Rebecca Zook - Math Tutoring Online

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Posts Tagged as "growth mindset"

Case Study: A 5th grader goes from believing “math doesn’t like me” to singing and dancing about math while wearing her purple tutu

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

When this fifth grade student first came to me, her mom told me, “My daughter is joyful about everything in her life – except for math.” This student was so anxious and uncertain about math that she refused to do her homework unless she was literally sitting next to her mom. She would tell her mom, “math doesn’t like me.”

This put a lot of pressure and stress on her mom, who was doing everything she could to try to help her daughter succeed at math, but she felt like she she was failing her daughter and being a “bad mother” because she couldn’t find a solution. The mom felt anxious picking her daughter up from school because she wasn’t sure whether or not her daughter would have a math temper tantrum. And even though when her daughter would express her feelings of math inadequacy, she was really just asking for help, it was so stressful for the mom that the mom sometimes would react with frustration just because she was so worn down from the seemingly endless math stress.


I started working with this student towards the end of her fifth grade school year. Because this student loves to dance and sing and has a great passion for musical theater, I started teaching her math songs to help her remember different concepts and formulas. We also really focused on filling in the gaps and building a strong foundation.

Midway through the summer, this student started spontaneously singing her math problems! She would make up these little operas about all the different math operations she was doing – as well as songs just about math concepts in general, with sophisticated lyrics that showed she really got the concepts. She would even come to some of her sessions wearing her purple tutu. I was overjoyed to see her expressing herself so confidently and creatively with math, even with her outfits. At the same time, her mom and I also weren’t yet sure how this would transfer to the classroom.

Her first day back at school, her first middle school math class of 6th grade, the teacher asked a question, and my student just couldn’t help herself – she shouted out, “It’s because of the commutative property!” It turned out that no one else in her class – even the students she thought of as being very strong mathematicians – had even heard of the commutative property before! This was a huge boost to my student’s confidence and enjoyment!


Since her first day back at school as a sixth grader, she has consistently made 90s or 100s on every single math test and quiz she’s taken – except for one! On this test, she got an 88%, and what is so interesting is that this absolutely didn’t defeat her.

When she talked about it with her mom, the focus was just about making sure to get the test back from the teacher, so we could go over what she didn’t understand in our tutoring sessions and learn from it. In some ways this was an even bigger victory than the tests where she scored higher, because it showed how much her mindset had shifted. We could see her resilience in how she dealt with a lower grade, and how her attitude had shifted to “I’ll get it, because I know I can get it.”

Just as important, the mom’s experience has shifted dramatically now that she isn’t the one who is helping her daughter with math. She shared with me that when she comes home from work, it’s easy for her energy to be fully engaged with her daughter because it isn’t sapped by worrying about helping her with her math homework right away. She can just decompress and regroup and be energized and be a good parent. And her daughter has become so much more independent that the mom can be reading a book in another room while her daughter is doing her homework on her own!

How did we create this totally awesome math transformation? Let me tell you all about it!


1. Positive, relaxed environment. We fostered an environment of trust and camaraderie. Our work together is committed and also relaxed; this student is totally free to make mistakes, ask questions, or go over whatever it is she needs to go over, no matter what.

2. Dealing with math feelings.
When this student is overjoyed, anxious, or heartbroken, we deal with it together head-on. There was one session very early on where she (quite understandably) cried because she was so disappointed and frustrated with a recent grade. Instead of squelching this or ending the session, we just talked it out, making a safe space for her to feel, express, and release her frustration and disappointment. Other times she was so happy with what she was learning and accomplishing that she would dance and sing with glee and pride!

3. Consciously fostering a “growth mindset” with math. This student has an awesome “growth mindset” when it comes to her work in musical theater. She will audition over and over again for the same Broadway show, and instead of getting discouraged if she hasn’t gotten a part yet, she is just really excited about the process and the experience.

At the same time, there have been periods where she has really expressed more of a “fixed mindset” about math – “you have it or you don’t,” and being worried that she wasn’t one of the ones who “had it.” We deliberately take time to talk about this together and draw parallels with her work in the theater so that she can pull that already-existing growth mindset into her math.


