Rebecca Zook - Math Tutoring Online

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Posts Tagged as "math tutor"

Now accepting applications for new students

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Do you wish math could feel like this?

Hey beautiful people!

Do you wish your child could experience math as a magical adventure?

Are you worried that your child’s challenges with math will prevent them from making their dreams come true?

Do you yearn for your creative child to truly master and LOVE math?

Well, good news!

I am now accepting applications for new students!

If you would math to feel like a magical adventure for your child,
just fill out this application here.

Once your application is received, I will reach out to schedule a special application interview for us to get clear on whether my work would be a fit for your family.

I’m so excited to receive your application!

Sending you love,

Posts Tagged as "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 "math tutor"

The biggest failure of my educational career

Monday, October 24th, 2016

15.10.24STEMDuyTran (573)

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 "math tutor"

Do you wish your kid could feel like Albert Einstein?

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

My student who loves to sing and dance about math boldly announced to me during our tutoring session, “I feel like Albert Einstein!”

Ok, so let’s back up for a second. How did this happen?

When she told me she felt like Albert Einstein, I told her, “I think this is really important. Let’s look at this together for a minute.”

What was the process that led to this lightbulb moment?

Here’s the breakdown.

We were working on a problem that combined multiple circles shapes to make a complicated-looking shape that LOOKED super scary and weird – but was actually just a bunch of circles combined in an innovative way.

When my student first saw the problem, her first thought was, “I don’t want to do this. This is too complicated.” (Initial resistance to the problem.)

Then, she thought, “OK, why don’t we just try it, because if we skip it, I might forget to do it and then I won’t ever get it done or learn from it.” (Willingness to engage with the problem.)

As I was talking to her about the problem, this student started playing around with the diagram, trying to break it into smaller shapes.

Without freaking out or trying to force anything, she just playfully engaged with the problem, without being worried that she “didn’t know how to do it.” (Willingly engaging with the unknown with a sense of playfulness and lightheartedness.)

While she was listening to me, she started getting a mental image of Mickey Mouse ears, and a Mickey Mouse cartoon she had seen where Mickey lost his ears. Then, when Mickey found his ears and put them back on his hat, half of the full circle disappeared into the hat, so only a semicircle stuck out to make the ear.

(Her subconscious started to make non-linear connections. She let her subconscious flow without shutting it down.)

Then my student realized that the same thing was going on in the diagram we were looking at – the little circles were being “stuck” into the big circle and half of them were disappearing.

(Her subconscious/visual mind clearly showed her how to solve a problem she “didn’t know how to do.”)

Then she knew exactly what to do and was off and running! (She immediately applied her flash of insight to successfully solve the problem.)

What makes me SO HAPPY about this is… very advanced scientists, mathematicians, and inventors often rely on their creativity and their subconscious mind to solve the problems that really stretch the limits of their current understanding.

But you don’t have to wait until you’re in graduate school or interning at CERN to start working with your creativity and subconscious to solve problems.

In fact, you can start right now… even if you’re “just” a rising 7th grader!

Here’s how you, too, can start to invite more Albert Einstein moments into your math learning:

1. Be willing to engage with the unknown. When you see a scary problem that looks unfamiliar, instead of shutting down and saying, “I don’t know how to do this,” or, “I need someone else to show me what to do,” just say to yourself, “Why not just take a look at this and see what happens?”

2. Let yourself play with the problem and explore. You don’t have to know what to do. Try to break it down into something you do know how to do. Look at it from different perspectives. It doesn’t have to make sense immediately.

3. Remember that it doesn’t have to be linear and you don’t have to force it. Just hold the problem lightly in your mind while you are exploring.

4. If you start to get some unrelated images or ideas, let them come through. Maybe they will show you how to solve the problem!

5. If you do have a lightbulb moment of insight, go ahead and apply it to the problem and solve! This is so satisfying!

6. VERY IMPORTANT: If you don’t solve the problem right away, it’s OK to take a break and come back to it later. (In fact, professional mathematicians and scientists do this on purpose! And many of the most important problems of their careers took them months or even years to solve.)

7. ALSO VERY IMPORTANT: Even if you DON’T solve the problem, practicing deliberately being with the unknown is incredibly valuable.

