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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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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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What a Balinese dancing queen taught me about praise and encouragement
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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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What a Balinese dancing queen taught me about praise and encouragement
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!

What to do when your kid makes a math mistake

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

In my work with my students, it’s really essential to me to also create a relaxed, playful environment. 

And a big part of this is how I handle it when students make mistakes.  I create a growth-oriented environment by asking very specific questions which support their mastery process.

Here are four simple ways that you can also respond to your kid’s mistakes in a positive way that will really support their long-term mastery. 

1.  Don’t be afraid to let your kid know that they did something wrong when you’re working through math together.   When we’re learning, it’s super important to get feedback as to whether or not we’re on the right track or off the rails!

Keep it lighthearted and matter-of-fact.  It’s no big deal.  There is no sense of failure or punishment.  You’re just giving them feedback – it is just information.

A lot of times I will say, “Actually, no” if a student makes a mistake, or just say, “No,” with a smile.

You can also use a question to direct them to re-do a step.  Like if you see them write out “7+7=15,” you can say, “What is 7+7?”  I probably use this one the most of all.

2.  If they don’t know they made a mistake, or you’re not sure if they know there was a mistake, ask them to find the mistake.  Invite them to locate it.

I prefer to use the specific wording, “Where’s the mistake?”  Or, “OK, where’s the mistake?” as opposed to “Can you find the mistake?”  (I wouldn’t be asking them if I didn’t believe they could.)  

3.  If they know they made a mistake, ask them, “What’s the mistake?” to invite them to tell you exactly what it was.   Invite them to analyze it.

Routinely analyzing one’s mistakes helps you raise your awareness and increase your odds of not making the same mistake next time.

A lot of times a kid will exclaim, “Oh, I understand what I did wrong!!” once you’ve started to re-do a problem that they originally did incorrectly, and this question is a great way to invite them to really break down exactly what happened.

4.  Don’t be afraid to talk about your kid’s mistakes on tests and quizzes.

Research has shown that if we don’t talk to kids about their mistakes and failures, kids internalize the message that they have done something so shameful it can’t even be spoken about.  (Even though this usually is just an unintentional byproduct of adults not knowing what to say, or not wanting to “make the kid feel bad.”)

If the student hasn’t already been asked to do this for school, you can invite them to analyze their errors by making a log where they identify the error, analyze why it happened, and correct it.  Just like analyzing it verbally, this really gives the student the opportunity to reflect, increase their awareness, and not make the same mistake next time.

One of my students, who loved doing this, and gave this process the playful name “Mistakes Log Blog.” 

And just be sure to keep it lighthearted – it’s not a chore or a punishment, it’s just an opportunity for further insight and growth.

If talking to your kid about their math mistakes seems overwhelming, just start using one of these steps to begin.  As long as you’re lighthearted and matter-of-fact, you’ll be helping your kid develop their capacity to reflect and analyze and think critically about their own work, with is a major life meta-skill that goes way beyond math!

Are you afraid that your kid’s math mistakes are going to close doors for them down the line and prevent them from living their dreams?  Are you tired of trying to handle this alone?  Are you ready to receive high-level one-on-one support?  Send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com and we can totally set up a special, complimentary appointment to talk about what’s going on in your kid’s math situation, and explore whether or not the way I work would make sense for your family! 

Related posts:
Tip of the day: what to do when your kid makes a math mistake
Case Study: a 5th grader emerges as an enthusiastic student and confident mathematician
Tips for a happy math year: normalize error
How to help kids be okay with things being hard

What to do when you get a disappointing math test grade

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Recently, one of my students shared with me she’d gotten a disappointing test grade. At first, instead of analyzing what went wrong and figuring out what she could do differently, she started blaming her teacher, saying she didn’t know what was going to be on the test, and started panicking, trying to calculate how the disappointing grade would affect her overall grade.

I thought this was so interesting, because this student has a completely different mindset when it comes to her passion of musical theater. We talked through what would happen if she made a mistake at a big audition, like missing a high note.

She laughed and she said, “Well, I wouldn’t blame the pianist for sneezing and then singing the wrong note because I was matching the pitch of his sneeze! I would figure out why I missed the note, and ask for help from my singing teacher so I could be more accurate next time!”

Somehow, she knew exactly how to adjust her approach with musical theater, and we talked about how to transfer that over to her math mastery process.

So let me share this exact same process with you – what to do and NOT to do when you’ve gotten a disappointing math test, so you won’t get stuck and can keep moving forward and creating what you want in your life.

1. Don’t despair.
Even if you feel like you got EVERYTHING wrong, there is hope. It just means there are things you haven’t learned yet, and if you work on them, you will improve. I’m serious!

