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Don’t back down

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

So I recently flew to LA for a workshop with my super special acting teacher.

It’s my fifth time taking a class with him in about 18 months. Every time it’s amazing and every time it’s totally different. (Which is why I keep going!!)

At the very end of the workshop, we did this special exercise to access an “inner superhero” we could call upon in the future.

Usually I jump up in front of the group, eager for my turn. But for some reason this time I was dreading going up there.

Sitting and waiting was so intense. Like every cell in my body was going crazy.

The longer I waited the more intense it was. And I waited until no one else was left.

When I got up there to embody my inner superhero, I didn’t know what to expect.

What happened was it felt like I was channeling something huge, something so powerful. I found myself giving the audience loving advice, telling them, “DON’T BACK DOWN.”

I singled out one classmate who was a “struggling actor” and told him the truth, that I saw him as a leading man and he couldn’t stay in his cave.

I felt so connected to the people in the audience. I felt so strong, so direct, so clear. I felt way different than I normally feel.

Afterwards it felt like whatever I had just channeled was still happening in my body.

And where my mind started to go was, “How could I possibly be strong enough to be this big, this clear, this direct, all of the time?”

And also, “What if that was the peak of my entire life? What if I never experience that again, and that’s as good as it gets?”

I brought this up in front of the group and asked these questions to my teacher, and he told me that this was always accessible to me, that what I had just channeled was me, and was always inside me.

And the doubt was still there. How do I stay connected to this huge amazing breakthrough? How do I go forward from here?

Let me tell you, it does NOT always feel good to be called to the next level of growth.

It does NOT always feel comfortable, even when you are having an incredible breakthrough.

It doesn’t always feel safe. It doesn’t always feel like you know what to do next.

So…. flash forward. I’m back from LA. Someone who saw me playing my cello in Central Park this summer is emailing me asking me to play my cello for a private party after his dad gets knighted (??!!) and was wondering if I could send him some video clips.

I’m going through videos of my cello performances… one from the very beginning of the summer, right after another huge breakthrough, but before I started performing regularly in the magical Central Park tunnel. Another clip from my last performance of the summer, after I’d clocked dozens of hours in front of people.

When I was performing in the first clip, I remember it felt like a major peak. A big deal. But watching it now, I could see how uncomfortable I was, still, even after my breakthrough.

Performing in the second clip from the end of the summer, I remember feeling tired and pissed off. It didn’t feel like my best performance ever. I didn’t feel like anyone was connecting to what I was sharing.

But that’s not what it looked like on video.

On the video I was shining, beautiful, playing from my heart.

What the heck happened?

Integration.

Back right after my huge breakthrough in May, that performance felt like the best I’d ever played.

But instead of staying at that level, or retreating out of fear that I’d never “hit that level” again, I kept going. I played every weekend. I played for hours. I played for strangers.

And the things that had felt like a huge breakthrough in May became second nature. They became automated. They became integrated.

And now I’m being called to go through the whole cycle AGAIN!!

And it’s scary AGAIN!!

What I’m here to do is create transformation – in my own self, in my performances, for my audiences, and for my students’ relationships with math, mastery, and themselves.

But people don’t always talk about what to do after the breakthrough.

Here’s what I see needs to happen….

After the breakthrough…

1. …keep going. Just keep going.

2. Remember that there is always another loop on the upward spiral of growth. This is part of what it means to be a trailblazer. It’s OK if it feels scary and uncomfortable.

3. Stay connected to community. Stay connected to people who are also committed to their own transformation. Let them reflect your growth back to you. Let them celebrate where you’ve come from and lovingly remind you what it was like before. Let them hold the vision of where you’re going and travel through the next steps together.

4. Stay connected to your mentors who are farther along the upward cycle of growth, and who can help you through what they’ve already been through. Being guided by aligned people who have walked their own path with heart is an incredible transformation accelerator.

Do you want your trailblazing, outside-the-box, creative, passionate kid to be mentored in creating math mastery breakthroughs by a fellow trailblazer? Send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com and we’ll get you started with my special application to explore whether or not my magical math tutoring programs would be a fit for your family!

And here’s the video I was talking about…

Related Posts:
What changes when someone believes in you?
Does having a math tutor make you a “loser”?
Failure is not the enemy
Is your kid a creative, passionate, unique visionary of the future?

Here’s how this student and I worked together to completely transform her experience of math from a source of unbelievable stress and anxiety into a source of joy and strength:

Monday, October 6th, 2014

When this student first came to me just before the summer between her freshman and sophomore years, her mom told me that the tutor they’d just worked with had told the family that to this student, math was like a foreign language where she only spoke five words.

Somehow she’d made it to the end of 9th grade with Bs in math, but none of it actually made any sense to her. It was like she just knew enough to “get around” – like how to ask where the bathroom was and order a hamburger – but not enough to really understand what was going on around her, or communicate herself.

Once we started working together the summer before she headed into pre-calculus, this student’s mastery, confidence, and grades began to steadily improve. By mid-sophomore year, my student’s teacher mentioned to her that he had to be careful to call on other students because my student always gave the correct answer!

The “piece de resistance” was when my student had to take an oral final for her math class at the end of her 10th grade year. Her teacher gave them five very sophisticated problems that synthesized everything they’d ever learned in new ways they hadn’t seen before. They had unlimited time to prepare, and then each student was asked to explain one of the five problems, picked at random on the spot, in front of the entire class. My student did such a good job that she got an A, and she told me later that she walked out of that class feeling like, “I can do anything!”

