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Topic: self-determination

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?

Topic: self-determination

How to use the summer to catch up or get ahead in math – without burning out or going crazy (part 1)

Monday, July 13th, 2015


Math in the summer can be an exciting, refreshing adventure… complete with exciting hair adornments!
#gideonputnam #saratogaspringsstatepark #yesimadethatfascinatormyself

When I was growing up, I did something pretty crazy one summer. I knew if I took Functions (also known as Pre-Calculus or Trigonometry, depending on your school curriculum), it would be with the math teacher I had for algebra 1, who was so confusing to me that I cried myself to sleep over my math homework many, many times the year I took his class.

I was so determined not to repeat that experience of working with that teacher that I decided to teach myself functions over the summer so I could skip his class entirely. So basically everywhere I went that summer I took my functions textbook with me, and I taught myself from it. It was one of the most powerful math learning experiences I ever had.

Since doing this when I was 15, I’ve helped a lot of other students use the summer to courageously and effectively catch up and recover from serious end-of-year math confusion and disappointment, as well as to prepare to skip ahead into a higher level of math.

The summer offers such a juicy opportunity to work outside the pressure, goals, structure, and rhythms of the regular school year. But it’s important to create your own structure, goals, and rhythms that work for you, so you can actually meet your goal without burning out! Here are six simple tips (three in this article, and three more in the next) to help you do the exact same thing!

1. Examine and clarify your goals. Get super specific. Is your goal to catch up? To get ahead? Or both? Do you want to cover material from specific chapters? (Like chapters whose tests you didn’t do so well on?) Do you want to master an entire school year’s worth of math? Do you want to get familiar with a really weird new curriculum in advance, so you don’t have to dive into it sight unseen in the fall? Are you preparing for a placement test? Are you hoping to bump up into a higher level class, like an honors class? Get as clear as you can on this.

2. Get materials that really work for you. Once you know your goals, get materials that really feel good to you, that you genuinely enjoy using.

If you’re aiming to get ahead, get a copy of the math book from the upcoming year. If your school won’t lend you one for the summer, you can buy just about any textbook off of Amazon that you could possibly desire. It can be very psychologically reassuring to know you’ve already worked on the exact material that you need to know in September.

If you’re aiming to review or catch up, it can help to use a combination of the textbook from the previous year with a new textbook that feels like a better fit to give you extra practice and a different perspective. But if you had a terrible experience with a textbook or looking at your old textbook just about triggers post traumatic stress disorder or makes you feel like a failure, just get a textbook that you like more and don’t worry about using the old one. There are hundreds of math textbooks out there, so there’s no need to suffer or settle for what you’ve been given to use in school.

If you’re preparing for a placement test, be sure to get a copy of the study guide or practice test from your school. Keep in mind that those materials probably won’t be enough to really review anything that feels shaky or master anything new – they’ll probably only give you one or two problems max for each problem type you’re responsible to know. So be sure to also get a textbook that gives you lots of extra practice for each type of problem that’s on the study guide, so you can do enough of each problem type that it starts to feel really automatic.

3. Get feedback. Even if you’re working completely independently, be sure to get feedback on your work as you go so you know whether or not you’re practicing correctly. Otherwise it can be super easy to do a bunch of work and not even realize that you’re practicing things the wrong way!!

To start, be sure to check the answers as you go. If you’re working from a textbook, aim to do the odd problems, which almost always have answers given in the back of your book. If you’re using materials from your school, check the study guide answer key you got from your school.

If you want to get answers or worked-out solutions to the even problems in your book, some math books offer a solutions manual that you can find and buy on Amazon, too. That way you can get even more feedback from the textbook that you’re working with.

If you find you want more feedback than you can get from the answer key in the back of the book just telling you if you got the answer right or wrong, and you’re craving something more interactive, personalized, and emotionally supportive, I’d be happy to explore whether or not it would be a good fit for us to work 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 excited to explore this with you!

Related posts:
Case study: a rising 8th grader masters her summer math packet
Got the summer math packet blues? Try some purplemath!
When a math problem just takes for-EV-ah (tips for parents)

Topic: self-determination

How I got my full tuition scholarship

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

I haven’t shared this story before with many people.

But I recently shared it with one of my clients, and it had such a big impact on her that I realized it’s time for me to share it with you, too.

It’s the story of how I got my full tuition scholarship.

Ironically, it starts with a traumatic experience!

The summer before my senior year, I went to a summer program (Virginia Governor’s School), which I attended as a cellist. And while I was there, I decided I wanted to go to college for music.

So when I got back home and went to see my cello teacher for the first time that fall, I told her that I wanted to go to a conservatory, and that I wanted her to help me prepare for my auditions.

Her reaction was something like, “You can’t go to conservatory. You have too many interests.”

I felt completely, totally, absolutely crushed. This was a teacher I had been studying with for years. I trusted her so much. Why didn’t she believe in me?

I went out to my mom’s minivan, sat behind the wheel, and cried.

Then I drove myself home and told my parents that I needed to get a new cello teacher.