2. Don’t internalize the failure.
A lot of times, when you get a crappy grade on a math test, it’s easy to think, “I will never get this,” “I am not a math person,” or “I guess I just don’t have a ‘math’ brain.” I know, because I used to have those thoughts all the time myself. Somehow getting a bad grade becomes like part of your identity! Even if everything feels completely, utterly impossible, remember, math is something EVERYONE can learn. It’s all about breaking it down and practicing.

3. Don’t give up.
A failure is only a true failure if you don’t use it as an opportunity to learn.

4. Don’t blame others for what happened.
It’s really easy when you get a test back to think, “Well, my teacher didn’t tell me THAT was going to be on the test,” or, “I didn’t know the test was going to be THAT day,” or whatever it is. But when you blame others, you completely give away your power to someone else.

Instead…

5. Take personal responsibility for what happened. When you take personal responsibility, you have the power to change your life. If you are willing to look at what actions you took and choices you made, you can change them and get a different result next time.

(Note: I know this can seem so hard, even ridiculous, to say, “Yes, I’M taking responsibility for the fact that I don’t get this.” I used to REALLY struggle with this. So maybe just try it as an experiment. Being willing to take more and more responsibility for the results of my choices has created so much change in my life. Even though I really resisted this initially.)

(And, taking personal responsibility can be as simple as admitting to yourself, “Yes, I do need help with this, and I’m willing to ask for it.)

6. Ask yourself what went wrong. Did you not know what was going to be on the test? Did you forget to study?

7. Ask yourself what you can do differently next time.
Can you ask your teacher for a list of topics to study? Can you write the test date into your planner, or put it into your phone? What will remind you to study?

8. Make a different choice.
Decide to ask your teacher for topics, and then do so. Write the test date into your planner. Create a reminder to study, and then study!

9. Ask for help.
If you are doing everything you can and you’re still not getting the results you want, ask for help! You don’t have to do this alone!

Do you wish someone could help walk you through this process and help you learn the parts that are confusing to you in a way that is fun and makes total sense? Are you tired of getting disappointing test results? Are you willing to invest in high-level support?

Then send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com, and we can set up a special complimentary appointment to talk about your math situation and explore whether or not the way I work would be a good fit for you!

Related posts:
It’s eraser time! (and other math mantras)
How to make it safe for kids to fail
Failure is not the enemy
The rhyme and reason of making mistakes

Five Steps to True Mastery

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Have you ever taken a math test you felt completely confident about, only to find out that you bombed it and you weren’t prepared at all?

Trust me, you’re not alone. But why does this happen so frequently?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. And this is what I’ve realized.

True mastery takes more than one step. But I’ve never seen these steps discussed before like this.

And I definitely didn’t hear about this when I was in math classes growing up!

This is what I had to figure out all by myself, and now do in all of my one-on-one work with my own clients.

Let me break it down for you:

1. The first level of mastery: you can follow along passively when someone else is explaining a concept to you or demonstrating how to do a technique.

You aren’t actively participating, you’re just observing and listening, and what they’re saying makes sense.

2. The second level of mastery: you can do problems interactively with someone else.

You are actively participating as they walk you through the steps of the problem and you do it together.

3. The third level of mastery: you successfully complete a similar problem type completely independently and get the answer correct – and you understand why – without any guidance or corrections from someone else.

4. The fourth level of mastery:
you consistently get the answer right on enough similar problems that the concepts get internalized and the process becomes automated.

You have the track record that shows you that you really are prepared to go in and do this successfully on a quiz, test, or exam.

5. BONUS: The fifth level of mastery: you understand the concept and technique so well that you can easily and confidently teach someone else how to do it. When you get to this level, you know that you’ve REALLY got it!

Until you get to the point where you have at least “level four mastery” and consistently get the answer correct on problems of a similar type (and understand why), you aren’t really prepared.

For example, a student will passively understand someone else’s demonstration and think, “Great! I got it! I am ready to rock this test!” However, that is only level 1 mastery. Just because you can follow along with someone’s demonstration of how to bake muffins from scratch doesn’t mean your own muffins will taste good. Watching someone else do it is ONLY the first step.

Another place where major problems can happen is when students think, “Great! I did two of these problem types correctly and I understand them. I am ready to get an A!” That is like getting the basketball in the net twice and thinking that you’re ready to win the next game. It takes consistent training and practice to get consistent results.

Do you wish you knew exactly to do to get consistently awesome results in math? Are you tired of doing everything you know to help your daughter or son prepare for math tests, only to experience soul-crushing defeat time after time? Are you ready to invest in high-level, one-on-one, super-customized support that is not typical tutoring? Then send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com, or give me a call at 617-888-0160, and we can set up a special private appointment for a complimentary one-on-one conversation where we can explore whether or not the way I work would be a good fit for you! I can’t wait to connect!