When it came time for this student to decide what math class to take after pre-calculus, instead of taking the statistics class that many students take as a way to avoid math, my student opted to enroll in AP AB Calculus. Because math had become beautiful, fascinated, and intrinsically rewarding to her, she wanted to keep exploring and growing.

Here’s how this student and I worked together to completely transform her experience of math from a source of unbelievable stress and anxiety into a source of joy and strength:

1. We worked in an atmosphere of total camaraderie and trust. Our tutoring sessions were totally a lighthearted, safe zone where there was absolutely no judgement. This student was free to ask as many questions as she wanted, go over as many examples as she desired, or go over the same example as many times as she required, without any fear of being embarrassed.

2. We focused on filling in the gaps, while also addressing whatever she needed to learn that week or that day. When we would go over her current material and encounter a gap, we’d keep excavating backwards through the layers of prerequisite knowledge until we found the original misunderstanding. Then we’d fill that in, then the idea on top of that, then the idea on top of that, until we’d build back up through the layers to what she was responsible for learning today. This way she was able to repair gaps in her foundational knowledge, while also staying on top of her weekly curriculum and being prepared for tests and quizzes.

3. We really focused on approaching the material in a way that worked for HER. This particular student craves conceptual understanding, so we would approach the material from different angles until she understood WHY it worked that way. She also loves learning math visually, so we would frequently approach concepts and procedures in a visual way – like FOILing using a box instead of just parentheses – that made the concepts more intuitive for her, and easier to internalize.

During moments like this, she would share observations like, “I don’t know how I lived through math without completely understanding this, because it’s so much easier than I thought it was. My whole childhood with math has been completely relearned.”

As my student’s mastery naturally led to greater confidence and grades, her enthusiasm for math grew more and more. She recently shared with me, “This is actually so cool – when actually I understand it, it’s so much fun!”

Would you like your daughter or son to go from feeling like math is a foreign language to experiencing math as genuinely enjoyable, meaningful, and fascinating? Send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com, and we can set up a special complimentary 90-minute interview to explore whether or not it would be a fit for us to work together. I can’t wait to connect!

Related posts:
Case study: a 5th grader goes from believing “math doesn’t like me” to singing and dancing about math while wearing a purple tutu
Case study: a rising 8th grader masters her summer math packet
How to multiply binomials using a box (alternative to FOILing)
An easy way to remember how logarithmic notation works

The secret to getting straight As in math (it’s not what you think)

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

I was recently talking with one of my favorite students about her goals for the upcoming school year.

She told me her big goal was to make straight As.

This actually made me kind of worried!

You might be thinking, what, Rebecca, are you CRAZY? Why would it be BAD for a kid to WANT to get straight As?

So … let me explain.

The reason why this made me a little worried is because what is most important to me as a math mastery mentor and joyful learning expert is that the students truly master the material.

I’ve found that when students are committed to the process of mastery, and receive aligned support, everything else just happens naturally – the confidence, the grades, successful classroom participation.

It’s all just a byproduct of the true foundation, which is the mastery process.

So I’m going to share a big secret with you – the same big secret that I shared with this student.

If you want to make straight As in math…

…focus on the habit, not on the goal.

I explained to this student that her success in math up to this point is all because of incremental habits that she’s been developing.

If she keeps doing these little incremental habits, those grades will come, whether or not she’s focused on them.

So here are the exact incremental habits that are the secret to getting As in math.

If you want to get straight As in math, this is what to focus on:

1. Keep track of your assignments so you know what’s due and when.

2. Give yourself plenty of time to complete the assignments and study for tests.

3. Practice new concepts until they are automatic (even if this means doing more practice than is assigned for homework).

4. ALWAYS make sure to get feedback on your work (like checking your problems in the back of the book) so you know whether or not you’re on track.

5. When you miss something on a test or quiz, go over it and figure out exactly what wrong and what you need to do differently next time.

6. Do extra practice of those types of problems you missed on the test or quiz, so they won’t be confusing when they come back in the future.
7. When you don’t understand something, keep a running list of problems, concepts, and vocabulary that aren’t clear and you want help with.

8. Ask for help with the things you don’t understand.

9. If the help you receive doesn’t work, keep looking until you find help that TRULY makes sense to you.

Do you want your creative, passionate kid to receive math help that actually makes clicks with their individual brain? Help that supports them in truly mastering math (and getting great grades and having awesome confidence as a result)?

Then I invite you to begin the application process for my individual math tutoring programs. This application process has been meticulously designed to help us both get clear about whether the special, magical way I work is a match for you.

Send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com, and we’ll get you started on your application!

Related posts:
On optimal challenge
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Tips for a happy math year – #1
Tips for a happy math year – #2
Tips for a happy math year – #3

Will guessing move you forward, or throw your hard work out the window?

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Have you ever been working with your kid on a math problem and they just throw a number at you out of nowhere?

When this happens to me, I usually ask diplomatically, “Is that a guess?” or make the observation, “That sounds like a guess,” with a little smile.

The thing is, guessing is a super powerful problem solving technique – but most kids don’t realize that there are different kinds of guessing, and that certain kinds of guessing can move them forward confidently, while others can throw all of their hard work out the window.

Let’s break it down.

1. The first, and least helpful, kind of guessing is WILD GUESSING.

WILD GUESSING is NOT a helpful kind of guessing. It’s like if someone asks you what the capital of New Jersey is and you just open your mouth and name any geographical location that comes to mind. (“Poughkeepsie, Montreal, the Cote D’Azur…”)

Sometimes wild guessing happens at the beginning of a problem, when a student doesn’t know how to get started, so they just start doing random operations with the numbers in the problem. (“Hm, I have no idea what to do, there is a 5 and an 8 in the problem, let me multiply them together, then at least I have ‘done something’…”)

For some reason it also tends to happen when a student is almost done with the problem – usually almost at the very last step – and for some reason, instead of actually doing the tiny bit of work remaining, they’ll just throw a number out there.