So, thinking about college, I knew I needed to go to a school that didn’t just have one cello teacher, because if things blew up with them, then I would be really stuck.

I also intuitively knew that I really, really wanted to go to college in a city.

And my parents had diligently saved enough for me to go to state school in Virginia. And Virginia has awesome state schools. But they were all in places that were definitely not cities. Places like Charlottesville or Williamsburg. I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.

And I also had an inkling that I was going to need to do some sort of self-designed major, and that I wanted to have a lot of freedom and access to a lot of different kinds of resources.

So I was clear that I wanted a college that:
-was in a city
-had lots of cello teachers
-had some kind of self-designed major with lots of freedom and resources
-AND I knew that I needed SERIOUS merit-based aid if I was going to make it work.

I have a vivid memory of sitting with my high school principal going through a printout of statistics for different colleges, looking for schools that had large numbers of cello teachers.

And also, him pulling out an application for a full-tuition scholarship to Boston University, and recommending that I apply for it. I think it was like the day before the application was due. And it was a Saturday. Yes, my high school principal was so committed that he actually came in and helped me on a Saturday.

So I wrote my application essay, I sent it in, and months later I found out that I was chosen. I had gotten a full-tuition scholarship to Boston University. OMG!!!!!

So the money my parents had saved turned out to be plenty enough to cover what was left – the room and board. And I actually got other scholarships too, so they only had to pay PART of the room and board.

Somehow it all worked out.

That year was really quite scary in a lot of ways, because before I found out that I had gotten that scholarship, I didn’t know if I would find a way to have what I knew, deep down, I needed.

But underneath it all, I know it wasn’t just random luck that led me to receive that awesome scholarship.

What was the method behind the insanity???

First. OK. I believed it was possible to have what I wanted. This might sound irrelevant or silly, but nothing would have happened if I hadn’t believed it was possible. I wasn’t always SURE, and sometimes I felt pretty hopeless, and there were definitely times where I felt overwhelmed. But deep inside, I did believe it was possible.

Second. I believed in myself. I believed I was deserving. I believed I had something really unique to offer and that I was a good candidate. Again, nothing else would have happened without this piece in the energetic under-layer.

Third. I knew what I wanted. I was super clear with myself. Freedom and resources. Massive merit-based aid. In a city. Lots of cello teachers. Probably some kind of self-designed major.

Fourth. I communicated what I wanted to everyone around me. My parents. My teachers. My high school principal. The secretaries who worked in the front office who gave me applications for the two additional scholarships I actually received. I totally alerted my environment so my allies could come to my aid.

Fifth. I knew who I was and I didn’t back down about it. I had spent my entire life up to that point working hard at the things I loved. Doing things I really believed in. The things that fueled me, that lifted me up, that nourished me.

I knew who I was and I didn’t try to present a false front to anyone. In all my essays and applications I was clear about what I believed, and who I was, even if I thought it wasn’t what the committees were necessarily “looking for.” And I knew that the core of myself would find the right home somehow. I didn’t need to court anyone’s approval. I was just me.

Six. I kept trying. I did not give up. I did not give up when my parents told me they only could afford to send me to college in-state. I did not give up when my cello teacher told me I couldn’t go to music school. I was determined and I kept looking for ways to make it work, even when it seemed like the odds were totally against me.

Seven. I surrounded myself with adults who believed in me and encouraged me.
My advisor didn’t get overwhelmed when I kept coming to him with MORE ideas of colleges to apply for. My parents budgeted so I could apply to 11 different schools to maximize the chance of getting merit aid at one of them. Not to mention all the college visits my dad took me on! This made everything so much easier, so much more possible.

These steps might seem basic, obvious. Even silly. But I know they helped me get what I needed and keep moving forward. They helped me keep unfolding my deepest, truest dreams until they started to become true.

And these same skills helped me when I got to college and I had to customize it even more than I had thought was possible. These same skills helped me start my own business. And these same skills helped me blaze my own trail as an entrepreneur and a performing artist.

Do you want your creative, passionate kid to be supported in knowing who they are and what they want? And to have a powerful, trailblazing mentor in their life to help them develop these secret super-power meta-skills to bring their vision into reality?

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 explore if my magical one-on-one math mentoring programs would be a good fit for you and your family!

Related posts:
Does having a math tutor make you a ‘loser’?
What a Balinese dancing queen taught me about praise and encouragement
Can math be a sanctuary?
Case study: an ADHD student raises her math grade from a D to an A

Topic: self-determination

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?


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?

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 explore whether or not my magical math tutoring programs would be a fit for your family! I’m excited to connect with you!

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?

Topic: self-determination

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


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.

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

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

Topic: self-determination

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.

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

Sending you so much love,

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

Topic: self-determination

Awesome Canadian teenager makes graduation dress out of her math homework

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

OMG! This is so cool! Kara Koskowich, a Canadian teenager, made her own graduation dress out her math homework! Check out CBC news for the full story here. Designed to look like “an explosion”! You know I love stories about girls and math, and this is one of my recent favorites!

