Rebecca Zook - Math Tutoring Online

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The crucial difference between perfectionism and mastery

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

I recently asked one of my students what the most important thing was that I could share with you.

She said, “You have to tell them about the difference between perfectionism and mastery.”

This is something I’ve started sharing with my students, and I want you to know about it too!

Here’s what I’ve realized.

Perfectionism doesn’t create perfection.

It creates rigidity and stress.

True perfection comes from a willingness to take risks

and a commitment to the process of mastery.

The deepest accomplishment, the deepest achievement,

it doesn’t come when we’re looking over our shoulder,

wondering if we’re doing it right,

or we’re good enough.

It comes when we’re just really engaged with what we’re doing,

and open about what we don’t understand and what doesn’t make sense yet,

and committed to practicing until those parts that are strange or uncomfortable

become automatic and internalized and pleasurable.

Do you see your child taking a perfectionistic approach to their struggles with math… and it’s just not working?

Do you wish that there was someone you could send them to where they could be supported in actually cultivating true mastery of math, instead of just looking like they’ve got their act together?

Just click here to get started with your special application for my one-on-one math tutoring programs. Once your application is received, we’ll set up a special phone call to get clear if my approach would be a good fit for your child.

I’m here for you, and I’m so glad we’re connected!

Sending you love,
REBECCA

What to do when you get spaced out about math [study tip]

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Here’s a super powerful and easy study tip that you can use anytime.

I’ve been using this study tip since I was in college, and continue to do this to this day.

Are you studying … practicing your math … and you start to get spaced out?

You feel like your brain is full?

You’re having trouble concentrating?

Maybe even getting a little frustrated?

It’s time… for a solo dance party!

Yes!

It’s time to DANCE!

I’ve found that even just taking a break to dance to ONE song can be enough to get me refocused. Sometimes I need like a three-song-long dance party.

Taking a break to have a solo dance party can:

-make you feel happy

-help you feel energized

-refresh your focus

-give your mind a chance to integrate what you’ve been working on while you’re focusing on something else (dancing)

-actually help you get your math homework done faster because you return refreshed and renewed.

Also, just FYI, professional mathematicians will deliberately take breaks in order to give their subconscious mind a chance to find unexpected connections and solutions.

I just had a solo dance party myself before I wrote this, and I highly encourage you to do the same!

Would you like your creative, passionate kid to sing and dance about math? Just click here to get started with your special application for my one-on-one math tutoring programs. Once your application is received, we’ll set up a special phone call to get clear if my approach would be a good fit for your child. I look forward to connecting!

Related posts:
Need to remember something important? Breaking news!
What I learned on the streets of Paris, and in a Dutch grocery store
Three simple tips for the night before your math exam
The secret to getting straight As in math (it’s not what you think)

Meet me in person in Ithaca-Cortland, NY, Saturday, April 9th, 2016!

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016

15.10.24STEMDuyTran (574)

Yes, this is what math can look like!

Are you (or is your daughter) freaking out, failing, or secretly crying yourself to sleep about math?
Is math becoming a major source of stress in your family?

Do you wish that math could be something you actually enjoyed TOGETHER (as a family)?

Or maybe you (or your child) are (is) confident with math, but you’re already worried about what will happen when the material gets harder?

Next Saturday, April 9th, 2016, I’ll be speaking at a very special conference, Tech Savvy Ithaca-Cortland in NY, which is one of the only conferences in the world with programming for both 6-9th grade girls AND their parents.

Join me for a special session for parents on How to Raise a Math-Confident Daughter (2-2.50 pm for parents)
and
for girls, a Math Mastery Mastermind Workshop (one at 11 am, one at 12 noon)!

In these workshops, you will:
-discover how to support your daughter to achieve true mastery, rise to the top of their class, and even come to experience math as a source of joy and a type of self-expression.
-walk away with clear steps, case studies, and tools that you can use immediately to ensure math confidence and success.

And your daughter will:
-be nurtured in her creative, higher-level problem-solving abilities
-be encouraged to experiment in a completely supportive environment
-grow her courage and confidence as she discovers how much she can both learn from and help other girls!

Date: Saturday, April 9, 2016
Time: 8.30 am – 4.30 pm (I won’t be speaking the entire day, but my presentations are part of the day-long event)
Location: Tompkins-Cortland Community College
170 North Street
Dryden, NY 13053
Cost: $5 per person (adult or student)

Click on the link to register in advance: click here

This event will provide powerful support not only for your child but also for you as the parent, so it’s highly recommended that parents also attend!

I would love to see you there!

Sending you love,
REBECCA

Five Steps to True Mastery

Friday, April 1st, 2016

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 click here to get started with your special application for my one-on-one math tutoring programs. Once your application is received, we’ll set up a special phone call to explore whether or not the way I work would be a good fit for you!

I can’t wait to connect!

Related posts:
On Optimal Challenge
Need to remember something important? Breaking news!
“It’s eraser time!” (And other math mantras)
“Interesting,” not “Complicated” (Math Mantras Part 2)

Case study: a 10th grader goes from feeling like math is a foreign language to being the most-called upon student in her class

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

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?

Just click here to get started with your special application for my one-on-one math tutoring programs.

Once your application is received, we’ll set up a special complimentary phone call to get clear if it would be a fit for me to support your child with math. 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

Engagement x Excellence, March 22 at the Science Museum of Virginia, Richmond, VA!

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

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Do you find yourself wondering…how can I truly engage my students with math?

Or even just…why is there such great insecurity right now about US students mastering math?

Or questioning…how can I help my students excel and succeed in math in ways that are deeply meaningful to them?

On Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016, I’ll be speaking at a very special professional development conference for teachers, administrators, and those involved in the mathematical lives of middle and high school students.

(more…)

Meet me in person at Trinity College, CT – Saturday, 2/27!

Friday, February 19th, 2016

15.10.24STEMDuyTran (506)

Are you (or is your daughter) freaking out, failing, or secretly crying yourself to sleep about math?

Is math becoming a major source of stress in your family?

Do you wish that math could be something you actually enjoyed TOGETHER (as a family)?

Or maybe you (or your child) are (is) confident with math, but you’re already worried about what will happen when the material gets harder?

Next Saturday, February 27th, 2016, I’ll be speaking at a very special conference, Tech Savvy at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, which is one of the only conferences in the world with programming for both 6-9th grade girls AND their parents.

(more…)

Do you wish your kid could feel like Albert Einstein?

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

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 click here to get started with your special application for my one-on-one math tutoring programs.

Once your application is received, we’ll set up a special phone call to 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!)

I’m excited to connect!

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?

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

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

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)?

Just click here to get started with your special application for my one-on-one 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.

Once your application is received, as part of the application process, we’ll set up a special phone call to get clear if my approach would be a good fit for your child. I look forward to connecting!

Related posts:
On optimal challenge
What to do when your kid makes a math mistake
Tips for a happy math year – #1
Tips for a happy math year – #2
Tips for a happy math year – #3

Afraid your math teacher will judge you?

Monday, February 15th, 2016

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Me (on the left) attending a workshop with Sandra Yancey (right), one of the most powerful female entrepreneurs in the world. I love the Carol Dweck quote in the background… “Becoming is better than being.”

This past week I got to attend an entire day-long workshop with Sandra Yancey, one of the most powerful female entrepreneurs in the world. This woman grew a huge national network and multi-million-dollar business from a handful of business cards. She is a powerhouse!

Out of the entire day, one of the things she said that struck me the most was, “We cannot thrive unless we have a place where we can be real.”

This is completely true for me personally – and why it’s essential for me to have my own mentor and my own colleagues and friends that I can be truly real with.

And I know it’s also so true for my students.

For example, I was recently in a session with one of my students, talking about whether or not she would ask her math teacher a particular question.

She stopped and said, “I’m afraid he’ll judge me.”

Wow! That is EXACTLY how I felt so many times when *I* was struggling with math growing up!

I had just never articulated it to myself before.

Even with math teachers who were really nice to me, sometimes even the niceness felt like a form of judgement. I’m highly sensitive, so I could FEEL it when someone was internally exasperated, but trying to act patient when I asked a question about something I “should have” already had down.

Is this something that you’re struggling with? Are you afraid that if you ask questions in class, your teacher will judge you?

(This can be especially difficult if you are a great student in every other subject. You’re used to doing your best and SHINING in the classroom when you participate, but with math, instead of shining, you fear that if you ask your questions, you’ll be judged or even feel ASHAMED that you don’t already know the answer.)

If this is what you’re facing, here’s what I recommend:

1. First, let yourself acknowledge this feeling. Don’t ignore it. Pay attention to it.

Why? If you ignore it, you will just subconsciously shut down on some level. You’ll stop seeking help, and on some level, you might even stop believing that anyone CAN help you, and that you’re doomed to feel this way forever.

It’s OK to recognize that asking for help in a particular situation, or asking for help from a particular person, might not be the best way to master the material.

2. Second, don’t judge yourself. When there’s a disconnection between your learning and how things are being taught in the classroom, it can be easy to start to despair or even start telling yourself things like “I’ll never get this… I must just not be a ‘math person’… maybe my brain is just not made for math… What is wrong with me, I am so good at every other subject… How can I be trying so hard and still be so confused…”

Emotions have a huge impact on learning, especially when we’re being challenged like never before. Be compassionate with yourself. Remember, math is a skill that you can acquire with persistent effort. There’s just some kind of disconnect happening between how you’re being taught and what you need to truly master the material. Nothing is wrong with you. Just be gentle and kind with yourself. ESPECIALLY if you are afraid others won’t be gentle and kind with you.

3. Third, be SUPER CLEAR with yourself exactly what it is that you have a question about. When you start to feel overwhelmed about math, it’s easy to look at something and just completely give up because your eyeballs don’t recognize it right away. It’s a completely natural human response – and, it’s also a very knee-jerk, superficial way of engaging with the material.

Take a deep breath. Take a break. Then come back to the material and look at it so, so slowly. Try to take it apart. Ask yourself questions. Why are they doing this specific step here? Does it remind you of something you already know how to do? Let yourself read the math book and do the problem at like one mile per hour.

Try to refine your question from something super general like “I have no idea what’s happening here and I just want to burst into tears and throw this book out the window” to “OK, why did they substitute ‘u’ in for ‘x’? How did they get from step 2 to step 3? Where can I see another example?”

Paradoxically, getting super clear with yourself about EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE CONFUSED ABOUT is a way to… un-confuse yourself. I promise!

4. Finally, find a place to ask your math questions where you aren’t afraid of being judged. A place where it is safe to be real. Your math classroom and math textbook are not the only source of math knowledge. Try your friends, your peers, teachers you’ve had in the past that you understood better, a different textbook, an online video.

Or, if you’d like to explore whether my magical one-on-one math tutoring programs would be a fit for you and your family,
just click here to get started with your special application. Once your application is received, we’ll set up a special phone call to get clear if my approach would be a good fit for your child. I look forward to connecting!

Related posts:
Face your fears, get a higher grade
Math student’s bill of rights
I just can’t keep this a secret any longer
Case study: confused by math instruction in a foreign language