This kind of WILD GUESSING – whether with guessing a number or just doing random operations – is important to recognize, because it usually means the student is not connected to what is going on in the math.

2. Another completely different kind of guessing is ESTIMATING. This is a great way to quickly predict an answer and then be able to confirm at the end of the problem whether or not you’re in the right ballpark, or if you made a calculation/computation error and are way off.

Frequently, estimating involves rounding the numbers and then making a mental calculation, before you dive into the nitty-gritty EXACT computation.

Estimating is a powerful tool and also a great way to practice mental math!

3. The third kind of guessing is DELIBERATELY TESTING A HYPOTHESIS.

This type of guessing is SUPER POWERFUL, and it’s something that professional mathematicians and scientists do all the time to move human knowledge forward!

For example, today I was working with a student on graphing a straight line.

She said, “What would happen if I flipped the xs and ys? Would they just be all over the place, or would they form a straight line?”

Though I knew the answer, I told her, “Why don’t you try it and see what happens,” because I knew that would be more impactful than if I just told her without her actually doing it.

Then she got to see that the points she was graphing DID still make a straight line – just a completely different line than the original one.

DELIBERATELY TESTING A HYPOTHESIS is also a great as a way to get started when you’re not quite sure what to do, but you have a hunch that you could try a particular approach, but you’re still not sure.

It is most helpful when there is some way to check your answer. Otherwise there’s no way to tell if your test was correct!

So guessing can either be a super powerful and savvy sophisticated tool – or the sign that a student is flailing and not yet connected to the meaning of material. That’s why it’s so important to know about the three different kinds of guessing, and discern between them.

Would you like your innovative, unique kid to experience math from the powerful position of being able to deliberately test out their own creative hypotheses? If so, I would love to talk to you!

To make sure it’s the right fit, I accept students into my magical tutoring programs by application only, and the application includes the extremely valuable opportunity to spend 90 minutes on the phone with me so we can getting super clear on what’s going on with your kid’s math and whether or not it would be a fit for us to work together.

Just send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com, and we’ll get you started on your application for my private one-on-one tutoring programs!

Related posts:
Case study: a rising eighth grader masters her summer math packet
When in doubt, talk it out
What to do when your kid makes a math mistake
How to experience math as your own unique creation

Are you tired of watching your kid give up on math?

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

What do you do when you see a problem full of weird things you’ve never seen before?

Or a super-long problem?

Or just a problem that combines things you’ve learned in a way you’ve never encountered?

What MOST people do is look at the problem, and as soon as they register it as “unfamiliar,” they give up.

They think, “I don’t know how to do EVERYTHING in this problem, so I must not know how to do it AT ALL.”

Like, “If I don’t know everything, I don’t know anything.”

But my students and I have encountered a fascinating phenomenon.

Hidden inside most “seemingly impossible” problems is a tiny crumb of do-ability.

If you find this tiny crumb and you start there…

… a lot of times, that’s all you need to get started…

… and once you get started, a lot of times, that’s all you need to get going… and solve it!

For example, a student of mine came across a problem that combined a bunch of negative and positive integers with brackets and parentheses:

[(-8*5)-(6*-9)](-2*3)

My student’s first reaction was, “I don’t know how to do this.”

Then she realized that she DID know how to do 8 times 5… (to quote her, she said, “I could do 8 times 5 like in second grade”)

…and then she remembered that negative 8 times negative 5 is positive…

…and by finding the “tiny crumb of do-ability”, she was actually able to get started and complete the entire “scary/impossible problem.” It actually took her less than a minute to do the whole thing!

And she observed, “All I had to do was use what I learned in 2nd grade,” just in a slightly more complex combination than before.

For another example, another student of mine got stumped when practicing translating English into math, a problem like, “The difference of seven times n and three is twenty-seven.”

Her first reaction was, “I haven’t learned this yet.”

She looked for the little piece she did know… which was that ‘is twenty-seven’ translates into EQUALS 27.

Once she got started with that little piece, she was able to build out from there, that ‘seven n’ is 7n, and ‘the difference of seven times n and three’ is 7n-3, all the way to the full translation, 7n-3=27.

To quote one of my students on how she felt after we worked on this approach together, “Problems are never so hard when you break them down. You can’t judge a problem by its length or numbers. Even if it just looks really hard, you have to break it down.”

So the next time you encounter a problem that just stops you in your tracks, looks super long or complicated, or overwhelms you with unfamiliar symbols, look for the tiny crumb of do-ability.

Even if it seems insignificantly small, a lot of the time it’s all you need to get on your way to the solution.

This is also a great way to practice deliberately being with the UNKNOWN and setting yourself up for revelations and lightbulb moments, like I wrote about in “Do you wish your kid could feel like Albert Einstein while doing math?”

Do you wish your passionate, unique, visionary kid could be supported in breaking things down and experiencing math as fun, do-able, and creative? Then let’s get you started with your application to my powerful private tutoring programs!

This application includes the super valuable opportunity to speak with me one-on-one and get clear about exactly what’s going on in your family’s math situation. Send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com and we’ll get you started with your application!

Related posts:
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How to get your kid talking about math
What changes when someone believes in you?
A 5th grader goes from believing “math doesn’t like me” to singing and dancing about math while wearing a purple tutu

Do you wish your kid could feel like Albert Einstein?

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

My student who loves to sing and dance about math boldly announced to me during our tutoring session, “I feel like Albert Einstein!”

