General

Pythagorean Pitfalls: Help for Math Students

As I go on my tutoring rounds, I wind up reteaching and clarifying the same material over and over. Certain topics and concepts are just plain hard for students to wrap their heads around. Many kids in grades 6-10 are currently covering Pythagorean Theorem or other geometry topics, and many are struggling (as usual!) with the word problems. If you are a parent, thinking Yipes ! I don't remember Pythagorean Theorem, the good news is that most students find the actual formula pretty do-able. But, they need help in reading the problem and drawing the diagram. Here's a sample problem from one textbook:
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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

Willpower-Friendly Tips For Students And Adults

Willpower is strongest at the beginning of the day and when glucose levels in the bloodstream are adequate.
You can perform better and succeed in getting tasks accomplished if you plan accordingly:

Bring a snack to long exams such as the SAT.
Avoid making decisions before lunch or at the end of the day.
Plan your day ahead of time (that morning or the night before) and then follow your schedule. Don't just float through the day...
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General

The Surprising Key to Willpower

New Year's is the classic time to resolve to form new habits, but most of us then abandon our good intentions by mid-February, if not before. It turns out that our willpower comes, not from the sincerity of our resolve, but from the glucose level in our bloodstream.The brain runs on glucose. Even when not working hard, the brain consumes 25% of circulating glucose, even though it only takes up 3% of the body's weight. Decision-making is especially taxing, and the brain burns glucose like crazy when it's forced to make lots of fine-grained choices over an extended period of time.
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General

Exam Tip: Make the Cheat Sheet You Wish You Could Use

Teachers often allow students to bring "cheat sheets" to exams.

A cheat sheet is an index card or single sheet of paper which the student can fill with all the facts and formulas she needs to know but is afraid she doesn't have by heart. (When given only a 3x5 space to fill, many kids can achieve some truly amazing, near-microscopic handwriting).

Even if you can't actually bring a cheat sheet to the exam,...
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General

3 More Tips to Feel Ready for Midterm Exams

Big exams can seem overwhelming, but there's plenty you can do to get ready. Here are three more tips (I posted the first three here); pick and choose or try them all! Tackle the easy stuff first. Cover the material you know pretty well and then cross it off your list. Start by going through your old tests and quizzes and reworking all the easy problems. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and progress, which will lift your spirits. Let parents help. During stressful times, support from other people can be invaluable. Let your parents remind you to study every day, allow them to clear the family calendar of non-academic events, and let them quiz you, bring you tea or just keep you company. Study alone, then with pals. Don't arrive at a group study session unprepared and clueless. Study alone first so you come equipped with a list of questions plus some knowledge to contribute.
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