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Can math be a sanctuary?

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

I went on an adventure this week. I did my first recording session with my cello.

Me and one of my best friends went to my “power place,” this magical, beautiful tunnel in Central Park covered in beautiful mosaics that has amazing acoustics. We purposefully went late at night so it would be quiet.

Walking through the park, I saw that a film shoot was set up next to the tunnel, with this huge floating dirigible light and all this film equipment. And I was afraid that they would kick us out or tell us to not make any noise.

I thought, OK, well, the worst thing they can do is tell us to stop. So we went down into the tunnel, and I said out loud to my friend that my intention was for both us and the film shoot people to peacefully do what we needed to do without disturbing each other.

I had brought some special gluten free pastries, and before we started recording, we sat and ate our dulce de leche eclairs. My friend observed that she felt like a queen in a beautiful palace, and I had to agree. I felt like we were queens, too.

After our little pastry feast she set up the recording equipment and I started playing. My intention was to record my own original material, and then two covers of me singing with my cello, which is scary and new for me.

It was totally magical. My friend took care of all the recording details, and she even did this amazing spontaneous backup harmonies. Which really made me feel like a badass, to have backing vocals!!

Somehow, the movie people right outside the tunnel were utterly silent, and didn’t bother us at all.

They even shone a spotlight down into the tunnel, which looked and felt amazing to be illuminated like that.

At the very end, for the last song, I was like, what the heck.

I turned to my friend and I said, “Please promise me you’ll still be my friend no matter what you think about what I’m about to do. This is hot off the press and I feel really vulnerable sharing it.”

Then I played what I know is the next level for me – the most exciting, and the most scary thing of all – which is to sing my own original material.

Afterwards, my friend said, “That was gorgeous! Who wrote that??” And I was so excited and gratified that I jumped up and down.

I told her, “I wrote that. This is the first time I’ve ever sung a song I created myself in front of another human being. And I’m so glad I got to sing it in front of you.”

Can I tell you a secret? Recording myself used to be one of the things I dreaded most in the entire world. Listening to recordings of myself playing would rip my belief in myself to shreds. It was so completely stressful for me – a lot like how math used to be completely stressful for me.

How the heck did I get from that place, to where I am now? How do you get from a place where you’re completely struggling, ashamed, in tears, stressed out of your mind, to feeling confident, spacious, and like a queen in your own beautiful palace?

I am still in the process of figuring this out, but here’s what I think it’s about.

Stake out your own territory. If you’re in a really agonizing classroom or math learning experience, you have to stake out your own territory, outside of the awfulness of what you’re currently experiencing. You can’t keep dwelling exclusively inside the “meltdown/panic” zone of what’s currently being offered to you. You have to create a new space for yourself outside that experience, because that meltdown/panic experience isn’t going to give you what you need to move forward.

For me with my music, this meant exploring territory completely outside the classical world, learning how to play by ear, traveling to Cuba and Bali, even taking acting classes. For me with math, this meant learning how to take things apart, go slow, find my own way of understanding. With my clients, in our tutoring time, we very purposefully create a new math zone where math is comfortable, enjoyable, and meaningful, no matter what’s going on in the classroom.

Do it your way. If the way you’re being taught or trained doesn’t work for you, it’s not the only way. So much of the way I was taught and trained in the classical music model made me feel so awful about myself and didn’t help me create good work. “My way” happens to be performing in a beautiful mosaic-ed tunnel next to a fountain with an angel on top.

Same thing with math. You can do it your own way, relying on your own strengths, your own fascination and creativity. With my clients, we find ways that really work for each individual so they can start to experience math as a source of joy and strength, even a way to express themselves creatively.

Surround yourself with true companions. That evening of recording in the tunnel was so magical. And at the end I told my friend, wow, it felt so effortless. But I know so much of it had to do with the fact that I picked my recording engineer – my friend who came with me to record – so very carefully. Not only is she one of my closest friends and an amazing musician, but I had also sang to her as an audience member in the tunnel over the summer, and I already knew I felt so comfortable and safe with her, and encouraged, even when I was doing the most vulnerable thing musically that I’ve ever done.