When I was growing up, I loved making my own clothes and digging for amazing thrift store finds, but it never would have crossed my mind to create a graduation dress out of my actual homework. (Even though I went on to do things like go out dancing in college in a skirt made out of a reflective metallic poster.)

I thought it was interesting that Kara’s best friend, who made her dress out of reused plastic bags, didn’t get the same level of press as the math homework dress, even though her dress is clearly also awesome. I think it’s because of that extra layer of poetic resonance of making a graduation dress literally out of the work you did in order to graduate.

In conclusion: way to go, Kara and best friend! I look forward to seeing what you create next!

Do you want to learn math in a way that’s creative, fun, and intuitive–like making your own original dress (or tuxedo, for that matter)?

Then I invite you to apply for my super special one-on-one math 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 if my approach would be a good fit for your child.

I’m excited to hear from you!

Sending you love,

Related posts:
Be Yourself, Do What You Want, Wear What You Love (Ada Lovelace/Coder Barbie/Mashable Followup)
It’s Official: Smart Is the New Gangsta
Five tips for a happy math year
On Being Yourself While Doing Math – Guest Post Alert

Topic: self-determination

Do you overlook yourself? Mindset lessons from the NYC High Line (and Moneyball)

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Finally, I get to visit the NYC High Line!! This beautiful and unique park – which draws people from around the world and is now one of the top destinations globally – used to be an ugly, useless eyesore that would have been destroyed if a small group of determined citizens did not decide to rescue it and turn it into something new and intriguing.

Being here reminded me of watching the movie Moneyball – which you may have seen my other videos about. To me, one of the best parts of the movie was when the narrator talked about how baseball players get overlooked for all kinds of reasons – because they’re old, or weird-looking, or because they pitch funny.

At this point in the movie, tears started streaming down my face. I thought of all the times in my life when I was overlooked, and of my math tutoring students, how often they are overlooked.

The danger is if enough people overlook you, you can start to overlook yourself. You can start to let other people’s ideas about your potential determine what you become.

But what if there’s something inside you, neglected and unseen, just waiting to become a beautiful place that people all over the world want to visit and experience?

*Special thanks to my dear friend and magnificent video queen Therese Condit, who shot this video! Without her this would not have been possible!

Related posts:
How to help kids be okay with things being hard
Math mindset lessons from the movie “Moneyball”
Failure is not the enemy
Self-taught hero: Pearl Fryar

Topic: self-determination

Math Mindset Lessons from the movie “Moneyball”

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Moneyball — it’s a movie about baseball. And statistics. And underdogs succeeding against “impossible odds” – wait – make that, underdogs succeeding by stacking the odds in their favor in ways no one else had thought of before.

But Moneyball is also a movie about the battle between two mindsets: the mindset of the old-school baseball managers, who recruit and hire players based on “talent”, and new-school baseball managers, Billy Beane and Peter Brand, who hire and develop players based on their potential and overlooked, proven ability.

I see Beane and Brand’s approach as an awesome example of “growth mindset” – the belief – which is true – that human ability and intelligence is something that you develop with effort over time, instead of something that you’re born with a certain amount of which you just demonstrate throughout your life.

Related posts:
Self-made heroes: the dancers of Planet B-Boy
A Disorder can be an asset
Self-taught heroes: William Kamkwamba, the boy who harnessed the wind
Tip of the day: what to do when your kid makes a math mistake

Topic: self-determination

Self-made Heroes: the Dancers of Planet B-Boy

Monday, February 7th, 2011


It’s official: the documentary “Planet B-Boy” knocked my socks off.

Spinning on their heads, back flipping like it ain’t no thing, toiling day after day on their moves: teams of breakdancers prepare to battle for the title of best in the known universe.

The documentary profiles teams from around the world, showcasing their individual struggles and strengths. There’s the French team with all their camaraderie and warmth, whose interracial, cross-generational crew included the super-idiosyncratic dancer Crazy Monkey as well as a little blond kid.

I was also touched by the diligence and dedication of the Korean teams, both the returning international champions and the underdog challengers, “Last for One,” a crew of impoverished kids from the South Korean boondocks who danced daily from midnight to dawn to polish their routine.

Aside from the unbelievable athleticism, each team combines two key elements: incredible teamwork and extreme individuality.

It’s one of the great paradoxes of art: through the process of diligently internalizing the fundamental skills of an art form, artists become more free, not less. Through discipline, they become more radiant versions of themselves.

This documentary also addresses some questions about authenticity that are really close to my heart as someone who has spent lots of time in other musical cultures. What makes each of these dancers a b-boy is not their skin color or where they were born but their mastery of the art form. Their skills and experience make them completely secure in their identities as artists.

For their awesome example of self-determination, motivation, and extreme customization, I hereby nominate the dancers of planet B-Boy for the title of self-made heroes!

Related posts:
There’s always room for cello (rap song about cello playing)
Five fun ways to help your kids learn math this summer (hip-hop multiplication)
Self-taught heroes: William Kamkwamba, the boy who harnessed the wind
Self-taught heroes: Pearl Fryar