I’ve come to realize that deliberately being with the unknown and having the courage to experiment is maybe the most important skill we can learn in math and in life. To me, it is an incredible meta-skill that allows so many other beautiful learnings, creations, and opportunities to come through. Unfortunately, it’s something that is not mentioned or encouraged in most educational environments.

Just as an example of how this skill is developed as part of my work, when this student first came to me, what was going on was if she didn’t immediately know what to do, she would give up right away and ask her Mom to show her how to do the problem.

Now she her instinct is to explore, instead of give up, and she is living in a completely different world.

Is this a transformation you would like your child to also experience – from giving up as soon as they don’t know what to do, to having their own moments where they feel like Albert Einstein after a blinding flash of insight?

Then I invite you to apply to my super powerful one-on-ones tutoring programs.

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

Once your application is received, we’ll set up a special phone call to get clear on what’s going on in your kid’s math situation and whether or not it’s a fit for us to work together. (This level of attention to incoming families is unparalleled in the tutoring industry!)

I’m excited to connect!

Related posts:
Does having a math tutor make you a “loser”?
Case study: a 5th grader goes from thinking “math doesn’t like me” to singing and dancing about math while wearing a purple tutu
I just can’t keep this a secret any longer
How to experience math as your own unique creation
Is your kid a creative, passionate, unique visionary of the future?

Posts Tagged as "math tutor"

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

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

I was recently talking with one of my favorite students about her goals for the upcoming school year.

She told me her big goal was to make straight As.

This actually made me kind of worried!

You might be thinking, what, Rebecca, are you CRAZY? Why would it be BAD for a kid to WANT to get straight As?

So … let me explain.

The reason why this made me a little worried is because what is most important to me as a math mastery mentor and joyful learning expert is that the students truly master the material.

I’ve found that when students are committed to the process of mastery, and receive aligned support, everything else just happens naturally – the confidence, the grades, successful classroom participation.

It’s all just a byproduct of the true foundation, which is the mastery process.

So I’m going to share a big secret with you – the same big secret that I shared with this student.

If you want to make straight As in math…

…focus on the habit, not on the goal.

I explained to this student that her success in math up to this point is all because of incremental habits that she’s been developing.

If she keeps doing these little incremental habits, those grades will come, whether or not she’s focused on them.

So here are the exact incremental habits that are the secret to getting As in math.

If you want to get straight As in math, this is what to focus on:

1. Keep track of your assignments so you know what’s due and when.

2. Give yourself plenty of time to complete the assignments and study for tests.

3. Practice new concepts until they are automatic (even if this means doing more practice than is assigned for homework).

4. ALWAYS make sure to get feedback on your work (like checking your problems in the back of the book) so you know whether or not you’re on track.

5. When you miss something on a test or quiz, go over it and figure out exactly what wrong and what you need to do differently next time.

6. Do extra practice of those types of problems you missed on the test or quiz, so they won’t be confusing when they come back in the future.

7. When you don’t understand something, keep a running list of problems, concepts, and vocabulary that aren’t clear and you want help with.

8. Ask for help with the things you don’t understand.

9. If the help you receive doesn’t work, keep looking until you find help that TRULY makes sense to you.

Do you want your creative, passionate kid to receive math help that actually makes clicks with their individual brain? Help that supports them in truly mastering math (and getting great grades and having awesome confidence as a result)?

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

This application process has been meticulously designed to help us both get clear about whether the special, magical way I work is a match for you.

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

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

Posts Tagged as "math tutor"

Come meet me in person in Maryland – Thursday 1/21 at 7 pm!

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

15.10.24STEMDuyTran (518)

I have a super special speaking engagement coming up in Maryland, and you’re invited!

This is a rare opportunity to meet me in person (for free) in a very intimate, powerful group.

How to Sing and Dance about Math:
For Musical Theater Teens and Tweens (and their parents)!

Are you so busy prepping for musical theater auditions, rehearsing, and performing, that you don’t have a lot of time for math homework?

Do you ever feel overwhelmed and stressed about math?

Do you wish you could get your math homework done easily and quickly?

Do you want math to be something you sing and dance about–something you love and enjoy as much as musical theater?


