I focus on tools to make problem solving straightforward: a simple reductionist approach to concepts (e.g. calculus I only has 2.5), insistence on fundamentals, and helping students to be kind to themselves. Students’ main obstacle is not conceptual, but assuming math is complicated, having learned a long list of processes instead of the short list fundamental laws. That causes sloppy “bookkeeping”, then losing track of if you’re right (the student’s job). I’ve been teaching/tutoring for eight years: seven calculus and precalculus, full-time tutoring for one. Students who stick to my approach consistently report improvements of one or two letter grades. A fundamentals approach also applies to all material, so it adapts well to students of different strength. Do math like the big kids.
My main goal is to make the boring parts of math quick and painless so students have more room for the cool parts. By learning flexible techniques to apply the right rules to any problem, and writing efficient, clear solutions that make mistakes less likely, we can handle problems without the stress and eliminate the urge to do millions of useless practice problems or searching for deeper meaning that isn’t there. Confidence comes through competence. Competence comes knowing the rules of the game. You don’t need a “deep” understanding of things to get started (calculus is broad not deep), all you need is the safety net of fundamentals so you can explore.
I focus on making sure you:
- Graduate from "The Steps": Use fundamentals to handle new problems. No more "we haven't done this problem type before". Only problem type is “follow the directions”. Communicate solutions, not incantations.
- Develop Agency: Knowing if your work is right is your job, not the teacher’s. Experiment, get your own feedback, answer your own curiosity. Math is your sandbox.
- Solve Word Problems Systematically: Strip context, convert to math as you read, solve like any other problem. No more “read the problem multiple times to understand it”.
Few things are as human as mastery. It's great to help someone improve grades etc., but the best part is the explosive revelation when someone realizes they have the power to learn on their own, to take control, and to do so without having to punish themselves.
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