For example, just this week, this student expressed both concern and hope about a state-wide test she was taking the next day. She wanted to score high enough to be selected for state and national math events, and she was also worried that there would be stuff on the test that she didn’t know because she wasn’t in the “honors level class.”

We discussed at length how it’s like if she went to an audition and they asked her to play the bagpipes and do a Scottish accent, she wouldn’t beat herself up for not already knowing how to do those things – after the audition, she would just ask her teachers and coaches to help her learn, if that’s something she was interested in being able to do. Then she shared her philosophy of auditioning, which is that “it’s not just about the part, it’s about the experience, and if you’re not focused on the part, it will just naturally happen.” We drew direct parallels with what she tells herself during her auditions and what she can tell herself during her math tests.

4. Self-expression.
In the context of a supportive environment of trust where all of our work is super individualized, this student started to express herself more and more, whether it was singing the math songs she’d learned, making up her own original math songs, singing herself through the math problem she was working on, wearing her purple tutu, or decorating her problems with hot pink drawings (some of which are included in this very blog post)! Seeing her experience math as a vehicle of self-expression is absolutely encouraged, because it’s a huge sign that the student is getting way more comfortable and also really internalizing the material at a deeper level.


5. Support is normalized. Just like this student didn’t stop taking voice lessons or going to dance class once she started getting parts in musicals, math support that fosters her autonomy is now just part of her normal routine. Instead of saying, “Well, now her grades are higher, she’s done with math mentoring,” this student and her parents have recommitted to receiving support so that she can just continue to grow her math abilities and confidence more and more, and that her family can experience an even deeper experience of harmony around math.

I am so, so proud of this student, and how her persistence, vulnerability, and commitment has created such true mastery, confidence, and JOY with her math!

Are you tired of feeling like a bad parent because even though you’re doing everything you can to help your kid with math, it isn’t working?

Does it break your heart to see your own purple-tutu-wearing kid have meltdowns about math?

Are you ready to invest in high-level 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.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

Sending you love,

Related Posts:
Case Study: A Rising 8th grader masters her summer math packet
Case study: A seventh grader goes from “I don’t get it” to getting 100 percents
Case Study: an ADHD student goes from a D to an A
I just can’t keep this a secret any longer

Posts Tagged as "growth mindset"

How to raise a math-confident daughter (or son) (1)

Friday, January 15th, 2016

smaller high five

That’s me speaking at AAUW’s Tech Savvy event for 6th-9th grade girls and their parents!

Is your child plagued by math anxiety, even though they’re already busting their butt?

Or do you really want to support your child to be truly math-confident, but don’t know how to connect with them about math?

I recently got to speak to parents about “How to Raise a Math-Confident Daughter (or Son)”, and the response was so phenomenal that I wanted to share the highlights with you!

This approach totally works whether you’re coming at it from a parenting perspective or applying it in your own classroom or community.

I’ve come to understand that being math-confident all comes down to developing and nurturing a Mastery Mindset.

1. The first piece of a mastery mindset is to have a Growth Mindset – knowing that math is a skill that everyone can nurture and develop with effort. (Carol Dweck has an awesome body of research about this.)

One of the ways I help my students develop a growth mindset is through using empathy to create an atmosphere of camaraderie and trust, so students feel really safe to talk about what they don’t understand.

I’ve come to understand that what keeps us from understanding math isn’t our intellect, but our emotions. And instead of ignoring our emotions, we can respect them and work with them as a tool to create mastery.

For example, there’s a student who came to me at the end of her Algebra 2 year. Math felt like a foreign language to her. By working with her emotions explicitly as part of our work, she ended up becoming the star of her pre-calculus class, nailing her oral final in front of her entire class, and enrolling in Calculus because math became something she loved.

An easy way that you can start to use empathy to develop a growth mindset is just to ask your child the very simple question, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how does this feel?” This also helps students develop the super powerful meta-skill of self-assessing their own mastery.