Ok, so let’s back up for a second. How did this happen?

When she told me she felt like Albert Einstein, I told her, “I think this is really important. Let’s look at this together for a minute.”

What was the process that led to this lightbulb moment?

Here’s the breakdown.

We were working on a problem that combined multiple circles shapes to make a complicated-looking shape that LOOKED super scary and weird – but was actually just a bunch of circles combined in an innovative way.

When my student first saw the problem, her first thought was, “I don’t want to do this. This is too complicated.” (Initial resistance to the problem.)

Then, she thought, “OK, why don’t we just try it, because if we skip it, I might forget to do it and then I won’t ever get it done or learn from it.” (Willingness to engage with the problem.)

As I was talking to her about the problem, this student started playing around with the diagram, trying to break it into smaller shapes.

Without freaking out or trying to force anything, she just playfully engaged with the problem, without being worried that she “didn’t know how to do it.” (Willingly engaging with the unknown with a sense of playfulness and lightheartedness.)

While she was listening to me, she started getting a mental image of Mickey Mouse ears, and a Mickey Mouse cartoon she had seen where Mickey lost his ears. Then, when Mickey found his ears and put them back on his hat, half of the full circle disappeared into the hat, so only a semicircle stuck out to make the ear.

(Her subconscious started to make non-linear connections. She let her subconscious flow without shutting it down.)

Then my student realized that the same thing was going on in the diagram we were looking at - the little circles were being “stuck” into the big circle and half of them were disappearing.

(Her subconscious/visual mind clearly showed her how to solve a problem she “didn’t know how to do.”)

Then she knew exactly what to do and was off and running! (She immediately applied her flash of insight to successfully solve the problem.)

What makes me SO HAPPY about this is… very advanced scientists, mathematicians, and inventors often rely on their creativity and their subconscious mind to solve the problems that really stretch the limits of their current understanding.

But you don’t have to wait until you’re in graduate school or interning at CERN to start working with your creativity and subconscious to solve problems.

In fact, you can start right now… even if you’re “just” a rising 7th grader!

Here’s how you, too, can start to invite more Albert Einstein moments into your math learning:

1. Be willing to engage with the unknown. When you see a scary problem that looks unfamiliar, instead of shutting down and saying, “I don’t know how to do this,” or, “I need someone else to show me what to do,” just say to yourself, “Why not just take a look at this and see what happens?

2. Let yourself play with the problem and explore. You don’t have to know what to do. Try to break it down into something you do know how to do. Look at it from different perspectives. It doesn’t have to make sense immediately.

3. Remember that it doesn’t have to be linear and you don’t have to force it. Just hold the problem lightly in your mind while you are exploring.

4. If you start to get some unrelated images or ideas, let them come through. Maybe they will show you how to solve the problem!

5. If you do have a lightbulb moment of insight, go ahead and apply it to the problem and solve! This is so satisfying!

6. VERY IMPORTANT: If you don’t solve the problem right away, it’s OK to take a break and come back to it later. (In fact, professional mathematicians and scientists do this on purpose! And many of the most important problems of their careers took them months or even years to solve.)

7. ALSO VERY IMPORTANT: Even if you DON’T solve the problem, practicing deliberately being with the unknown is incredibly valuable.

I’ve come to realize that deliberately being with the unknown and having the courage to experiment is maybe the most important skill we can learn in math and in life. To me, it is an incredible meta-skill that allows so many other beautiful learnings, creations, and opportunities to come through. Unfortunately, it’s something that is not mentioned or encouraged in most educational environments.

Just as an example of how this skill is developed as part of my work, when this student first came to me, what was going on was if she didn’t immediately know what to do, she would give up right away and ask her Mom to show her how to do the problem.

Now she her instinct is to explore, instead of give up, and she is living in a completely different world.

Is this a transformation you would like your child to also experience – from giving up as soon as they don’t know what to do, to having their own moments where they feel like Albert Einstein after a blinding flash of insight?

Then I invite you to apply to my super powerful one-on-ones tutoring programs. Just email me at rebecca@zooktutoring.com and my team will get you started with the application process, which
includes the opportunity for you to speak to me for a full 90 minutes and get clear on what’s going on in your kid’s math situation and whether or not it’s a fit for us to work together. (This level of attention to incoming families is unparalleled in the tutoring industry!)

Related posts:
Does having a math tutor make you a “loser”?
Case study: a 5th grader goes from thinking “math doesn’t like me” to singing and dancing about math while wearing a purple tutu
I just can’t keep this a secret any longer
How to experience math as your own unique creation
Is your kid a creative, passionate, unique visionary of the future?

Does having a math tutor make you a “loser”?

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

DSCN7627 (745x1024)
Playing my cello… in Central Park!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So in April and May I was taking a special acting class in New York.

Towards the end, my acting teacher encouraged me to start playing my cello on the street in New York City to help me become WAY more comfortable with playing in front of other people.

And part of me was like…WHAT??? This sounds

a) insane

and

b) terrifying!!!!!!!!!!

And then this weekend, I decided to try it. I put on an awesome outfit with crowns and feathers in my hair and took the subway to a super special spot in Central Park with great acoustics and beautiful mosaics, and I played from my heart.

And people stopped and listened … and it was so much fun!!! And I think this is just the beginning…

DSCN7629 (762x1024)
Victoriously holding my cello over my head after performing in the beautiful tunnel!

I can tell you right now, this NEVER would have happened without having my acting teacher mentor. The idea never would have even crossed my mind. I would still be thinking that playing out on the street was insane and terrifying, instead of having the experience of going to a beautiful place and then an audience just shows up and we have fun together!

