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Topic: tips

What to do when you get spaced out about math [study tip]

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

Here’s a super powerful and easy study tip that you can use anytime.

I’ve been using this study tip since I was in college, and continue to do this to this day.

Are you studying … practicing your math … and you start to get spaced out?

You feel like your brain is full?

You’re having trouble concentrating?

Maybe even getting a little frustrated?

It’s time… for a solo dance party!


It’s time to DANCE!

I’ve found that even just taking a break to dance to ONE song can be enough to get me refocused. Sometimes I need like a three-song-long dance party.

Taking a break to have a solo dance party can:

-make you feel happy

-help you feel energized

-refresh your focus

-give your mind a chance to integrate what you’ve been working on while you’re focusing on something else (dancing)

-actually help you get your math homework done faster because you return refreshed and renewed.

Also, just FYI, professional mathematicians will deliberately take breaks in order to give their subconscious mind a chance to find unexpected connections and solutions.

I just had a solo dance party myself before I wrote this, and I highly encourage you to do the same!

Would you like your creative, passionate kid to sing and dance about math? 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 connecting!

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Topic: tips

Three simple tips for the night before your math exam

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

Do you find yourself tired, hungry, and rushed the morning of your math tests? Do you wish you could feel more prepared and confident, not only in your mind, but also in your body? Here are three simple tips you can use the night before any math test so you can feel relaxed and secure.

Pack a proteiny snack for exam day.
To give your brain some extra fuel, pack a snack with lots of protein, like nuts, cheese and apple slices, or yogurt. This way you can be sure you won’t be crazed by hunger when it’s time to take your exam.

Get a good night’s sleep, no matter what.
Staying up late to study the night before is not the best way to be prepared, because your fatigue will make it harder to concentrate and recall the material you DO know when you’re actually taking your exam. Plus, if you don’t have time to get much sleep between the late-night study session and your test, your brain won’t have a chance to organize and store the material that you were learning, so it will be hard to remember what you tried to learn during the late-night study session. Plan and pace your study time so you don’t have a big rush to cram the night before a test.

If it’s a routine test, take the time to do some practice problems and review anything you need to have memorized the night before, but wrap up your studying with plenty of time to get to bed and feel relaxed about getting a good night’s sleep. If it’s a really big test, like an end-of-year exam or state standards test, the best thing to do the night before is just to rest and relax after doing a little light review just to reassure yourself that you’ve got it down.

Plan ahead to make sure you get a good breakfast.
Make sure your breakfast has a lot of protein – like eggs, meat, yogurt, or fish – to fuel your brain for the long run. Check your fridge or ask your parents to take you to the grocery store in advance to make sure you have exactly what you need. Avoid toast, cereal, juice, or pop tarts, which will make your blood sugar spike, leaving you spacey and disoriented when it’s time to concentrate on your test.

It is amazing how much of a difference good sleep and good food can make – especially when combined with being knowing the material inside and out!

If you’d like to go beyond these basics to feel way more confident walking into your next math test, 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 here for you, and I’m so glad we’re connected!

Sending you love,

Topic: tips

Tip of the day – What to do when your kid makes a math mistake

Monday, February 6th, 2012

I recently realized there’s something I constantly do with my private tutoring students: use a question to direct their attention to an error.

Let’s say a student makes a mistake like, 5 + 4 = 8.

Instead of saying, “NO! That’s WRONG! 5 + 4 DOES NOT EQUAL 8!!!”

I’ll just gently ask, “What’s 5 plus 4?”

The student gets the feedback that they’re off track, and they immediately know what to address. It lets the correct immediately without getting emotional, feeling judged, or falling out of “the math zone.”

Try it with your own kid and let me know how it goes!

Topic: tips

“Interesting,” not “complicated” (Math Mantras, part 2)

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about re-framing. Along the lines of “eraser time,” and “when in doubt, write it out,” another way I’ve found helps my students to approach a more complex problem with courage and even a sense of playfulness is saying the simple phrase, “This looks… interesting,” with a little friendly smile.

Why does this work? So many times when kids hit a problem that looks weird to them, they just stop and give up, thinking, I don’t recognize this, I don’t know how to do this, no one has taught me this yet! I will just wait, or close my book and go do something else, or hope this problem disappears! But frequently, those problems are just one little step, one small stretch, beyond what they have just done.

“This looks…interesting” opens up a space where it’s okay if you don’t know exactly what to do–a place where you can explore. A zone where you can spread out and think about what might work or what you could try. It neutralizes the subconscious tendency to freak out. It’s like you’re an archeologist discovering a beautiful, mysterious artifact whose purpose is unknown. Instead of thinking, “I don’t know what to do with this crazy thing!” you can welcome the process of puzzling out how it might work.

I’ve found that if I do this enough, it’s one of those phrases that my students repeat back to me, unprompted. If we’re talking about the complicated problems as though they are “interesting” instead (even if inside, they might be saying, “this looks scary/impossible”), eventually they start doing this on their own.

And it’s not just a trick–it’s also true. Part of the process of mastery is that what was once impossible becomes familiar. And what is familiar is no longer challenging. And eventually, what is familiar becomes downright boring.

So to stay in the magic space between frustration and boredom, where the problem is perfectly matched to our abilities to stretch us just one step beyond what we already have done, we need to kick it up a notch so we don’t get bored. So we can grow. And so we can enjoy.

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Topic: tips

How to help kids be okay with things being hard

Monday, January 24th, 2011

A while back, I was working online with a younger student on a math problem that was challenging for him. He was getting frustrated.

“Look, kiddo,” I said (or words to that effect), “when you’re doing something and it feels hard, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you. It just means that you’re learning something challenging. Everyone feels that way when they’re learning something new that’s hard. You’re not alone.”

My student got really quiet. There was a long pause.

“Thank you for that,” he said quietly.

I wasn’t expecting such a solemn response, and I wasn’t expecting gratitude, either. But then I realized—maybe no one had ever told him this before! Maybe every other time he had struggled over something new, he’d thought he was defective or inadequate.

I brought this up when I was talking shop with a friend who also teaches. She shared a similar story about having a new piano student break down in tears at his first lesson with her. When she mentioned this to the kid’s mother, the mother brushed it off and just said, “Oh, yeah, he’s been crying through all of his piano lessons for at least a year.”

But when the kid cried, my friend took it upon herself to ask him why. He talked to her about how he was frustrated and talked about what he’d rather be doing than playing piano. They had a whole discussion about stuff that, apparently, everyone else had ignored or glossed over.

Coincidentally, after that talk, he never cried again in a lesson with my friend, and ended up being one of her best students.

How can we make kids okay with things being hard? I think it helps to state the obvious, even if it seems … too obvious. It’s normal if something feels hard. Or, If you’re crying, something’s wrong and maybe we should talk about it.

As adults, it’s easy to forget that things that now seem obvious to us were not always so clear. But at some point, someone explained these things to us, or we figured them out the hard way, on our own.

Sometimes I’m afraid to tell my students these obvious things because I’m worried they might think I’m being cheesy or meddling in their emotions. But it hasn’t happened yet, which leads me to believe that they really need to hear this stuff.

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