Archives for School

General

Notes From My Habits Class For Students

I just finished teaching Making and Breaking Habits, a class I designed for my local community college, targeted towards high school and college students.

We had such wonderful discussions, and at the end of each session I jotted down the notes from the board:

What are habits? Things we do a lot, without thinking, on auto-pilot.

Why do we need habits? Most of what we do is automatic. It would be a big problem if...
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Education

Is Math Acceleration A Good Idea?

Way back when I was in school, Algebra I was considered a ninth grade course, and it was only a handful of "honors" kids who took it as eighth graders.

Since then, there's been a trend towards introducing algebra material to younger and younger students, in the hopes that by getting them primed earlier for algebraic thinking and giving them more years of algebra instruction, more students...
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General

Getting a Handle on Academic Anxiety

Do math tutors ever suffer math anxiety?


Sometimes I feel anxious when I'm going to have to tutor a topic that is hard for me. (Yes, even tutors and teachers find certain topics difficult!)

Here's how I cope:


I begin reviewing well in advance. Cramming makes me even more anxious, so I start reviewing early, when the pressure is off.
I use multiple sources. I like watching the videos on Khan Academy because I can just let them roll while I passively absorb some of the material. And I can watch as many times as I want (I "get" more with every viewing). I also read my textbook. Multiple explanations of the same material helps me understand it better.
I go for understanding, not just rote learning. If I can really wrap my brain around this stuff and "own it," I'm going to feel much more confident than if I just learn to plug numbers into some formulas.
I take breaks. This allows the material I just studied to sink in, and it gives me a chance to settle down and let my anxiety level come back to normal.
I deal with my anxiety. When I feel anxiety rising, I stop studying and take some slow, deep breaths. Or I stretch, or take a walk to the mailbox.
I take care of myself. I drink plenty of water, and I eat healthy foods to fuel my brain. Skipping meals can dull thinking and produce headaches, while sugary foods can cause energy spikes and crashes that make anxiety worse.


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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

5 Ways To Get Support During Final Exams



It's best to study at the library!

High school students are facing final exams now, and many feel anxious, confused and isolated.

Exam preparation is your responsibility, but that doesn't mean you need to go it alone! The best exam preparation involves reaching out for support from other people and resources:

Let parents help. During stressful times, support from other people can be invaluable. Let your parents remind you to...
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Emotions and Feelings

4 Tips to Reduce Final Exam Anxiety

Relax and look forward to summer by getting on top of your exam preparation.

The school year is coming to a close, but high school students first need to make it through final exams.

Try these strategies to get a handle on your anxiety and help exam season go smoothly:

Get started now! Anxiety builds as you worry and do nothing. It may feel very difficult to get started, but you will feel immediate relief once...
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Education

The Blood, Sweat and Tears of Middle School Math

Many middle school students struggle with math, often for the first time.

Math becomes harder in middle school, and teacher expectations are higher. These changes are appropriate as kids mature; the achievement bar must be raised so that students' intellects are challenged to grow. The teacher who waters down instruction so that it's always easy and "fun" isn't doing students any favors.
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Education

Why Vocabulary and Facts Are So Important

How do you know all the words without looking at the back of the cards? 

A fifth grade student was amazed that I knew every word on the American Heritage Dictionary's Top 100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know  list. She only recognized five.

I assured her that soon she would also know these words, because we were about to begin learning them now.The authors explain why knowing these words is so important:
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Education

Don’t Fall Off the Physics Bus!

My kids attended Indian Springs School in Birmingham, Alabama, where their wonderful physics teacher started off every school year with his infamous warning: Don't fall off the physics bus!

He was playfully reminding students that physics is a cumulative subject, in which you've got to make sure and master the material all along the way.

If you don't thoroughly understand and gain fluency in each chapter, especially the early ones, you won't have built up the foundation of knowledge and skills needed to handle the later material. Month after month, chapter after chapter, that physics bus will keep on rolling down the physics road, and if you fall off you'll have a heck of a time catching up with it.
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