Would you like your child to receive super-customized, one-on-one support in developing their own math mastery mindset – so math becomes something totally doable and enjoyable?

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 connect!

Related posts:
The secret to getting straight As in math (it’s not what you think)
“Now I feel connected to math”
The Secret Ingredients of True Math Mastery
Do you wish your kid could feel like Albert Einstein?
Does having a math tutor make you a “loser”?

Posts Tagged as "growth mindset"

The secret ingredients of true math mastery

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Rebecca Zook i

That’s me – playing my cello in Central Park!

When I tell people that I have two parallel, seemingly unrelated careers – one as a math mastery mentor/joyful learning expert, and the other as a bad-ass cello diva and pioneering performer – it’s not uncommon for their eyes to light up and for them to exclaim, “OF COURSE! Math and music are SO connected! That makes so much sense. It’s normal if you’re good at one to be good at the other!”

But… to be totally honest… the ways I experience math and music, they’re so, so different from each other. And I spent a LOT of my life in environments where I didn’t think I was “good at” either of them.

So it took me a while to realize the connection between the two.

The way I LEARN music and the way I LEARN math? It’s the exact same process.

And it’s the exact same process I guide my students through.

And this mastery process is REALLY different from almost all of my formal math education and musical training, which involved a lot of:

bludgeoning yourself with the material until your eyes glaze over
overloading your brain
incredible frustration
constantly overworking
hating yourself
trying to be perfect
relying exclusively on analysis, verbalization, and intellectualization
trying to meet someone else’s pace
stumbling through it even though you didn’t really get it
not even realizing how disconnected you were from the material because you were just superficially “learning” everything
feeling fundamentally flawed and ashamed
worrying that “I don’t have what it takes”

Suffice it to say, this approach did not work for me!!! And I’ve found it doesn’t work for my students either.

However, I have discovered a process that actually DOES work for me – and for my math students.

And it’s sooooo different from what I just described.

It’s like a completely different mindset.

It’s so different that I actually named it.


Here are the elements of a MASTERY MINDSET:

First. Adopt a growth mindset. Believe (or, if that seems impossible, you can just start with being willing to consider the possibility) that what you’re trying to do is not about talent. Whether it’s math or music, it can be mastered with incremental, deliberate, and persistent effort.

Second. Have a FLOW orientation.
What I mean by this is, you want to stay in the “sweet spot” between being bored (it’s too easy) and being overwhelmed (it’s too hard). If you’re bored or anxious, nothing’s wrong with you – you just need to adjust what you’re doing so it’s harder or easier, as necessary.

Third. Incrementalization. Just take a sweet little morsel of material at a time. Just one little piece. Practice it until it becomes internalized, automatic. Until it becomes part of your body, part of your being. Then add a little chunk onto that. Continue this slow and steady process and you will find you are extremely prepared.

As an example, the way I used to learn music, I’d sit for hours in front of a music stand playing a piece from the printed music. Trying to figure out the tricky parts with my mind. So much mental effort, so much time, but it didn’t result in true security or true mastery. Covering the score in instructions and sticky notes. I listen to recordings from that period in my life and I can literally hear myself worrying.

Now, I don’t use a music stand or try to learn a big chunk at a time. I put the music on the floor, and I’ll lean over and play just a measure or two. Then I’ll practice just that, only looking at the music when I need to, until it’s automatic.

Then, when I’m away from the music and my instrument, I visualize the physical motions of playing that little chunk. The next day, when I’m back at my instrument, I check that that little bit is still internalized, and then I’ll add a little bit on.

If there’s a tricky part, I let my body find a solution with its own experiments. If a solution doesn’t come right away, I don’t freak out about it or try to force anything. I just trust that over time a way to do it beautifully will emerge from continuing to engage.

While it might seem “slower,” it results in deep, unshakeable preparation, and performances full of power and conviction. And, in the end, I’ve found I learn the material WAY faster.

Fourth. Let it be pleasurable. This might sound crazy, but there’s an additional piece I think is necessary to a mastery mindset: deciding to let it be pleasurable.

