You don't need anybody to tell you that water is wet. It's not just something you understand, it's something you know without having to think. When math is really understood, it becomes part of what you know forever, just like knowing the texture of an apple or the scent of jasmine. I treasure watching minds blossom when they begin to internalize math as something known, something that just makes sense. My business, Set Theory, is really about getting to that level of knowing.
So often, people nourish mental blocks on mathematics because of a series of bad experiences in school. When someone begins to develop a math sense, they also begin seeing those obstacles fade away. While helping others learn mathematics is something I enjoy with all my heart, this does not take a back seat to freeing someone from the chains of bad experiences. There certainly is a sense of freedom and empowerment that comes from understanding mathematics that seems to trickle into other subject areas, and I cherish the opportunity to guide others to their personal aha moments.
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Frequently asked questions
What is your typical process for working with a new student?
A building cannot be erected without first knowing the extent of the foundation. So, the first step is always to find out what the learner knows and understands well. As each person is different and has different needs, the course of action following the assessment also differs dramatically and must be tailored to fit the learner's background, understanding, and ultimate goals.
What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?
I hold a bachelor's degree in mathematics. I have also served as an instructor, lead instructor, and center director at three different Mathnasium locations in two different states. At the university level, I served as a tutor and substitute instructor, and I was given the Outstanding Tutor award for every year I served.
Do you have a standard pricing system for your lessons? If so, please share the details here.
Set Theory charges $25 per half hour, or $45 per hour.
How did you get started teaching?
I began teaching at a monastery in 1999 quite by accident. I found success at teaching there unexpectedly, and I have found myself in teaching roles ever since.
What types of students have you worked with?
I have worked with students as young as five years old all the way up through college students. I have helped students with disabilities as well as those looking to get ahead. For two examples, I worked with a third grader who performed at a sixth grade level, and I worked with a seventh grader who performed at a first grade level. I have tutored nurses, engineers, business majors, and many other professionals. I am happy to meet learners at their respective starting points and pace, and I enjoy meeting their needs and exceeding their expectations.
Describe a recent event you are fond of.
A computer science major who was a student of mine called me recently to thank me. I had not seen him in over a year. Despite this, he said, "Thank you, Sam. You were the one who helped me pass my calculus courses and the only one willing to tell me the truth about what to expect in my major." What made me the happiest was that he remembered the tips and tricks we had worked on even after more than a year had passed.
What advice would you give a student looking to hire a teacher in your area of expertise?
There are a few red flags to watch out for. First, avoid hand-holders. After working through a couple problems with you, if a tutor continues to guide you through every step without letting you ride without the training wheels, so to speak, they are not helping you. You'll be dead in the water without them on test day. Second—and this is more important than it seems for ensuring you remember what you learn for years to come—if a tutor focuses only on the method of solution without discussing WHY you are learning what you are or what it all means, you are wasting time and money. There are real-world reasons for learning specific mathematical subjects and concepts, and these should be kept in mind and discussed as learning commences.
What questions should students think through before talking to teachers about their needs?
In learning any subject, the most important factor that requires close attention is anxiety level. A student who feels no anxiety about a problem can handle questions that are extremely difficult with enthusiasm and a sense of wonder. By the same token, a student who feels fear or frustration about a problem will crumple at even a relatively easy question. If a student detects this kind of frustration or anxiety, it's time to approach an instructor. Deep and lasting learning cannot take hold in the presence of anxiety. Therefore, the question that elicits no anxiety is the one students should continue to think through before reaching out to an instructor.