Posts Tagged as "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:
Case study: a rising eighth grader masters her summer math packet
When in doubt, talk it out
What to do when your kid makes a math mistake
How to experience math as your own unique creation

Posts Tagged as "math tutor"

How to find a good math tutor

Friday, October 30th, 2009

A few years ago, when I was only tutoring students in person and not yet tutoring people online, I moved from Boston to Atlanta to attend graduate school. I was really sad to leave my Boston students behind. Many of them asked me to help them find a new tutor, and I didn’t know anyone to recommend. So this is what I suggested that my students do.

Ask around. Ask your teacher to recommend a tutor. Some teachers know great tutors that have been working with their students for years. Ask your school. A lot of schools maintain a list of recommended tutors, though the person in charge of it varies from school to school. Sometimes it’s the math department head, a guidance counselor, a grade coordinator. Sometimes it’s a learning specialist or someone in the front office. If you’re comfortable, ask your friends, and/or ask your parents to ask their friends. Someone you know might already know someone great!

Ask the internet. A lot of independent tutors have websites that include their contact info as well as information about their tutoring experience and philosophy. Some people have found a perfect tutor just by googling. Also, lots of tutors also post on craigslist. Find your city/area first, and then look for tutors under “lessons and tutoring.” If you’re overwhelmed by the number of posts, use the search function. Try looking for tutors who look like they put some thought and effort into writing their ad, or look for ads that say something that resonates with you.

Look for individuals. When it comes down to it, tutoring is about a one-on-one mentoring relationship. So it’s worth it to take the time to find an individual you would trust to mentor you. Look for tutors who promote themselves as individuals. People who are in business for themselves have more invested in their work than tutors who are working for a tutoring agency. If you choose to go through an agency, ones that post bios and pictures of their tutors are probably a better bet than most.

Make contact. Once you get a list of potential tutors, call or email them and tell them what you’re looking for. See what kind of vibe you get from them. The phone is probably best for reading someone’s vibe, but if calling strangers about tutoring seems intimidating, you can email first and build up to a phone call. Your interaction over the phone will give you some clues about what an actual tutoring session would be like.

Tell your story and ask questions. Tell the tutor what seems to be the trouble and see how they respond. Do they seem sympathetic? You can also ask about the tutor’s experience working with your grade level and subject or a particular learning style or learning disability. If you like, you can ask about their tutoring method or philosophy, their experience and credentials, or why they became a tutor.

Pay attention to how you feel. What the tutor says might not be as important as how the interaction feels. Does the potential tutor listen to you carefully? Do they ask you questions about what the trouble seems to be? Do they seem to have a sense of humor? Would you feel comfortable working one-on-one with this person? Trust yourself.

Schedule your first session.
You can’t really know how you’ll mesh with someone until you meet with them, so set up an initial meeting before making a final decision or signing up for a long-term commitment. Take your recent homework, current homework, or a recent test. Ask them to help you with the parts that are confusing. The first session will probably be the most awkward since you’re just starting to get to know each other and work together, but that’s ok! By the end of your initial meeting, you should have a clear sense of whether or not you want to continue.

Do they pay attention to whether or not you understand? Do they adjust their approach when you don’t? A good tutor will explain things different ways until they find the way that clicks for you.

Ask yourself, “Do I feel comfortable with this person?”
Frequently, by the time someone has their first meeting with a tutor, they’re pretty confused about what’s going on. It really helps to work with someone you feel relaxed with. The more comfortable you feel being totally honest with your tutor about what you don’t understand, the more effective the tutoring will be.

Ask yourself, “Is this person helping me?” It may take several sessions before you start to see improvement in your grades as a result of tutoring, but you should feel like you understand things at least a little bit better after the first session. If you feel comfortable with someone but they aren’t actually helping you, it’s ok to move on to someone who can.

The bottom line: Trust your own instincts and feelings. Every tutor has their own style, and you want to find someone who works with your style. There’s no need to spend time with people who talk down to you, or make you feel bad or stupid. Learning new stuff is hard enough! You just want to work with someone who knows what they’re talking about, can help you understand it, and makes you feel good about the whole process.

P.S. Here’s another good article about how to find a good math tutor.

Related Posts:
Tips for how to help your kids with their math homework
My Favorite Math Teacher is a Woman
I cried myself to sleep over my math homework
“Simple, but not easy” (2)
Five fun ways to help your kids learn math this summer