For one thing, the first three things – having a growth mindset, a flow orientation, and incrementalizing all create an intrinsically enjoyable learning experience.

And, additionally, I have found that deciding to do things in a way that is deliberately pleasurable creates deeper learning and also gently feeds your own enthusiasm.

This is great way to keep yourself from reverting to old “non-mastery” conditioning of overloading yourself, overworking, or trying to match someone else’s pace.

If you find yourself start to go into that, stop. Ask yourself, how can I do this in a way that is pleasurable?

Deciding to let my learning be pleasurable has completely supercharged my musical ability and my performances, and completely changed my experience of learning math. Like, I no longer allow myself to do the old things that didn’t work, because “this is not pleasurable” is a giant red flag that I am reverting to old patterns.

All of the energy that was going into the stuff that doesn’t work (slaving, bludgeoning yourself, hating on yourself, feeling like you don’t have what it takes) can be released. When it doesn’t suck anymore, all of that energy you spent on resisting doing it because it sucked is now freed up for you to actually learn, and enjoy what you’re learning.

Fifth. You become a mastery-seeking person. Once you experience true mastery, you no longer want to settle for “just getting through it” or going through the motions or having something finished to turn in. Now that you’ve tasted what it’s like to really, deeply internalize something, you start to seek that in all of your learning experiences.

Would you like your passionate, creative kid to be mentored in developing their own mastery mindset with math and with life?

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 my magical one-on-one math tutoring programs are a fit for you and your family!

Related posts:
Don’t back down
What changes when someone believes in you?
I just can’t keep this a secret any longer
Do you wish your kid could feel like Albert Einstein?

Posts Tagged as "growth mindset"

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?

Posts Tagged as "growth mindset"

What changes when someone believes in you?

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Math Butterfly

(Here’s a “math butterfly” one of my students and I created during a recent tutoring session!)

What changes when someone believes in you?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

I just had a huge performance breakthrough on my cello with my acting coach, and I’m getting ready for my quarterly business retreat with my business mentor. I’m going to be spending over a week surrounded by people who love me and believe in my highest potential and biggest vision.

In both of these situations, I feel so safe and accepted to really go for it, and I cannot believe how much better my music and my business and teaching gets as a result.

It completely changes my concept of what I’m capable of. It makes me believe that my dreams really can come true, because I can see it already happening.

Let me tell you, though, it hasn’t always been like this! At ALL.

Just as an example, not so long ago, when I was in graduate school for cello performance, I went to audition for two different summer chamber music festivals.

At the first audition, the person I was auditioning for radiated skepticism about me and my abilities. I didn’t feel very comfortable – I could tell she thought I had something to prove. She asked pointedly, “Do you have anything fast you could play for me?” I don’t even remember how I responded to that, but I remember thinking that if she accepted me into her festival, she would think she was doing me a favor, and I would feel seriously inferior.

The very next day, I went to audition for an amazing violinist, and took the commuter rail all the way out to New Jersey to meet her at the festival location. Her demeanor was so warm and welcoming and enthusiastic. I felt so comfortable!

I had fun playing for her, and when I was finished, she said very firmly, “You DEFINITELY have what it takes to be accepted to this festival!”

So guess which festival I ended up attending?

Yes, the one with the enthusiastic and welcoming teacher!

This experience was a real turning point for me. At this festival, I played the Cello 2 part in the Mendelssohn String Octet, which is both one of my most favorite-est pieces of music in the WORLD, and has an unbelievably hairy and notorious cello solo at the beginning of the last movement – that I had to learn!

This amazing violinist teacher went completely out of her way to set me up to really rock it. She even demonstrated how to play this solo holding a GRAPEFRUIT instead of using her fingers! And her musical partner and husband, also an incredible teacher, gave me a great fingering. I learned how to do it!

When we performed, I just went for it. And the audience response was so phenomenal. We were playing in a church, and the audience members stood up and BANGED on the pews, they were so excited! We were riveting!

This experience gave me the rock-solid conviction that classical music can be just as electrifying as anything else – and can truly bring an audience to its feet with RAUCOUS joy, not just polite or intellectual appreciation!

