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September 24, 2023

What’s The Big Deal About Math?

What really makes this educational discipline so integral to our learning as humans?

Math, as a whole, has become such an intrinsic part of comprehensive education. 

Without the calculated use of numbers, shapes, equations, and so much more- we wouldn’t have made nearly as many advancements we use in our daily lives today! Isn’t that crazy?

Although math is a subject many people have a hard time grasping, it’s greatly applicable to assure our general wellbeing. Those who are more adept in the field have the power to alter the course of our evolution- FOREVER. And even those who don’t choose to make a career out of it can still possess applicable life skills to make their daily living that much easier.

Math was originally discovered and used to construct empires and their systems of living in ancient times. Nowadays, it’s applied to nearly everything from cooking to architecture to dance choreography. We measure and calculate and articulate so many things in our habitual lifestyle it’s easy to overlook how much math we exercise consistently.

What makes math SO important, you ask?

Well, here are six core reasons why Math is incredibly important to include in a diversified model of education:

  1. Math promotes critical thinking skills: Critical thinking is an important skill covering a breadth of other cognitive abilities such as analysis, interpretation, inference, explanation, self-regulation, open-mindedness, and problem-solving. Math utilizes its kind of critical thinking to get students (or anyone using it) to brainstorm reasoned decisions to approach particular problems. Rather than guessing or applying a rule without testing its validity, they have to be able to concoct educated judgments that best suit the necessary solution to the problem.
  2. Truth be told, STEM is the future: STEM includes varying math-oriented disciplines such as science, engineering, and technology. These are fields able to help our technological evolution progress, so it’s incredibly important to implement the fundamental learnings that provide the solid basis for pursuing and studying such prominent endeavors.
  3. Logical thinking is a communicable life skill: Unlike critical thinking, logical thinking is how to evaluate the processes behind the reasoning. Critical thinking uses logic and its core principles to separate truth from falsehood. However, it doesn’t focus on said reasoning specifically. Solidifying a strong math education, especially for those at a young age, can empower them to make creative yet careful decisions.
  4. Math productively teaches about failure: Look, we’ve all experienced an excruciatingly difficult math problem we SWORE we would be unable to solve. But sure enough, that’s one of the most crucial lessons math teaches us- failure is the opportunity to learn even more. When someone fails to solve a problem, they have the option to give up or attempt the problem again. If they choose to try again, this strengthens their learning process; if not, then they’re stuck in a limiting belief they can’t achieve a resolution. Math subtly emphasizes that failure is a part of reality, and we have the choice to turn it into something greater.
  5. Math ALSO exemplifies the importance of a growth mindset: Math has the power to teach us that competence is an ever-evolving process- NOT a limited set of skills. Combining a growth mindset with the reality of failure prepares young students to attack their decision-making with patience and an awareness that they have the power to reach their end goal! These are two very essential skills in optimal social, emotional, and cognitive development.
  6. It helps strengthen financial literacy skills for the future: There comes a day where many of us are given the choice to inhabit the responsibility of supporting ourselves (and in some cases, others). Math is so deeply ingrained into financial processes, it’s unavoidable when taking on those monetary tasks. If you assess and incorporate strong math education at an early age, financial literacy is much more likely to be retained at an easier and faster rate!

Mathematics is so deeply incorporated into our daily functions, and the mechanic behind our most used tools, that it’s nearly impossible to avoid. Our societal standard of success is based greatly upon our inherent ability to make informed, sound, logical decisions; we don’t even realize how much math helps us to condition this technique! 

If you encounter a young student with a difficulty in learning math, now is the time to encourage these key principles. Math can be taught in environments outside of the traditional classroom, such as the kitchen or certain extracurriculars. Although that young child may not NEED math for their future professional endeavors, it’s still going to be a functional skill once they reach adulthood. 

Even though math is a meticulous discipline, it has the power to better our means of thriving. And without it, who knows where we’d all be!

September 17, 2023

Let’s Go Over This Again, Shall We?

Why Review in Math Education is ESSENTIAL for Student Retention- and Good Grades

It’s very common among educational institutions that some students will present a much more difficult time retaining  learning. Whether it be a learning divergency, inability to pay attention, or the content itself is too difficult to grasp- many students all over the world struggle with education retention.

It isn’t entirely their fault. Young minds are so malleable they all have various ways of learning new content. Memory is an especially intricate function of the human brain; it only makes sense that a young child’s ability to remember is slightly warped due to their lack of biological maturity as well as experience. They take in SO much information throughout a day, it’s only rational to understand the overwhelm they must feel! According to an article by Neuron, forgetting is “a critical component of a healthy mnemonic system”. 

