Rebecca Zook - Math Tutoring Online

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It’s not just about math

Saturday, December 17th, 2011

I don’t normally put testimonials on my blog — they have their own beautiful lil’ zone over on the testimonials page — but I wanted to showcase one of the BEST things that happened to me this past week — doing a video interview with one of my favorite clients of all time, Miranda Lynch, and her mom, Sheri Lynch!

Before we talked, I really didn’t know what Miranda and her mom were going to say. I had no idea that Miranda is now taking *two* math classes (because she wants to), and I also hadn’t heard about most of her other amazing results (like consistently getting straight As in math since we worked together–way to go, Miranda!!).

But what got me even MORE excited was hearing Miranda talk about how our work together helped her feel more comfortable solving any kind of problem. Amen, sister! It is not just about math!

AND hearing Miranda, who is a filmmaker, talk about how she is totally confident about applying to her dream schools for film — because her math skills are so strong, she had no worries about her applications — GIVES ME GOOSEBUMPS!

An amazing healer who I am privileged to work with once told me that what she really does is remove obstacles. Many of my students come to me because they are experiencing obstacles to their learning… or math itself feels like an obstacle in their life. What we do together is remove the obstacle, lovingly, slowly, patiently, step-by-step… and in the process, my students learn to remove obstacles on their own.

This is something I think about, but don’t usually talk about with my students. It was amazing to hear one of my students express this to me herself.

Thank you, Miranda and Sheri, for taking the time to share your experience with the world!

*In other news, my website has a new tips page, which showcases some of my best tips all in one handy place.

Related posts:
Encouraging independent problem solving–subliminally?
Self-taught hero: Pearl Fryar
On being yourself while doing math

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Emotional Numbers

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Yesterday, I was working with a seventh grader on translating words into equations.

While translating the statement “three diminished by twice a number is eight,” he wrote this:

Wow, I guess he really was enjoying what we were doing! It’s the happiest eight I’ve ever seen! Hooray for kids customizing their math, expressing themselves, and having a good time while learning something challenging!

Related posts:
How to help kids be okay with things being hard
Algebra tears
Five Tips for a Happy Math Year
A Cosmic Imperative to Customize

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What does pi sound like?

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Just in time for Pi day, here’s a delightful musical interpretation of pi from Michael John Blake, using a piano, ukelele, autoharp, accordion, and bowed something-or-other, not to mention some totally sick handclaps!

I have already listened to this 3 times today. Maybe I should go listen to it another .14 times to bring the total to 3.14!!

If you’re not sure about this song, hang in there until around 2:33, where it really starts to rock.

Makes me want to make my own cover/dance music video of this song!!

Happy Pi Day, everyone! (Thanks to my Dad to bringing this video to my attention.)

Related posts:

It’s 3.14 – Happy Pi Day 2010 (beautiful song and video about 3.14159…)

Five fun ways to help your kids learn math this summer with rock songs and raps
There’s always room for cello

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Guest Post Alert: Interview up today on Maths Insider

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

I’m quite honored to be interviewed today over on the Maths Insider blog!

Maths Insider is the brainchild of my intrepid colleague Caroline Mukisa, whose blog fills a crucial need for parents looking for advice on how to help their kids with their math homework. (Caroline is British, thus “maths” instead of “math”).

Caroline asked me great questions about my mentors, whether I’ve always loved math, and my top three pieces of advice for parents looking to support their kids’ math learning.

So click on over and check it out!


Related posts:
Tips for how to help your kid with their math homework
Guest Post Alert: Q & A with Danica McKellar about Hot X: Algebra Exposed!
Five fun ways to help your kids learn math this summer

Topic: Uncategorized

There’s always room for cello!

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

I want to give a MASSIVE shout-out to my dear friend Nan Kemberling, who created this awesome rap video about cello technique!

Not only did Nan come up with this totally creative, fun, sassy, helpful, and accurate rap full of cello do’s and don’ts, but she also directed and starred in the video, honed a new persona as a rapper, showcased her own students, and created a viral youtube phenomenon!