So does having a mentor, a teacher, or a tutor, mean that you’re a loser?

This is something I’ve really been thinking about a lot.

I hear this all the time. Parents will tell me, “I don’t want to take my kid to a tutoring center because they’re worried someone will see them and then they’ll feel embarrassed/ashamed/humiliated…” Or even, “My kid isn’t allowed to have a tutor if they’re taking an honors class…”

And I’m like, WHAT?????????????

It’s like…every single athlete playing in the world cup… did they get there just by showing up to soccer practice? No frikkin’ way!! They had personal trainers, massage therapists, sports kinesiologists, and it wasn’t because they were “losers” or “not talented” or “just not a football/soccer person”… because they were committed to their own growth and their own vision and they knew they would get there way faster with support.

For some reason in our culture, we understand that if you get support with sports, it’s because you are committed to becoming stronger, faster, more flexible. We see that kid with a personal trainer or a private quarterback coach and think, wow, they are REALLY into it! But somehow there’s this like unspoken assumption that if someone has a tutor in academics, it’s because they are “not smart” or “a bad student” or even “a loser.”

WHY do we think like this?

The first time I ever heard of someone having a professional tutor, I was in high school. One of my classmates in my (notoriously challenging and amazing) high school history class mentioned that our teacher had encouraged him to get a professional tutor to help him with his essays for her class.

And by the way, his tutor spoke five languages and thought in Chinese (even though it wasn’t his first language).

I thought, wow, that sounds really cool!!!!!! My classmate got to hang out with a super interesting and unique adult who was mentoring him so he could master the skill of writing history essays.

It was just about receiving support from someone farther along the path in developing a very specific and valuable skill that happened to be challenging for him at that particular point in his journey.

I was almost jealous, and definitely intrigued!

I was not like, “OH, this kid is a LOSER!”

So why do people think that if they have a tutor, it will make them a loser?

I think it all comes down to three subconscious misunderstandings about how true mastery works:

Subconscious misunderstanding one:

“You either have it or you don’t.”
(This is also known as “fixed mindset” – however much intelligence or ability you’ve got, that’s how much you have, and it’s never going to change.) In this case, for example, being tutored means that you “don’t have it”.

Subconscious misunderstanding two:

“Support doesn’t create true mastery.” This can also look like, tutoring is just about getting by, getting through it, scraping by, and surviving by the seat of your pants.

Subconscious misunderstanding three:

“You get to the top on your own.” So if you’re getting support, then you’re not one of those ‘special people’ who ‘got to the top’ working in isolation.

Fortunately, these are all actually just misunderstandings, and they are not true. (Phew!)

Here is the truth.

1. If you “don’t have it” with math, you can acquire it with persistent, incremental effort.

2. True support does create true mastery. A good math tutor will help you achieve complete security with what you’re working on so it becomes part of who you are and you can truly thrive.

3. Everyone who “gets to the top” or “makes it” gets there with support.
It’s not black or white – it’s about a continual upward spiral, continual course correction, continually stretching out of your comfort zone into the growth zone.

So here are three easy ways to help your kids understand that having a tutor does not mean that you are a loser:

1. Model and nurture a growth mindset. There is no such thing as a “math person” or a “non-math person” – we are all absolutely capable of learning math. If you’re confused about something, it’s just because you need to practice it more, or hear it explained in a way that makes more sense to you, or both. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with you. You can literally grow the part of your brain that understands math.

2. Mastery orientation. Focus on truly supporting the process of mastery. Don’t settle for tutoring that’s just about getting by, getting the homework done, or getting the grades. Focus on supporting your kid in deeply understanding the concepts until they become part of who they are and even a form of self-expression.

3. Normalize support. Explain that everyone who achieves greatness – even if their path is extremely unique – gets there by working with those who are farther along the path. Bill Gates uses an executive coach. Soccer stars, musicians, actors, artists – they all get mentored. Having a mentor is just a sign that you are deeply committed to your own growth and bringing your own gifts and vision and passion into the world. And it happens a LOT faster when you have help.

Would you like your passionate, visionary kid to experience the kind of accelerated math transformation that can happen with true math mentoring?

Then I invite you to begin the application process for my individual math tutoring programs. This application process has been meticulously designed to help us both get clear about whether the special, magical way I work is a match for you.

Send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com and we’ll get you started with your application!

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Is your kid a creative, passionate, unique visionary of the future?

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Right now, there are two different models of learning in the world – the “enthusiasm” or “love” model of learning, which is all about growth, creativity, freedom, the enjoyment that comes from mastery, and learning so that you can fulfill your own vision.

Then there is the “fear” model of learning, which is competitive, has a scarcity orientation, is institutional, about checking off boxes, and outer-directed. There’s a terror of being left out, left behind, or found inadequate. If you fail, it means you’re fundamentally flawed. And it’s about kissing ass, meeting others’ expectations, and doing what your told.

Guess which model I’m about?

You are right. I am about the love!

It has become super clear to me that the kids I’m meant to work with are the next generation of visionaries. These are the kids with passion, who don’t fit in, who stand out from the crowd in some way.

Parents of these kids view their kid’s uniqueness as precious and inviolable. They want their kids to transcend the system, have the tools to flourish anywhere, and create their own life and reality. And right now they are experiencing math as a stumbling block.

These parents know that the world is not always friendly and supportive towards those who are different, and they want their kids to have the support they need to be resilient in hostile environments, and to be able to change their environment or even create their own environment.

Yet these skills are VERY RARELY, if EVER, taught in conventional educational environments, because our current educational model, for all its beauty and strength, is still at least 100 years out of date.