However, the instructors and teachers in place have a responsibility to best try and coordinate different modalities for learning to ensure every student is receiving what they need. 

What To Do About Forgetfulness in Education

A very traditional yet consistently successful way to increase learning retention is constant, even meticulous review. This has proven to be especially beneficial when it comes to teaching young students Math. Math is one of the more objectively logical subjects in school, with a multitude of tiny moving parts and rules. 

Because math is a particularly dense yet detailed subject, with LOTS of steps to completing certain problems, children have a hard time keeping it all fresh and at their disposal. 

Extended breaks typically diminish the potency of learned knowledge, which makes review all that more beneficial. To review means to look back at all the lessons taught, read through, maybe even practice problems again and again for optimal comprehension. 

Math has been proven a subject that strongly implicates the importance of a growth mindset. This is especially representative through the learnedness of the review! 

In math, a student is given the option to attack a failed problem or equation two ways: try again with a new approach, or disregard it entirely. How does this tie into Math review?

If a student (given the proper resources) REVIEWS the mathematical fundamentals they’re currently learning, they’ll eventually discover the flaws in their problem solving, thus being more motivated to try again with a more developed solution. Converging review with a growth mindset encourages the students to practice patience, resilience, and a more optimistic outlook.

Additionally, the review is representative of a growth mindset because it encourages students to look outside themselves for resources (when available). 

The vital aspect of the review is to be able to connect the content. If a student has an upcoming assessment with more than a few mathematical techniques being addressed, then they must be provided the insight into how they’re all related. The more the students are assisted in recognizing the interconnectedness of math, the more retention they constitute.


Fun Ways to Implement Math Review

Yes, there are FUN and exciting ways to integrate math review into a student’s coursework. There is a multitude of approaches, ranging from collaborative work to games even to additional class resources!

Here are just some (of the many) ways to enjoyable implement math review- in a classroom AND at home!

Games: Everybody loves a good game! Math is not everyone’s favorite subject to learn at school, so incorporating fun into the learning process makes it all that more digestible. These types of reviews can vary based on inspiration, like Math Jeopardy or Math Candyland where each student has to complete a problem to advance on the board. A Math trivia is also a great option- Kahoot has become a very fun option for classroom review!

Collaborative Work + Peer Review: It’s amazing what kids can learn from one another. Throughout a unit of lessons (that’ll be included on the same assessment), continuously include time for peer work on classwork problems so they can go through them TOGETHER. This is also a wonderful opportunity to strengthen their collaborative teamwork skills! 

Extra Help Opportunities: Sometimes, the best resource is the teacher. If you are an instructor of any sort, try to allot time for students to have the option for extra help. Not only will this provide wonderful one-on-one focus to address the specific obstacles of each student, but it’ll strengthen trust in the class overall!

Study Guides: Depending on the age of the student, take-home study guides can work wonders! Teachers can subliminally add questions they plan to include on a test, especially the more difficult ones. Study guides are a great, direct framework for what you expect the students to know and complete!

Access to Classroom Resources: This can also vary depending upon the classroom. For some students, they learn best when they can look back at the notes and reread what they were taught. If the students are at an appropriate age to access work via computers, create a page entirely dedicated to your Powerpoints (or in-class exercises) as a review option!

Computer Games: This is a GREAT At-Home tool! Kids of many ages and levels of math difficulty can do this. There is an assortment of computer games online that a child can access to review what they’re learning. If you know your students have utilized Kahoot for review, this is something they can access at home (given computer access). Additionally, smaller and younger children who enjoy games will probably experience less resistance to math learning if there is fun included.


An Important Factor To Consider

As recently stated, there are going to be students who don’t receive Math well if they don’t particularly feel passionate about the subject. That’s why in any learning or review capacity it’s important to incorporate Math problems students will ENJOY. Regardless of what review is being implemented, students typically respond better when they can relate to what’s being given. This can range from (consensually) including students’ names in word problems, adding their favorite characters to problems, or finding acronyms and fun nicknames to describe mathematical concepts.

September 10, 2023

Put Your Mind To It

How The Use of Mindfulness Can Benefit Math Students

Mindfulness encapsulates an overall state of being. Generally, it is the human capacity to be conscientious of our existence, more specifically the emotional and mental sensations we experience. This cultivates a varying amount of different skills; for instance, someone who practices mindfulness is present in the moment, intensely sensing their feelings, being reflective, and many more intuitive behaviors. 

