Rebecca Zook - Math Tutoring Online

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Posts Tagged as "creative math tutor"

Are you tired of watching your kid give up on math? Or, the secret of the tiny crumb of doability…

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

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:


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.

Just click here to get started with your special application.

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!

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

Posts Tagged as "creative math tutor"

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!

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Posts Tagged as "creative math tutor"

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

I’m excited to connect with you!

Related posts:
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Posts Tagged as "creative math tutor"

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,

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Posts Tagged as "creative math tutor"

How to experience math as your own unique creation

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

A great way to check if your son or daughter really understands what they’re working on is – once they’ve already spent some time practicing a particular problem type – to ask them to create their own original “designer” problem.

I frequently use the words, “Now I want to see a [student’s name] Original!” (Like if I was tutoring a student named Sally, I would say, “Now I want to see a Sally Original!”)

Why does this help?

1. First, being asked to create an original problem quickly reveals whether or not the student has truly internalized what they’re working on. If they can create and solve their own unique problem similar to what they’ve been working on, it means that they understand the material on a deeper level than just being able to DO it – they can actually CREATE it from scratch.

2. Second, it’s fun! Usually kids are really excited for the opportunity to create their own problem.

3. Third, when students do this, sometimes they’ll actually create and solve something much more complex than they have been working on. It’s like they want to take it to the next level, and they can without anyone stopping them, because they’re totally in the driver’s seat.

(Also, sometimes the opposite will happen, where a student will be reluctant to do this because they haven’t been asked to do it before, or they don’t feel ready. If this happens, you can just offer to go first or take turns, or if you really sense they’re communicating they need more practice first, do more practice problems before coming back and asking them to create their own.)

4. Fourth, it really helps them take ownership of their own learning. When you’re making and solving your own problem, it means you understand math is something you can CREATE – not just something random you’re being asked to do. This is a major confidence builder.

And it also really brings home the fact that math is a human creation, with its own beautiful idiosyncrasies!

Are you tired of not even having time to create dinner for your family because your kid’s math homework has become an overwhelming family-wide project? Do you wish that your kid could experience math creatively, as a source of fun, confidence, and security, instead of dread or incompetence? Are you ready to invest in high-level, super-customized tutoring support?

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.

Sending you love,

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Posts Tagged as "creative math tutor"

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,

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