In fact, the characteristics and behavior needed to succeed in this new world are frequently actively DISCOURAGED (consciously or unconsciously), even in the most elite educational environments.

But these skills, and these passionate, creative, visionary kids, are exactly what the new world needs.

Because our world is truly, profoundly shifting.

The new world is all about being in your own unique zone of genius, having a vision, and the courage to unfold that vision and fight for it.

The new world is full of individuals sharing their souls and their unique gifts with vulnerability.

It’s about taking a stand for what you really want and what you really believe in.

It’s about the willingness to blaze your own trail – with like-minded mentors, guidance, and community – instead of following a pre-set career path.

This new world is about making your own game, or changing the game.

It’s about pleasing yourself, intrinsic motivation, and the deep satisfaction and joy of doing what you love. It’s about growing. It’s about self-direction and self-determination in a community of like-minded souls. It’s about synthesis and evolution.

On the other hand…

The old world is about filling a role, being obedient, and going through the motions. It’s about winning the game, thinking that there’s only room for one at the top. It’s about pleasing others in order to be rewarded with grades, money, or status. It’s about following a leader and regurgitating others’ ideas.

That’s what a lot of education prepares students for – the old world. But it’s not preparing students for THIS world, the new world.

And frequently these educational environments are downright unsupportive, if not openly hostile, towards the passionate, courageous visionaries of the future.

If you’re the parent of one of these kids, you know deep in your soul that your kid is actually going to need MORE skills to blaze their own trail.

They’ll need a deeper connection to their own truth and their own vision.

They’ll need to be more courageous, articulate, skillful, and strong.

They’ll need to be MORE resilient in the face of fear, doubt, disappointment, and confusion.

Because the path of a passionate visionary requires greater inner strength and outer skill than a pre-set path.

It requires a deeper and deepening connection to our own inner guidance, intuition, and even to God (whatever language you use – Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Source, Spirit, Soul, Guidance…).

I know, because this is what’s been required of ME.

In the world around us, there is just so much fear about what is changing. How the old sources of security, income, and structure are crumbling, or already gone. And people are fighting over the scraps.

Yet the other world of plenty is available. It’s right in front of us. The same tools that are dismantling the old order are the exact same tools that allow gutsy individuals to spread their vision, thrive, and be more rewarded than ever before. When the means of production and distribution are no longer centralized, it’s not about waiting for someone else to “discover” you or give you permission. It’s about having the guts to validate yourself and be willing to hold to your vision when no one else is seeing it. And the strength to keep going.

This new world requires new skills, new ways of navigating, and new ways of being, which are NOT taught or encouraged in the vast majority of conventional education.

So what do you do?

I am here to help these kids who are unique, who are creative, who are passionate, who have vision, and who stand out from the crowd.

I mentor these future visionaries. I know what it takes, because I am creative, passionate, visionary, and do not fit in. And because I have blazed my own trail – and I am continuing to do so every day.

I am here to help make math master-able and magical for these kids on a mission – AND to use math as a vehicle to learn these larger meta-skills that visionaries need and that the new world requires.

Does this resonate with you? Does this describe your kid and your family? Then I would absolutely love to connect with you. Send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com and we’ll get you set up with a special appointment to explore whether or not it’s a fit for us to work together.

And if you found this article helpful, please forward it to other parents, kids, and families who might benefit from it! The time to spread the word is now!

Sending you so much love,
REBECCA

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Self-made heroes: the dancers of Planet B-Boy

What changes when someone believes in you?

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Math Butterfly

(Here’s a “math butterfly” one of my students and I created during a recent tutoring session!)

What changes when someone believes in you?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

I just had a huge performance breakthrough on my cello with my acting coach, and I’m getting ready for my quarterly business retreat with my business mentor. I’m going to be spending over a week surrounded by people who love me and believe in my highest potential and biggest vision.

In both of these situations, I feel so safe and accepted to really go for it, and I cannot believe how much better my music and my business and teaching gets as a result.

It completely changes my concept of what I’m capable of. It makes me believe that my dreams really can come true, because I can see it already happening.

Let me tell you, though, it hasn’t always been like this! At ALL.

Just as an example, not so long ago, when I was in graduate school for cello performance, I went to audition for two different summer chamber music festivals.

At the first audition, the person I was auditioning for radiated skepticism about me and my abilities. I didn’t feel very comfortable – I could tell she thought I had something to prove. She asked pointedly, “Do you have anything fast you could play for me?” I don’t even remember how I responded to that, but I remember thinking that if she accepted me into her festival, she would think she was doing me a favor, and I would feel seriously inferior.

The very next day, I went to audition for an amazing violinist, and took the commuter rail all the way out to New Jersey to meet her at the festival location. Her demeanor was so warm and welcoming and enthusiastic. I felt so comfortable!

I had fun playing for her, and when I was finished, she said very firmly, “You DEFINITELY have what it takes to be accepted to this festival!”

So guess which festival I ended up attending?

Yes, the one with the enthusiastic and welcoming teacher!

This experience was a real turning point for me. At this festival, I played the Cello 2 part in the Mendelssohn String Octet, which is both one of my most favorite-est pieces of music in the WORLD, and has an unbelievably hairy and notorious cello solo at the beginning of the last movement – that I had to learn!

This amazing violinist teacher went completely out of her way to set me up to really rock it. She even demonstrated how to play this solo holding a GRAPEFRUIT instead of using her fingers! And her musical partner and husband, also an incredible teacher, gave me a great fingering. I learned how to do it!

When we performed, I just went for it. And the audience response was so phenomenal. We were playing in a church, and the audience members stood up and BANGED on the pews, they were so excited! We were riveting!

