Rebecca Zook - Math Tutoring Online

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Posts Tagged as "mastery mindset"

What parents of math-confident children secretly do (that typical parents don’t) – #2

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

I’ve come to understand that many parents tend to misunderstand what is actually needed for a child in math crisis to become math-confident.

Did you know that parents of math-confident children have a very specific set of beliefs and behaviors that set them apart?

I’m on a mission to educate parents about this.

First (as I shared in my last article about this), math-masterful parents see high-level support as normal and desirable, both for their child and for themselves. (Full details here.)

Second, parents of Math Masters are no longer willing to suffer or wait.

Typical parents tend to respond to a child’s persistent math struggles by waiting and hoping that their math issues will just magically go away by themselves.

They will tell themselves things like, “Let’s just wait and see what happens,”
“Let’s see how my child does between now and the end of the year,”
or “It will start clicking for my child eventually.”

But almost always, what happens is, in the best case scenario, the child barely manages to keep their head above water.

Or, worst case scenario, the child’s math understanding spirals downward…and the situation just keeps getting worse.

In contrast, math-masterful parents face reality and take control.

They understand on a deep level that if they continue to do the same things that aren’t working, they’ll just continue to get the same results.

Their child will struggle and suffer, and so will the parent.

So math-masterful parents choose to take a different action to create a different result.

When faced with an opportunity to receive support that will actually help their kid, they say yes and move forward.

As a quick example, one family was referred to me by a colleague at the child’s school. The student was tired of struggling and went to the math department head with her mom to ask for a referral to a math tutor.

This department head knew that the student loves to sing and dance, so she told her and her mom, “You should call Rebecca, because she sings about math.”

When the daughter told her mom, “Let’s call Rebecca right away,” they ACTUALLY called.

And we started working together almost immediately.

After our very first session, the mom emailed me that a weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

And the mom’s relief only increased as her daughter continued to receive this aligned support and get consistently great grades.

Did I just describe *your* mindset? Do you see high-level math mentoring support as normal and desirable? Are you no longer willing to wait while your child continues to suffer from math challenges?

I would love to connect and explore how I could best support your family.

To take the first step, just fill out this application here:

Once your application is received, I’ll reach out to schedule a special appointment time for us to connect and get clear on what’s not working, what you want instead, and whether my work would be a fit.

I’m totally excited to hear from you!

Sending you love,

Related Posts:
What parents of math-confident children secretly do (that typical parents don’t) – #1
The secret ingredients of true math mastery
When doing your math homework just isn’t cutting it

Posts Tagged as "mastery mindset"

Making Math Magical: Mon 5/8/2017 at the Westhampton Free Library

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Come and join me for this special talk, Making Math Magical, at the Westhampton Free Library!

Receive groundbreaking tools to build and nurture math confidence.

Discover how to support and help your child achieve true mastery and rise to the top of their class.

Support your child to experience math as a source of joy and a type of self-expression.

Attendees will walk away with clear steps, case studies and tools that can be easily implemented at home to ensure math confidence and success.

Pizza will be provided for attendees.

Date: Mon 5/8/2017
Time: 6:30 pm – 8 pm
Location: Westhampton Free Library, Children’s Program Room
7 Library Avenue
Westhampton Beach, NY 11978

Audience: For parents and students in grades 4–12.
Cost: Free!

#Westhampton #WesthamptonFreeLibrary #mathforparents #mathsupportforparents #MathConfidence #MathMastery #MasteryMindset #elementary #highschool #middleschool #LongIsland #LI #mathanxiety

Posts Tagged as "mastery mindset"

The biggest failure of my educational career

Monday, October 24th, 2016

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This is what mastery can look like – and feel like!

The biggest failures of my educational career weren’t the times I bombed a test.  They were the times when I completely disconnected from my own intuition and joy and self-trust.

Looking up every single word in a Latin text in the dictionary, conjugating each verb in a chart, and then agonizing over how to piece together some sort of meaning.

Staying up late with my algebra homework, trying again and again to make my answer match the one in the back of the book, and erasing until I cried with frustration.

Practicing certain cello passages over and over but still being unable to play them with confidence, or even actually losing control of my body when I performed.

What makes me angry is that this was actually rewarded.

My teachers would hold up my Latin homework as an example of how diligent I was as a student.  

But there was no connection between what I was being told to do and what I actually needed to do to understand the material.

I’ve come to understand that many times, there is a massive disconnect between what we’re being assigned to do, and what we actually NEED to do to learn.