This is a specific kind of meditation many people practice. However, mindfulness in itself is a quality whereas meditation is an action. You can acquire mindfulness THROUGH meditation; all in all, the two can exist independently or together. 

Having a moment-by-moment awareness with a more nurturing approach is incrementally beneficial. Rather than focusing on the future or past to gain a sense of control over your reality, practicing mindfulness relieves you of stress that your focus is entirely invested in the PRESENT. Reducing that anticipatory rumination will alleviate feelings of frustration, stress, anger, and even helplessness. Mindfulness is also especially helpful to increase metacognitive awareness, or the awareness for how you think. 

Why does mindfulness matter in the first place? Because it’s an avenue one can take to overall improve their mental and/or emotional health. Mindfulness bleeds into all sorts of life experiences, like interpersonal relationships. Aside from the external benefits, mindfulness can overall better one’s relationship or perception of themselves.

There have been studies and discussions about the physical benefits of mindfulness as well, but the primary influence is within the conscious self. 

How does Mindfulness help with Math? 

By learning to address mental or emotional frustrations, you’re establishing a safe space to grow your perspective. Actively practicing mindfulness helps you to create a growth mindset, which can be helpful in times of challenge.

Due to math’s more dense and logical functionality, it’s one of those disciplines that challenges a majority of people in MANY ways. Mindfulness, especially when fused with math, can strengthen divergent thinking skills, patience, and improve many life skills. 

When being faced with an obstacle, for example a challenging equation, mindfulness can be used to navigate the challenge with a more hopeful approach. If you were to fail or get the math equation wrong, you can still utilize mindfulness by removing yourself from the stressful environment, gaining clarity, then returning with a newfound approach that may attack the problem correctly (maybe even more efficiently). 

Noticing the reactions you experience when partaking in mathematics can guide you to find a new attitude better suited for the task. Identifying those feelings will also pave the way to cultivate a more thoughtful, intentional response! 

Younger children with less emotional regulation may find it difficult to master mindfulness during math on their own. Don’t worry, familiarizing them with the process of mindfulness can be introduced in AND out of the classroom. Implementing mindfulness at an early age can prove to be expediently helpful. 

If you are a teacher or educator looking to provide a supportive environment for optimal learning, there are many ways to incorporate mindfulness! First and foremost, encourage the student(s) to be fully present and focused on what’s currently occurring! To prepare students for an engaging experience, instruct and/or guide them to calm their bodies and minds for the upcoming educational lesson.

Can you fuse mindfulness with math? ABSOLUTELY. There are a few different methods that can be integrated into a young mind’s lifestyle, whether it be during math time at school or when they experience a stressful situation at home.


3 Practices That Blend Mindfulness With Math

Count Your Breathing:

There are LOTS of specialized kinds of breathing able to sound the physiological sensations of stress or anxiety. There’s deep breathing, belly breathing, box breathing… you get the idea. Regardless of what KIND of breathing is being used, counting is a great way to control respiration! 

Instruct the student or class to get comfortable in their seat(s). Count an inhale for four counts, have them hold it for another four counts, then fully exhale for the final four counts. The purpose of the counting is to bring attention to this typically involuntary action. Becoming more aware of the flow of oxygen in and out of the body will instantaneously calm the nervous system, which means the students will feel more relaxed and present for their lesson.

Nourish The Mind AND Body:

Cooking has proven to be a fun yet engaging task that incorporates various math techniques! The human body needs to be nourished with yummy, wholesome food to function at its best, therefore this is an exciting yet immersive way to bring a child back into their body and enjoy caring for themselves. Try including the child in fun cooking exercises that get them excited to feed their bodies (and minds).

Some fun ways to mindfully practice math is to have a child count their pieces of snacks, measure ingredients for their favorite food, time the cooking process of their highly anticipated treat, and so much more!

Time to Shake It Out:

Kids feel so pent up and sometimes frustrated when they cannot exert their energy in the classroom, so physical movement may help them out! 

Aside from recess at school, take a few minutes at different times during school to allow children to move and wiggle their bodies. Encourage them to (safely) shake out their frustration, attune to their bodily sensations, and wiggle away any negative feelings. This can be used as a good transition or break between subjects, lessons, and used before or after a long lesson!

September 3, 2023

What Makes A GREAT Math Tutor?

What are the qualities & skills to look for when searching for an effective math tutor for your student?