This experience gave me the rock-solid conviction that classical music can be just as electrifying as anything else – and can truly bring an audience to its feet with RAUCOUS joy, not just polite or intellectual appreciation!

Looking back on this experience, it is so funny to me that that first person I auditioned for was skeptical that I could play fast. Because the second person, the amazing violinist, trusted me and helped me learn a SUPER FAST cello solo that I completely rocked (if I do say so myself)!

So what changes when someone believes in you?

I think it’s really simple.

1. When someone believes in you, they automatically ask you to do more.

2. Ideally, they also give you the TOOLS to actually DO it.

3. You have the opportunity and the tools to go beyond what you thought you were capable of.

4. You experience mastery! Breakthroughs happen! People respond with incredible enthusiasm! You are so excited and happy!

5. You believe in yourself, and you keep going. You begin to inhabit a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT REALITY.

Amazing, right? But – let’s look at the shadow side.

What happens when the teacher or mentor you trust DOESN’T believe in you?

1. They don’t trust you, so they don’t ask you to do more.

2. They usually don’t give you the tools to do more because they actually don’t know how to really help you, or they don’t even think you would “get it.” (A lot of times this is subconscious or unconscious on the teacher’s part, I’ve found.)

3. You don’t go beyond what you thought you were capable of. Your idea of what you can do starts to shrink.

4. Super important: you subconsciously pick up that they don’t believe in you and you start to entrain with that. You start to believe in yourself less, and you don’t do as well.

5. Or you start pouring an enormous amount of mental, emotional, and spiritual energy into defending yourself in your own mind. But inside you really just feel like you suck.

6. Downward spiral continues until you shift the pattern or reincarnate and start over!

Trust me, I know, because I’VE BEEN THERE! I have wasted so much time and energy with people who did not believe in me… constantly feeling insecure and defending myself in my mind. And I did not bloom. If I improved, it was so slow and painful. And I did not shine at my fullest light. This was not helpful for me or anyone else!

Two caveats:

1. Caveat #1: It doesn’t work if your teacher or mentor wants it for you more than you want it for yourself. You have to want it as much as your teacher or mentor, or even more.

2. Caveat #2: Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are times in life where we are going to encounter people who don’t believe in us. I’m not saying that we can only talk to or work with people who are constantly cheerleading us and telling us we’re awesome. (In fact, that’s not really what this awesome teacher did – she challenged me and gave me the tools I needed, which is so different from empty praise.)

But it IS up to us who we choose to study with and learn from. It IS up to us who we trust with our unfolding dreams. And it is so much more FUN and so much more POWERFUL and everything happens like a BAZILLION times FASTER when we choose to spend time with people who believe in us. It’s like the difference between picking crumbs off the floor of a MacDonalds and feasting on your favorite foods with people who love you!

If you or your kid is suffering in math right now because of a crisis of confidence – if you are feeling like your kid’s teacher doesn’t believe in them anymore, or you’re worried that your kid doesn’t believe in themselves, or that they feel deep down inside that “math doesn’t like me anymore” or “I’m not good at math” even though they’re busting their butt and trying their absolute best, I would love to talk to you.

Just send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com, and we’ll get you all set up with a super special complimentary appointment, just me and you, to get clear on what’s going on with your kid’s math learning and whether or not it would make sense for us to work together!

How to ace your math final exam (without losing your mind)

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Are you getting ready for math finals… maybe even your first math final ever? Are you uncertain how to study and prepare?

Or, if you’re a parent, not a student, does the thought of getting through your kid’s math final fill you with dread?

This week, since I’m right in the middle of preparing several of my students for their final math exams, I want to share all my best math studying tips with you – whether you’re a student or a parent – so you can happily survive finals week with a minimum of stress.

This is the exact same process I walk my students through, and also the exact same powerful tips I share with my private clients!

And I’m not just going to share my own tips – I’m also going to share some of my students’ tips, too!

First, just some basic overall tips about the big picture of taking your math final, especially if it’s your first one:

1. Breathe. If thinking about your math final, or your kid’s math final, sends you into a panic, keep breathing. Just keep breathing deeply. If you forget, you can start again right now. Take a deep breath. Right now. You can do this. Take three deep breaths. Yes. That’s right!

2. Eat. Make sure that you’re getting really good meals all throughout finals week. You want to keep nourishing your brain with high quality protein! Also, you will be less stressed, more receptive when studying, and find it easier to retain what you’re learning when your blood sugar isn’t careening all over the place.

If you’re the parent, making sure you get good nutrition this week is also important and will make it easier to be calm and loving with your kid if they need help from you.

3. Sleep. I know! It is important to get good sleep all through finals week – not just the night before the test! (Even if you’re the parent!) You will get WAY more out of your study sessions if you are getting good sleep every night. And actually, if you have to choose between studying and sleeping, you’ll get higher grades if you choose to sleep. (Counterintuitive but true!)

Just doing those three simple things alone will help. Now let me share with you the exact play-by-play study plan one of my star students and I just created.

Before finals week…

1. At least a week before finals week, make a study plan for the entire week.

2. Pace yourself. Be realistic about how much studying you can get done each day of finals week. If you have another final the next morning, it probably isn’t going to be a big math study day, and that’s OK.

3. Break it up. If you have a big review packet due for homework, don’t plan on doing it all in one giant lump. Doing three math packets all in one afternoon is probably not the best plan.

4. Make sure to build in some wiggle room. That way if you don’t get all of your study packets done as planned, you still have time to get it done before your math final and before your study packet is due.

5. Expect to have questions, and plan accordingly. As part of your overall study plan, expect that there will be some problems, topics, or concepts you’ll want to get outside help with.

