As a recent engineering graduate who has 3 years of tutoring experience, I love teaching math in particular because there are so many students who think it's not for them or that they'll never be good at it. That's just not true! In most cases, they just someone who can teach them according to their unique learning abilities. I like to incorporate as many visuals as possible and technology where applicable to increase the learning curve. Math can be a very visual study!
Undergraduate Degree: University of Maryland-Baltimore County - Bachelors, Mechanical Engineering
Graduate Degree: University of Maryland-Baltimore County - Masters, Mechanical Engineering
Outdoor sports, softball, football, hiking, and tennis.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
I would first get to know the student. What classes are they taking? What coursework are they struggling with? What are their goals? From there, I would try to identify how they learn and tutor according to their learning style. In all cases, I would encourage each student to be patient with themselves and encourage them to make mistakes and learn.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
You have to present the "big ideas" of math, and not just the details and mechanics. Math is so much more fun when it is interpreted to the student as a progression of big ideas rather than a collection of techniques. I've seen many students accept math as a challenge and become independent learners when I present it in this way.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I would encourage students to make mistakes! I tell all my students that I make mistakes every day, and that I am better for it. No one gets to a high level of achievement without making plenty of them. I would encourage the students to be patient with themselves, and have a curious mindset. Accept each lesson as a challenge.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
It depends on the student, but sometimes I will move on to review something they already know and build confidence. Then, at a later time, I will present the concepts in a new way with fresh examples. A student will get a little closer each time he or she has the opportunity to step away and then look at it from a new perspective. In all cases, I would seek to understand each student's unique learning style and abilities.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
The best strategy for me has been to first get to know the student. What coursework are they taking? What are they struggling with? How do they feel about their class? What are their goals? How do they think? What are their unique learning styles? All these questions will be answered more clearly in time, but it's good to start by getting to know each student as much as possible individually.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
You always have to bring it back to the big picture. Sometimes, when I see that we've made many tedious calculations and a student is getting overwhelmed by so many techniques and details, I bring it back to the big ideas. I incorporate technology and as many visual aids as possible to help them see the math, and not just do the math.
What is your teaching philosophy?
My philosophy is that math and engineering needs to be about the big picture. From my experience, whenever students become disinterested in their subject material, it's because they get lost in the details. I will always relate the problems that I do to real-world applications whenever possible. I will give them as many visual aids as I can to make the concept stick.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
What worked best for me in engineering school, and what has worked best for the students I tutor, is lots of examples. Lots of real-world applications. Lots of visual aids to improve memory.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Tutors need to be conscious of not challenging their students, but not overwhelming them. Sometimes, it's best to move onto another topic, and then revisit the problem from another angle. Many times this will give the student a fresh insight and they will be more likely to grasp the concepts.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
I have kept every book that I have ever used in high school and college. If I feel as though the student's materials are not sufficient, I may bring my own. I always bring a Texas Instruments calculator, and if there's ever a possibility of making a calculation simpler or a concept clearer by using it, I will teach them how. Usually, a laptop is also very helpful because it will allow me to retrieve relevant information that I can demonstrate to the student (i.e. a formula, video, graph, etc.).