Now, I do this with each of my students: discern exactly what they need to do, step by step by step, in order to deeply internalize the material until it becomes part of them. 

Even if it looks nothing like their homework assignments.

I call this having a “MASTERY ORIENTATION.”

For example, one sixth grade student who I was working with was really overwhelmed with percents. 

Her teacher had given her 12 different percent formulas to memorize, and my student didn’t know when to use which one. 

We boiled it down to 4 essential formulas.  

We practiced until she really mastered each one.

She knew how to recognize which one to use.

She knew how to use it to solve for different variables.

Because of this mastery approach, percents really became one of this student’s strengths.  

When percents came back up a year later, this student intuitively created a completely original, totally mathematically valid way of doing percent change that I had never seen before – in over 10 years of teaching percents!

The most important thing here is that this student was able to reconnect with her own self-trust, joy, and intuition around math, because she had truly mastered the material.

If you’re wondering how to do this in with your own child, a really easy way for you to immediately start supporting them with developing a mastery orientation is to ask your child to create their own original problem about a specific concept.  

This really helps students feel their ownership of the concept, and it also makes it super clear whether or not they understand the topic.

And if you’d like to explore if it would be a fit for me to support your family through one of my high-level, one-on-one math mentoring programs, I’d love to connect! To get started, just click here to fill out your application.

Sending you love,

PS.  I’m super excited to be part of an expert panel on the future of math education at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford on Wed 11/16 from 6-8 pm!  If you’re in the neighborhood, I would love to have you in the audience! Get your tickets here.

Related posts:
Five steps to true math mastery
Do you wish your kid could feel like Albert Einstein?
The secret to getting straight As in math
The secret ingredients of true math mastery

Posts Tagged as "mastery mindset"

Five Steps to True Mastery

Friday, April 1st, 2016

Have you ever taken a math test you felt completely confident about, only to find out that you bombed it and you weren’t prepared at all?

Trust me, you’re not alone. But why does this happen so frequently?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. And this is what I’ve realized.

True mastery takes more than one step. But I’ve never seen these steps discussed before like this.

And I definitely didn’t hear about this when I was in math classes growing up!

This is what I had to figure out all by myself, and now do in all of my one-on-one work with my own clients.

Let me break it down for you:

1. The first level of mastery: you can follow along passively when someone else is explaining a concept to you or demonstrating how to do a technique.

You aren’t actively participating, you’re just observing and listening, and what they’re saying makes sense.

2. The second level of mastery: you can do problems interactively with someone else.

You are actively participating as they walk you through the steps of the problem and you do it together.

3. The third level of mastery: you successfully complete a similar problem type completely independently and get the answer correct – and you understand why – without any guidance or corrections from someone else.

4. The fourth level of mastery:
you consistently get the answer right on enough similar problems that the concepts get internalized and the process becomes automated.

You have the track record that shows you that you really are prepared to go in and do this successfully on a quiz, test, or exam.

5. BONUS: The fifth level of mastery: you understand the concept and technique so well that you can easily and confidently teach someone else how to do it. When you get to this level, you know that you’ve REALLY got it!

Until you get to the point where you have at least “level four mastery” and consistently get the answer correct on problems of a similar type (and understand why), you aren’t really prepared.

For example, a student will passively understand someone else’s demonstration and think, “Great! I got it! I am ready to rock this test!” However, that is only level 1 mastery. Just because you can follow along with someone’s demonstration of how to bake muffins from scratch doesn’t mean your own muffins will taste good. Watching someone else do it is ONLY the first step.

Another place where major problems can happen is when students think, “Great! I did two of these problem types correctly and I understand them. I am ready to get an A!” That is like getting the basketball in the net twice and thinking that you’re ready to win the next game. It takes consistent training and practice to get consistent results.

Do you wish you knew exactly to do to get consistently awesome results in math?

Are you tired of doing everything you know to help your daughter or son prepare for math tests, only to experience soul-crushing defeat time after time?

Are you ready to invest in high-level, one-on-one, super-customized support that is not typical tutoring?

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

I can’t wait to connect!

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

Posts Tagged as "mastery 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 "mastery 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 "mastery mindset"

When doing your math homework just isn’t cutting it

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

What if math could make you jump for joy?

Did you ever take the Presidential fitness tests growing up? I vividly remember being asked, about once a year, to run a mile. Even though I got a lot of cardio growing up from serious ballet training, running the mile in middle school and high school pretty much always made me feel like I was going to die. Even if I actually ran the whole thing, there would always come a point midway where it literally felt like my lungs were bleeding inside.

