I have been tutoring since 2008. I attended RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) where I received my bachelor’s degree in mathematics and am currently pursing my master’s degree in mathematics as well.
I have tutored Middle School, High School, Undergraduate College Students, Graduate College Students, and Adult Learners. I have taught math in classrooms of 6th – 12th graders.
EXAMPLES, EXAMPLES, and MORE EXAMPLES! I know from personal experience how frustrating it is to try to learn a topic in a classroom/textbook when you are not given enough examples to practice. It’s overwhelming when you only see a single easy example in class or in the textbook, but then you see the hard problems for the first time on a homework/exam when it counts against your grade. My tutoring style is that I meet the student where they are in terms of their skills. I gradually ramp up the difficulty of learning a topic through plentiful examples, each one just slightly more complex than the last. This gentle approach to steady, incremental improvement builds up my students’ confidence in a way that builds a solid foundation for learning more and never leaves them overwhelmed.
I work hard to ignite the spark of a student’s passion in relation to math. It’s fun (and also productive!) to get a student to be deeply engaged in their work by adapting otherwise boring problems to situations/problems the student is really interested in. Beyond its inherent beauty, math is such a wonderful subject because of its endless real-world applications. I take pride in my adaptability with customized tutoring sessions based on each student’s personal and/or career interests. I regularly design custom math worksheets for my students using the LaTeX typesetting language. I also actively refine my explanations of sub-topics and seek out ever-better ways to present material for future students.
My tutoring style is further described cyclically: I begin with reviewing some Diagnostic tests to identify a student’s strengths and weaknesses. I determine which weaknesses could be sharpened up through tutoring that will make the best use of the student’s time and energy. After tutoring for some time, I explore benchmark tests to see where the student has improved and where they still struggle. I continually use this cycle of feedback to always be working with the student on their weakest skills that will maximize the impact towards their academic goals.
The mother of one of my students first contacted me in the August of 2020, seeking a math tutor for her son. He was slated to take the High School Placement Test (HSPT) in early December 2020. The HSPT is an admission test given to eighth graders seeking entrance into specific Catholic schools. Unlike more popular standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT, where you can report your highest scores to colleges after multiple attempts, the pressure is even greater on the peculiar HSPT because your lowest score is reported to prospective high schools if you take it multiple times. In practice this means that students have effectively one shot to affect the trajectory of their high school admission and access to related scholarships.
The student in question was an 8th-grade boy suffering from ADD and ADHD, and his cognitive behavioral therapist declared that the boy’s “brain is like static,” indicating how difficult it is for him to learn new topics. And just when he needed to learn math the most in the several months leading up to the HSPT, the boy’s school shut down completely in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. So on top of his learning afflictions, this boy had effectively been deprived of learning any math whatsoever between March and August 2020.
The boy’s grades had never escaped the 30-40% range in his math class. Remote tutoring wasn’t just needed due to the pandemic: we lived 350 miles from each other. I was uncertain how much progress we could make meeting remotely just twice a week for 3 months. I wished we had more months to prepare and could meet more often throughout the week given the pace of material retention we’d have to achieve for him to have any fighting chance on the HSPT.
Normal math problems did nothing to keep his interest and his eyes glazed over even for basic topics. But as I got to know him better, it turned out that both my favorite and his favorite position to play in baseball is centerfielder followed by pitching. I used my baseball experience to frame the math topics and assignments in the context of baseball, and the results were so encouraging! His eyes lit up every time I designed an example/assignment that phrased the underlying math skill as a question about baseball: from batting statistics and the motion mechanics of batting/throwing a baseball, to the geometry of the basepaths and the nuances of pitching, and so much more.
I made sure he was practicing math with my custom worksheets every single calendar day, not just on the days we met in a tutoring session. After 88 straight days of the most blistering tutoring pace I’d ever supervised, it was time for the HSPT. He was genuinely shocked that not only did he score highest in math over the reading section and writing section, but also that his math score was at the 99th percentile level nationally for the HSPT! And despite our tutoring sessions having concluded, it was great to see how solid his skills continued to be from our time together as he went on to average a 100 in his Algebra class in the following semester without my help.
I’m proud of myself as the tutor in this story but I’m especially proud of that student’s commitment and grit. The list of adverse circumstances is long: multiple academic learning impediments; the pressure of getting one shot to perform well on the admissions test; an extremely short time to prepare by having to compress most of a year’s curriculum in just a few months; the challenge of tutoring remotely instead of in-person; the difficulty of socially isolating in life in general; and the psychological toll of prolonged, ever-present uncertainty during a global cataclysm.
My experience tutoring this student reminds me that even the most dramatic turnaround is possible when I find a way to get someone passionately engaged in consistent practice. It takes more work to phrase questions in ways that are interesting, but the results are so worth the extra effort!