As many of us know, every student is different when it comes to learning. It’s no secret that not every student can retain or learn math easily and enjoyably. That’s quite alright! Unfortunately, it’s still something they must encounter throughout their schooling. What’s a kid to do?

To minimize the challenges that math presents, it’s a great idea to seek a potential resource outside of the child’s traditional classroom. There are various tutors available, both in-person and virtually, able to teach math in new or different ways than conventional school teachers. Not only are they outside their typical learning environment, but it’s a much more individualized and intimate setting that will give the child the attention they need to tackle their math struggles.

What should you exactly look for in a tutor? An effective and experienced tutor will encompass a wide array of useful skills and qualities to establish a worthwhile experience for the student. 

Below are just a handful (of the ever-expanding) qualities of a GREAT math tutor.

Qualities + Skills Of A Great Math Tutor

Great, But Growing, Knowledge of Math: It’s important to give a young student a tutor that knows what they’re teaching. Having a prominent amount of mathematical knowledge is one of the most fundamental traits when looking for a good tutor. Not only should they have a foundational knowledge of the subject, but they should be open to expanding their perspective as math evolves with the times.

Humility: A humble, grounded tutor will provide an environment for your students that’s in THEIR best interest. The student is there to receive encouraging guidance on how to tackle math, not to boost the ego of the tutor. That’s why a great tutor should recognize their skills as worthwhile and useful, but utilize them for the good of others!

Ability to Individualize Strategies for ALL Students: Not every student is the same, especially when it comes to HOW they retain dense or difficult knowledge. Math, although very logical and quantitative, cannot be taught to everybody the same way. An experienced math tutor should take the time and care to assess the individual learning styles of every student they tutor to best plan their approach to teaching math at hand.

Accountability: There is a certain level of responsibility a great tutor must be able to take on. They have a wide assortment of students to educate, a schedule to maintain & update, and even families to interact with to communicate student progress. Accepting this role with an ethical and honest attitude ensures they will be able to address the unique circumstances of each tutoring relationship in a way it wholly deserves. 

Enthusiasm for Learning + Growing Math Skills: How can you expect a young child to not get excited to learn about math if the tutor can’t be? Showing up to the tutoring session with a passion will motivate the student to TRY; the contagiousness of the enthusiasm may even get them excited to learn. An excellent math tutor will attack their job with fervor to help in any way they can, and even be excited to learn more about math themselves! 

Flexibility: There will be times when a last-minute cancellation or rescheduling occurs, or maybe you’re a virtual tutor tackling technical obstacles. Regardless of the challenge, a great math tutor will maintain a flexible yet understanding mindset! The accessibility of a student will vary, so the tutor themselves should take as much responsibility as they can to do their part to ensure the students receive the resources they need. 

Professionalism: In reality, the tutor isn’t just interacting with the student! There are probably guardians, parents, even fellow educators who want to be kept in the loop on the student’s progress; that can be overwhelming! An experienced tutor knows that providing an approachable, personable, and well-composed attitude so the dynamic remains beneficial and positive! 

Patience AND Positivity: Learning is a marathon, not a sprint. Students will only learn as far as their motivation, focus, and mood can allow in various sessions. That’s why an exceptional math tutor will be patient yet challenge the student within certain boundaries. Not only that but maintaining positivity that the student will succeed in due time will rub off on them; children tend to energetically absorb what’s occurring around them. If you want the student to have a positive attitude, lead by example!

Able to TEACH, not just lecture: To fully retain or understand a mathematical concept, a student may need an in-depth explanation about a specific equation or concept. More likely than not, they won’t comprehend the math well if they’re just lectured to. It’s up to the math tutor to engage in discourse that fully encompasses the use, function, and steps of a math problem. Additionally, not many people learn effectively by just being talked to; they need various forms of education for their brain to absorb what’s being taught.

Motivation: Evidently, there will be sessions and/or weeks where the students will just not have the same determination to do the work they usually do. Despite the challenges, especially an energetic ebb and flow, a wonderful math tutor will persevere by brainstorming new yet engaging ways to teach; they will also know when to dial back on the studying to energetically match the student in the session. As long as the tutor has the drive to do the best they can to teach to the specific individual, it’ll be worthwhile.

Reliability + Preparation: Being a good math tutor doesn’t just mean showing up. It’s about being able to facilitate a productive session about the content the student needs to learn. That comes with showing up consistently, putting in your all, and most importantly coming PREPARED. A good math tutor will prepare for a session by outlining the lesson and its concepts whilst providing lots of exercises and reviews to effectively conceptualize the lesson.