Factor this into your study schedule so at the latest, two days before the test, you can turn to your parents, teacher, or trusted math-savvy friends to get your questions answered. Then the day before you can just focus on reviewing what you’ve already clarified.

When you start studying…

6. If you really need to prioritize your studying time, when you start going through your study packet, look for the hard, confusing, unfamiliar problems and try to work on them first. That way you’ll know what you have questions about as soon as possible. If this freaks you out, don’t worry, that’s okay. Just back up and do easier problems that are related to that topic to build up to the harder problems.

7. When you get to a problem you don’t remember how to do, make an easy, simplified version of the problem. A lot of times this is all it takes to remember exactly what to do.

For example, let’s say you need to convert 5.6% from a percent to a decimal. You might think, “OMG, I have no idea what to do, how can I convert it to a decimal when it already has a decimal in it…??!!” First, make a simpler version of the same problem. Just say you need to convert 5% from a percent to a decimal. Ok, now you remember you just need to move the decimal point two spaces to the left, so it will be .05. Great! Now it’s easier to see that with 5.6%, you also just need to move the deciaml point two spaces to the left, so it would be .056. Now we’re back on track! (And by the way, this is what professional mathematicians do when they get stuck.

8. As you go through your study packets, make a list of the equations you need to have memorized for your math exam. Practice writing them down from memory so by the day of your math final they are no big deal.

9. Plan to take breaks. And then actually take breaks. This will help you remember things better, keep you from getting too stressed out, and also makes the whole process more enjoyable. Take breaks that rest your eyes (from all that reading), your neck (from having it at that “reading angle”), and your brain (from thinking so hard). Pay attention to what actually helps you feel refreshed – maybe walking around the block or taking a dance break will replenish you more than checking facebook, for example.

The countdown to the final…


10. The day before the test, plan on reviewing
what you’ve already practiced and understand.

11. Be sure to do something fun and relaxing the night before the exam, like watching one of your favorite movies or listening to your favorite music.

12. If this would help you feel super prepared, pack your bag with everything you need so you won’t need to worry about it the morning of the test.

13. Get a good night’s sleep the night before.
(This probably the most important thing you could do of all!)

14. The morning of your test, be sure to get a good breakfast with lots of protein.

15. A great tip from one of my very successful students: On your way to school, don’t study in the car. At this point, you really either know it or you don’t. Just listen to some of your favorite relaxing music, for example.

16. Be sure to get to the location of your math final early
so you’re not worried about being late.

During the final…

17. Another tip from one of my successful students: When you get your math final, close your eyes, take three deep breaths, and then open your eyes to begin. This will help you focus.

18. Write down all of the equations you need to know at the top of the page before you even look at any of the problems. That way you won’t need to worry about keeping them in your brain while you’re going through the test. It will be way more relaxing knowing they’re already written down and right there for you.

19. Once you start going through the test, make sure to do the easy problems first.

20. No one problem is worth a lot of your time or worth freaking out over. So if you find yourself getting really bogged down, stop, mark the problem so you know to come back to it later, and move on. You can always come back to it later after you’ve gotten the easier points first.

21. If you come to a problem where you don’t know what to do:

-take a deep breath and read it again (this tip directly comes from one of my students)
-if you’re not sure what to do, mark it and come back to it later
-when you come back to it later, experiment with creating an easy version to see if that reminds you how to do it (like you did while you were studying)
-a tip from one of my students: sit in silence with your eyes closed, take a few deep breaths, and go through your mental math files to see if you get any ideas.


22. If other kids are finishing earlier than you, don’t worry.
Just because someone turns in their exam before you do doesn’t mean that they actually got the problems right. (Not that we would want this to happen to anyone, but they might be turning it in quickly because they gave up and didn’t finish!)

23. Throughout the entire exam, remember, it’s just an exam.
If you get a point off, it’s not the end of the world. (This is an exact quote from one of my students!)

After the math final, when you’re still at school…

24. Remember, right after the final is over, it’s up to you whether or not you want to discuss the test with your classmates. If that is helpful to you, go for it! If it makes you stressed, or you just like to keep your experience private, you don’t have to talk about it with anyone!

25. If you do talk with other students about what answers you got, don’t worry if they got a different answer than you. Just because they got a different answer doesn’t mean that they’re right!


After you leave the school building…

26. If you’re the parent: don’t ask your kid “How was your math final?” We’re socially conditioned to say, “fine,” “good,” or “great.” This isn’t actually very informative. And it doesn’t encourage the student to reflect.

You’ll get a lot more information out of your kid – and encourage them to analyze their experience – if you ask, “What was your math final like?” Then they can share the experience with you more fully without it being about “I did great” or “I did horribly.”

27. Be sure to celebrate! Give your parents a hug, have a dance party in your room, eat some ice cream, sing your favorite song, or just do whatever feels like a celebration to you. You just finished your math final!! YAY!! Party time!!

28. When you get your test results back, focus on learning from your experience.
If you did amazing, what did you do to create that awesome result? Be super specific with yourself about what worked so you can do it again next time and get great results again! If your results aren’t what you wanted, expected, or hoped for, what could you do differently in the future?

If you want next year’s math finals to be a way better experience for your entire family, and you’re ready to receive high-level, exclusive one-on-one support that is not typical tutoring, I would love to talk to you.

Send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com and we can set up a special complimentary in-depth appointment to get clear on your kid’s math situation and explore whether or not the way I work would be a fit for your family. I can’t wait to connect!

Related posts:
How to get started when you have no idea what to do
When doing your math homework just isn’t cutting it
What to do when you get a disappointing math test grade
How to experience math as your own unique creation