Looking back on this experience, it is so funny to me that that first person I auditioned for was skeptical that I could play fast. Because the second person, the amazing violinist, trusted me and helped me learn a SUPER FAST cello solo that I completely rocked (if I do say so myself)!

So what changes when someone believes in you?

I think it’s really simple.

1. When someone believes in you, they automatically ask you to do more.

2. Ideally, they also give you the TOOLS to actually DO it.

3. You have the opportunity and the tools to go beyond what you thought you were capable of.

4. You experience mastery! Breakthroughs happen! People respond with incredible enthusiasm! You are so excited and happy!

5. You believe in yourself, and you keep going. You begin to inhabit a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT REALITY.

Amazing, right? But – let’s look at the shadow side.

What happens when the teacher or mentor you trust DOESN’T believe in you?

1. They don’t trust you, so they don’t ask you to do more.

2. They usually don’t give you the tools to do more because they actually don’t know how to really help you, or they don’t even think you would “get it.” (A lot of times this is subconscious or unconscious on the teacher’s part, I’ve found.)

3. You don’t go beyond what you thought you were capable of. Your idea of what you can do starts to shrink.

4. Super important: you subconsciously pick up that they don’t believe in you and you start to entrain with that. You start to believe in yourself less, and you don’t do as well.

5. Or you start pouring an enormous amount of mental, emotional, and spiritual energy into defending yourself in your own mind. But inside you really just feel like you suck.

6. Downward spiral continues until you shift the pattern or reincarnate and start over!

Trust me, I know, because I’VE BEEN THERE! I have wasted so much time and energy with people who did not believe in me… constantly feeling insecure and defending myself in my mind. And I did not bloom. If I improved, it was so slow and painful. And I did not shine at my fullest light. This was not helpful for me or anyone else!

Two caveats:

1. Caveat #1: It doesn’t work if your teacher or mentor wants it for you more than you want it for yourself. You have to want it as much as your teacher or mentor, or even more.

2. Caveat #2: Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are times in life where we are going to encounter people who don’t believe in us. I’m not saying that we can only talk to or work with people who are constantly cheerleading us and telling us we’re awesome. (In fact, that’s not really what this awesome teacher did – she challenged me and gave me the tools I needed, which is so different from empty praise.)

But it IS up to us who we choose to study with and learn from. It IS up to us who we trust with our unfolding dreams. And it is so much more FUN and so much more POWERFUL and everything happens like a BAZILLION times FASTER when we choose to spend time with people who believe in us. It’s like the difference between picking crumbs off the floor of a MacDonalds and feasting on your favorite foods with people who love you!

If you or your kid is suffering in math right now because of a crisis of confidence – if you are feeling like your kid’s teacher doesn’t believe in them anymore, or you’re worried that your kid doesn’t believe in themselves, or that they feel deep down inside that “math doesn’t like me anymore” or “I’m not good at math” even though they’re busting their butt and trying their absolute best, I would love to talk to you.

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

Once your application is received, and we’ll get you all set up with a super special complimentary appointment, just me and you, to get clear on what’s going on with your kid’s math learning and whether or not it would make sense for us to work together!

Posts Tagged as "growth mindset"

What to do when your kid makes a math mistake

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you afraid that your kid’s math mistakes are going to close doors for them down the line and prevent them from living their dreams?  Are you tired of trying to handle this alone?  Are you ready to receive high-level one-on-one support? 

Then I invite you to apply for my one-on-one math tutoring programs. To begin your application, just click here.

Once your application is received, we’ll set up a special, complimentary appointment to talk about what’s going on in your kid’s math situation, and explore whether or not the way I work would make sense for your family! 

I’m excited to hear from you!

Sending you love,

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

Posts Tagged as "growth mindset"

Tips for a Happy Math Year – #3

Monday, October 7th, 2013

It’s time for tip #3 in my special series, Tips for a Happy Math Year!