Looking back at this experience, I was like, what the heck were the PE teachers thinking? If you only run a mile once a year of course you are going to suck at it and totally hate it!

What about actually creating a physically fit generation by nurturing students to LOVE to run… not just endure a yearly test? What about actually creating a generation of students who LOVE to do math… not just “get through it” to make the grade?

Whether you’re at the starting line of a race, or freaking out the night before a math test, whenever there’s a gap between what we’re being asked to do, and our preparation, it can create a lot of stress and fear.

And very frequently, the reason you will have trouble in math, or with your physical fitness test, is because – bottom line – the practice you’re assigned is NOT ENOUGH for you to really master the material and be prepared for the task.

Ironically, usually when you’re in that “freaking out” place, the last thing you want to do is do MORE of what is freaking you out… whether it’s running a mile or doing math problems.

It actually requires a significant shift in your mindset, away from “let me just get through this” to “how can I truly master this so I can consistently perform at the level I desire”… And working from that new place of aiming for true mastery is so much more rewarding and satisfying… you can even learn to LOVE what used to fill you with fear and despair.

I’ve seen this transformation in my own life and also in so many of my students’. What I’m talking about here is a much higher and deeper level of taking personal responsibility for your own experience. And the beautiful result of this is realizing that whether or not you “make it” is really, truly up to you, not your teacher’s agenda or assignment schedule.

So how do you DO this? Let me share some super easy to implement tips for how to customize your own “math workout” when you know that your homework alone is not enough.

Here are some great ways to create extra practice that matches what you’re already working on:

1. Super simple: if you are assigned the evens, do the odds for extra practice, or vice versa. Just be sure that you’re able to check your answers somehow so you know you’re practicing things correctly.

(extra tip: If the answers aren’t in the back of the book, you can check a lot of math problems by plugging them into and it will tell you what the solution is. Just a word to the wise: Wolfram Alpha is a very powerful tool, and it often includes a lot of extra information that might be way more than what you’re looking for or need, so don’t get overwhelmed by all the “extras” – just pay attention to the parts you need, like a solution for ‘x’, for example. Just trust that the more sophisticated stuff will make more sense later on in your math learning adventure!)

2. Look for an ‘extra practice’ section in the back of the book. Most math textbooks have extra practice in the back, but a lot of times teachers won’t mention it or assign problems from it. Again, it’s most valuable when the book also includes solutions to the problems so you can check your work.

3. Don’t wait until the end of the chapter to use the “study guide” or “chapter test” problems for extra practice. Most books have a chapter review at the end of each chapter which will include several extra problems for you to use, labeled by section. Use them for extra practice as you learn each section. You can always revisit them closer to the test if you like!

4. This is a little more advanced: make up your own problems by just changing a few of the numbers. This is best to use if you know there’s a way you can check your answers so you know you’re practicing correctly, or if you are feeling confident about checking your own work.

5. Invest in an extra math textbook for extra practice. (I am a fan of the Algebra 1 & Algebra 2 “Structure and Method: The Classic” books, which also make a good reference.) Use the table of contents and the index to find problems that are similar to the ones that you’re working on.

6. Get the solutions manual or teacher’s manual for your regular textbook.
When they’re available, they usually include answers to EVERY problem in the book, not just selected problems.

(Note: Please understand – my intention in suggesting this is absolutely not for students to take a shortcut and skip doing the work of the problem. It’s because it’s something I personally do when I’m learning a new math concept or technique and I want to make sure I can check ALL my work.)

7. Most important: be sure to choose problems where you can check your answers as you go, whether in the back of the book, from wolframalpha, or from a trusted friend or adult. If you don’t know if your answer is correct or not, it’s like practicing the violin wearing earplugs. The only way you know you’re really learning is if you’re getting feedback that you’re on the right track.

Are you tired of watching your kid do their homework diligently night after night, and then bomb their tests and quizzes? Do you dread trying to answer your kid’s questions about math? Are you ready to invest in totally customized support so that your son or daughter can see great results from their hard work and experience math as a source of joy and strength?

If you answered yes to those questions, you’re invited to apply to 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 explore what’s going on with your kid and get clear on whether or not it would be a fit for me to support them! I can’t wait to hear from you!

Sending you love,

Related posts:
How to experience math as your own unique creation
Three simple tips for the night before your math exam
Tips for how to help your kid with their math homework
Self-made heroes: the dancers of planet b-boy