This video is also a powerful example of what can happen when artist/teachers create educational music that you actually *want* to listen to.

When I asked Nan about the creative process of writing this rap, she said that she was always telling her students the same things, so why not make a rap song about it? This seems to echo the sentiment of Tim Bedley, veteran teacher and creator of the “Rockin’ the Standards” album of math songs: “My students just have the hardest time remembering some really important concepts. I have to keep reteaching and reteaching. If only I could get them to sing the information, they would NEVER forget!”

Here’s to a world where there are more awesome songs to help us learn the important stuff!

Related posts:
Five fun ways to help your kids learn math this summer with rock songs and raps
Happy pi day (beautiful song and video about 3.14159…)
“Simple, but not easy” (Lynn Harrell)

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Need to remember something important? Breaking news!

Sunday, November 28th, 2010


Do you need to remember a crucial math concept? Pretend that you’re a news anchor delivering a breaking “math story.”

I stumbled on this strategy totally by accident. I was working with a sixth grade student who told me she missed the “field trips” we used to take to my kitchen to practice unit conversion and act out word problems.

But how could we practice the algebraic order of operations in the kitchen? Looking for another way to take a “field trip,” I asked her to use my whiteboard to do a “mathcast” of what she’d just learned.

We pretended that she was the news anchor of a “mathcast” and that I was her student or producer. I made up a theme song to start the program and also signal “commercial breaks.”

While she taught the material back to me as a news broadcast, I was struck by her confidence and enthusiasm. I’d never seen her do a presentation before, and here she was gleefully holding forth about the order of operations.

It also turned out to be a really clear, fun way to evaluate what she understood. The stuff she was confident about she would declare in a loud voice, and the concepts that she wasn’t sure about she would whisper questions to me about. Sometimes when she needed to remember something, I held up her math class handout and pretended it was a teleprompter.

Once I realized what my student was confused about (because she’d whisper questions to me about it), I asked her to recite the part she didn’t understand to me over and over. She even spontaneously made up a little dance to help herself remember the material.

Without giving her a test or written assessment, I’d stumbled on a way to figure out exactly what I need to clarify and reinforce.

Why does this matter?

To quote a great NYT article by Benedict Carey, Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits:

“…cognitive scientists see testing itself—or practice tests and quizzes—as a powerful tool of learning, rather than merely assessment. The process of retrieving an idea is not like pulling a book from a shelf; it seems to fundamentally alter the way information is subsequently stored, making it far more accessible in the future.

For example, an experiment found that when college students did two study sessions back to back, they did well on a test soon afterwards but had already begun to forget the material a week later. However, students who did one initial study session and then took a practice test during the second session could remember the material a week later.

The psychologist who conducted this experiment, Dr. Henry L. Roediger III, remarks, “Testing has such a bad connotation; people think of standardized testing or teaching to the test. Maybe we need to call it something else, but this is one of the most powerful learning tools we have.

Doing mathcasts can be a way to do just that, giving students a chance to practice recalling something under pressure—while taking a field trip and sharing their knowledge.

Related posts:
How to help your kids with their math homework
Gallon man to the rescue!
Mind meld is real!
Math study skills quiz

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It’s official: smart is the new gangsta

Monday, August 16th, 2010


I saw this shirt in the window of Style Craft Phat Gear, a hip-hop clothing store in downtown Hotlanta, while cruising by on my bicycle. I thought it might be fun to wear this while practicing multiplication hip hop!

The shirt is available here. (Or make a pilgrimage to Style Craft Phat Gear where they have it in stock.) Thanks to blogger Tim Merritt for taking the photo, which was the coolest one I could find of this shirt online!

Related posts:
Five fun ways to help your kids learn math this summer (online!)
Be Yourself, Wear What You Want, Do What You Love (Coder Barbie/Ada Lovelace/Mashable followup)
“On Being Yourself While Doing Math” – Guest Post Alert!