And here it is…

Normalize error.
Getting an answer wrong is just part of the natural learning process. So is getting an answer right. Neither situation calls for high drama. If a kid makes a mistake, say, “Okay, try again,” and ask them what’s the first thing they have to do. This tip comes from Doug Lemov’s great book, Teach Like a Champion.

If you notice your son or daughter beating themselves up over their mistakes, saying things like, “I’m such a bad kid since I got that answer wrong,” “I’m really not good at this,” or “I guess I’m just not a math person,” explain that everyone makes mistakes while they’re learning.

Normalizing error is a powerful way to support your daughter or son in developing a “growth mindset” and being resilient in the face of a challenge – whether that challenge is in math, or in life!

Would you like your kid’s math experience to be less like crying themselves to sleep over their math homework, and more like twirling a sparkly parasol of confident self-expression?

Less feeling like they’re stuck in a mire from which they fear they cannot extricate themselves, and more like Indiana Jones on a great math adventure?

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.

We’ll get clear on what’s going on in your kid’s math situation and explore whether or not it would be a good fit for us to work together!

Related posts:
The rhyme and reason of making mistakes
Failure is not the enemy
I think I see a mathematician!
Algebra tears

Posts Tagged as "growth mindset"

When a math problem just takes for-EV-ah

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

What do you do when a math problem just takes, like, for-EV-ah?

In other parts of life, it’s considered normal if it takes a little while to …. complete a book report, learn how to serve a tennis ball, or bake a cake.

But a lot of times, when a math problem takes a while, many people start to feel like something is “wrong.” Why haven’t I figured it out by now? Did I take a wrong turn 15 minutes ago? Am I lost? OMG when am I EVER going to finish my math homework?!

How do you deal with these situations? Watch today’s video for specific tips!

Do you wish there was a way to actually enjoy math problems that take a long time to finish?

Then I invite you to apply for my very special one-on-one math tutoring programs!

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’m looking forward to connecting with you!

Sending you love,

Related posts:
Malcolm Gladwell on Math and Persistence (1)
When Persistence Isn’t Enough
Interesting, not complicated
It’s not just about math

Posts Tagged as "growth mindset"

What about the parts of math that you just… hate?

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Today’s video tip is about how to deal with the parts of math that you… just… ok, I’m going to say it… hate.

I mean, how are you supposed to cope with the parts that are just niggly-wiggly, yucky, or don’t make any sense? Are you doomed to feel this way forever? Should you just accept that there will be certain parts that will feel incomprehensible?

No — there is hope! Watch the video below for more details!!

Do you wish someone would explain the parts of math that you hate right now in a way that really makes sense – and might even be fun?

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 look forward to hearing from you!

Sending you love,
Related posts:
Failure is not the enemy
Dealing with math overwhelm (1)
Stuck on a math problem? Call your brain on the phone
Face your fears, get a higher grade

Posts Tagged as "growth mindset"

It’s tempting just to reassure, but…

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Rebecca Zook at the New York High Line

Today’s video is about a situation that can really eek out a knee-jerk reaction.

What do you do when your kid asks something like, “Am I smart enough?” or some other similarly out-of-left-field question?

It’s really, really tempting just to give empty reassurance, like, “Of course, you’re a smart kid!” But the problem with that kind of reassurance is that it tends to get kids fixated on “looking smart” or “looking good” (also known as a “fixed mindset”) as opposed to letting them know that it’s OK to put forth effort to learn something (which is known as a “growth mindset”). It also tends to feed into a cycle of kids turning to the outside for validation, instead of learning how to validate themselves.

Today’s video shares some tips about how to turn these situations from awkward or knee-jerk-reaction moments into opportunities to help your kid develop a growth mindset.

Would you like your kid to be working on math in a way where they’re not only mastering the subject itself, but also learning that they can overcome challenges and obstacles in general – in a way that’s intuitive and genuine for them? Send me an email at or call me at 617-888-0160 to set up a time for us to talk and explore what you’re looking for to see if it would be a good fit for us to work together!

Related posts:
The power of praise (2)
Math mindset lessons from the movie “Moneyball”
Self-taught hero: Pearl Fryar