Having her there with me completely transformed the experience and made me feel so strong and safe. And this also happens in my work with my math tutoring students – finally having a true companion, a truly matched math mastery mentor, allows them to completely transform their relationship with math, and even with life.

Are you ready to have a true math companion who will support you in transforming your relationship with math from agonizing to euphoric? 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!

Case Study: An 8th grader goes from “math meltdown” to “math touchdown!”

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

When this student first came to me as a 7th grader, she and her mom were experiencing math as a horrible struggle week to week. On her tests, she would initially get 40s, 50s, and 60s, and then spend a lot of time redoing the work over and over to pull up her grades, even more often than not staying in from lunch and recess to redo her work. So she was ending up with Bs and low As after all the do-overs, but as the result of agonizing effort.

On many nights they would spend hours on her math homework, only to have the student end up in tears. And even this massive effort wasn’t resulting in confidence or mastery.

On top of that, the student’s experience of one-on-one help from her mom had become highly fraught and the stress was affecting the dynamic of their mother/daughter relationship.

The mom was really concerned that this student’s math struggles were going to keep her back from other academic and creative opportunities. This student is highly creative, unique, and passionate – she loves to draw, plays the violin, has her own sense of style, is a gamer, and even has been on multiple botball robotics teams. And the mom was worried that doors would be closed to her if math continued to be a struggle.

This frustrating experience felt like a roller coaster, where the otherwise academically-successful student was starting to feel like an impostor after the erosion of confidence that happened from week to week of working so hard and not experiencing confidence, mastery, or good grades.

Fast forward to now! After steadily working together throughout the spring and summer, this student is now getting grades like a 96% on her first quiz of the year and a high B on her progress report. She shared that she was explaining math to her peers who were confused. The best part of all was seeing her experience what she described as “The BOOM,” which she defined as “where everything just comes together and flows through my mind like a glass of water.”

Most of all, she is now enthusiastic and inquisitive and happy about doing math and will routinely exclaim things like, “Touchdown! I could help the ‘yesterday’ me understand this!” or “Doing stuff with fractions is my favorite math to do.”

Here are some of the ways we created this transformation:

We created a safe environment of total trust and camaraderie. We operated in a space that was a “no-judgement zone” where this student could go over whatever questions she had, however she needed to go over them, and with as much practice or examples as necessary. We also kept the emotional tone lighthearted and fun, even though the material was very challenging.

We found the gaps and filled them in. By the time this student came to me, she had been struggling with math through 4th, 5th, 6th, and most of 7th grade – almost four years, with different gaps from each year. While working on whatever she needed to learn that day or that week, we excavated the layers of underlying math foundation until we found the initial source of misunderstanding. Then we would master that concept and gradually build back up layer by layer to the current material. This created a pattern of understanding, confidence, and success.

We let the student set the pace. We really focused on mastery of one skill, one concept, one problem type at a time, letting the student’s needs set the pace. Truly internalizing math in this way had a much bigger impact on her long-term understanding and achievement than rushing in a superficial way through large amounts of material to “get it covered.”

Would you like your creative, unique, passionate child to have this same experience of being completely supported in experiencing math mastery? Send me an email at rebecca@zooktutoring.com, and we’ll get you started with my special application process to explore whether or not my magical one-on-one math tutoring programs would be a fit for you and your family!

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 7th grader goes from “I don’t get it” to getting 100 percents!
Case Study: An ADHD student raises her grade from a D to an A
Case Study: Math goes from a source of unbelievable stress and anxiety to a source of joy and strength

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:
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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:
How to help your kid with their math homework
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!

Related posts:
Dealing with overwhelm (2)
What I learned on the streets of Paris, and in a Dutch grocery store
What a Balinese dancing queen taught me about praise and encouragement
How to use the summer to catch up or get ahead in math without burning out or going crazy

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

Related posts:
What I learned on the streets of Paris, and in a Dutch grocery store
I just can’t keep this a secret any longer
What a Balinese dancing queen taught me about praise and encouragement
Self-made heroes: the dancers of Planet B-Boy