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“It’s eraser time!” (And other math mantras)
“Interesting,” not “Complicated” (Math Mantras Part 2)

When doing your math homework just isn’t cutting it

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

2014-03-18_2146
What if math could make you jump for joy?

Did you ever take the Presidential fitness tests growing up? I vividly remember being asked, about once a year, to run a mile. Even though I got a lot of cardio growing up from serious ballet training, running the mile in middle school and high school pretty much always made me feel like I was going to die. Even if I actually ran the whole thing, there would always come a point midway where it literally felt like my lungs were bleeding inside.

Looking back at this experience, I was like, what the heck were the PE teachers thinking? If you only run a mile once a year of course you are going to suck at it and totally hate it!

What about actually creating a physically fit generation by nurturing students to LOVE to run… not just endure a yearly test? What about actually creating a generation of students who LOVE to do math… not just “get through it” to make the grade?

Whether you’re at the starting line of a race, or freaking out the night before a math test, whenever there’s a gap between what we’re being asked to do, and our preparation, it can create a lot of stress and fear.

And very frequently, the reason you will have trouble in math, or with your physical fitness test, is because – bottom line – the practice you’re assigned is NOT ENOUGH for you to really master the material and be prepared for the task.

Ironically, usually when you’re in that “freaking out” place, the last thing you want to do is do MORE of what is freaking you out… whether it’s running a mile or doing math problems.

It actually requires a significant shift in your mindset, away from “let me just get through this” to “how can I truly master this so I can consistently perform at the level I desire”… And working from that new place of aiming for true mastery is so much more rewarding and satisfying… you can even learn to LOVE what used to fill you with fear and despair.

I’ve seen this transformation in my own life and also in so many of my students’. What I’m talking about here is a much higher and deeper level of taking personal responsibility for your own experience. And the beautiful result of this is realizing that whether or not you “make it” is really, truly up to you, not your teacher’s agenda or assignment schedule.

So how do you DO this? Let me share some super easy to implement tips for how to customize your own “math workout” when you know that your homework alone is not enough.

Here are some great ways to create extra practice that matches what you’re already working on:

1. Super simple: if you are assigned the evens, do the odds for extra practice, or vice versa. Just be sure that you’re able to check your answers somehow so you know you’re practicing things correctly.

(extra tip: If the answers aren’t in the back of the book, you can check a lot of math problems by plugging them into www.wolframalpha.com and it will tell you what the solution is. Just a word to the wise: Wolfram Alpha is a very powerful tool, and it often includes a lot of extra information that might be way more than what you’re looking for or need, so don’t get overwhelmed by all the “extras” – just pay attention to the parts you need, like a solution for ‘x’, for example. Just trust that the more sophisticated stuff will make more sense later on in your math learning adventure!)

2. Look for an ‘extra practice’ section in the back of the book. Most math textbooks have extra practice in the back, but a lot of times teachers won’t mention it or assign problems from it. Again, it’s most valuable when the book also includes solutions to the problems so you can check your work.

3. Don’t wait until the end of the chapter to use the “study guide” or “chapter test” problems for extra practice. Most books have a chapter review at the end of each chapter which will include several extra problems for you to use, labeled by section. Use them for extra practice as you learn each section. You can always revisit them closer to the test if you like!

4. This is a little more advanced: make up your own problems by just changing a few of the numbers. This is best to use if you know there’s a way you can check your answers so you know you’re practicing correctly, or if you are feeling confident about checking your own work.

5. Invest in an extra math textbook for extra practice. (I am a fan of the Algebra 1 & Algebra 2 “Structure and Method: The Classic” books, which also make a good reference.) Use the table of contents and the index to find problems that are similar to the ones that you’re working on.

6. Get the solutions manual or teacher’s manual for your regular textbook.
When they’re available, they usually include answers to EVERY problem in the book, not just selected problems.

(Note: Please understand – my intention in suggesting this is absolutely not for students to take a shortcut and skip doing the work of the problem. It’s because it’s something I personally do when I’m learning a new math concept or technique and I want to make sure I can check ALL my work.)

7. Most important: be sure to choose problems where you can check your answers as you go, whether in the back of the book, from wolframalpha, or from a trusted friend or adult. If you don’t know if your answer is correct or not, it’s like practicing the violin wearing earplugs. The only way you know you’re really learning is if you’re getting feedback that you’re on the right track.

Are you tired of watching your kid do their homework diligently night after night, and then bomb their tests and quizzes? Do you dread trying to answer your kid’s questions about math? Are you ready to invest in totally customized support so that your son or daughter can see great results from their hard work and experience math as a source of joy and strength? Send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com or give me a call at 617-888-0160, and we can set up a special complimentary conversation to explore what’s going on with your kid and get clear on whether or not it would be a fit for us to work together! I can’t wait to hear from you!

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