diabetes, there are now arguably two forms of ADHD. We could call the inborn variety ADHD Type I; Type II would be what one doctor calls "Acquired Attention Deficit Disorder", developed through excessive Internet use.
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General

Do You Think I Know This Stuff?

One day, I was reviewing with a high school student for a final exam in history. It was rough going; the material was detailed and complex and this young man's grasp of both the facts and the concepts was poor. We plowed on for two solid hours, and then he turned to me and floored me with this question: "OK, now, do you think I know this stuff?" Truly, isn't that a remarkable thing to ask? This young man couldn't tell for himself whether or not the hard mental work he had just done had resulted in "knowing." But what, indeed, does "knowing" feel like? How do any of us know whether or not we know?
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Education

Seven Tips to Help Older Kids Who “Choose Not to Read”

Many students complain that reading is boring, books are stupid, and the material in their textbooks is pointless. In my experience, these are the kids who, in fact, find reading difficult.

When was the last time you listened to your child read out loud? For most parents, I'd guess it was elementary school. It's natural to assume that once kids are reading independently, they don't need any more help from that's very commonly not true....
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General

The Connection Between Attention, Memory and Learning

My son, Matt, uses this simple trick to keep track of his cell phone: Whenever he puts it down, he taps it three times; the tapping focuses his attention just long enough for the location of his phone to register in his memory. Meanwhile, I spend way too many frantic minutes searching for my phone, my calculator, my car keys, my gym bag...and bemoaning my "terrible memory."
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General

In Defense of Your “Lazy” Child

I've been a tutor for 40 years, and I've never encountered a lazy student. Scratch the surface of laziness and underneath you'll find fear, confusion, frustration, lack of knowledge, lack of skills, anger, sadness... And, often, just plain exhaustion. Willpower is a limited resource, and the demands of the school day can drain a student of her ability to attend and persevere.
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