# Steps to Working Out a Math Problem – or Steps to Loving Math!

Remember that you do not need to hate math!

Taking a proactive approach, you can conquer any math question.

Below are several steps to get you on the right path.

## Steps to Working Out a Math Problem

1.  What does the question ask me to do?
2. Are there any further directions for the question? (Look above, to the left, to the right)
3. Are there any practice examples that show the steps?
5. What do I already know about this math section? (Take the time to re-learn the parts you have forgotten.  For example, if you need to divide fractions for part of the question, and you have forgotten how to do this, go back and re-teach yourself.)
6. Try different methods to solve the problem – don’t be afraid to turn the problem around and look at it from different angles.
7. Break the problem down into separate units. (I.e., What do I need to do first – second – etc.?)
8. If you are using a calculator, record the steps as you go.  (It is very frustrating to start back at step 1 when something goes wrong with step 5!)
9. Check to see if your answer “makes sense.” (Is the number reasonable or is it too large or too small?  Does your answer meet the requirements of the problem?)

In step 8, I mentioned a calculator, and using one is fine (if you are permitted to), but try to keep doing a few questions long-hand as well.  It uses the brain differently for basic skills.  You will gain a much stronger understanding of “how” the math works.  Of course there are complex calculations for which the calculator is required.

Always “think” about the math.  Often people see math as strictly numbers and forget that those symbols and operations have a purpose in real life!

You might simply need a total for a grocery list.

You might need to calculate whether or not you can afford a new car or how long it will take to pay off the mortgage under various scenarios.

Of course, if you are an engineer or architect – or want to be – there are all kinds of mathematical calculations that will determine outcomes for your next bridge or building.

Math is used in so many careers and so many “real-life” situations that it should not be seen as mere numbers.

Do not fear math any more.  Jump in, follow the steps above, and keep at it.

I know you can master the skills you need.

As always, if you need help, I am available.

## Website: www.tutoringcentral.com

This week’s video:  Steps to Loving Math!

# Make the Most of Your Homework Time & Reduce the Pain.

I get a lot of questions from my in-person students and on Quora about how to make the most of homework time and how to reduce the pain!

Some students are interested in getting better grades and are willing to do almost anything to get them.

Others are interested in reducing the pain and want something easy to make that happen.

These two goals are not as disparate as they might seem at first glance.

If you use good study skills and develop habits that will serve you well, then the pain is mitigated and the learning can truly begin.

Sometimes, students are not happy with my answers because there is no magic.  In other words, there is  not a secret “trick” that you can do that will suddenly make homework as fun as pony rides (assuming you have no morbid fear of ponies) and that will insert you with the intelligence quotient of an Einstein.

No.

The tips are basic.  Most of them have been known for thousands of years!  What!  Even when the Internet didn’t exist – or smart phones – or apps – or herbs and vitamins to boost the brain?  YES!

Simple is often still the best route.  Some of the additional benefits of technology can help (or hurt) and maybe (big maybe) some vitamins and herbs can boost your brain – but you still need the foundation.

The tips are basic.

They work!

BE QUIET!

Sorry, I got carried away there.  But really, find a quiet location, if possible.  It is much easier to focus when distractions are reduced.  Turn off the T.V. – no smartphone (no dumb phone either) – no music* – no internet chat – no Sloppy Joes over your textbook / keyboard –  etc. Focus on one task.

##### * Music can be used to block out other annoying sounds, but is should be at a level that does not interfere with your focus – preferably without lyrics so that you don’t start singing along!

Read.  Read, and read, and read ….  I cannot stress enough how important it is to read as much as you can, and re-read for more comprehension.  You never capture everything on the first read of a substantial text.  You need to look over it several times. Read supplemental material as well.  Go beyond the minimum!

Write.  Write out notes.  Draw diagrams, create charts, pictures, graphs – anything that will help you remember.  Write on flashcards – especially useful for terms & definitions, but they can be used for all kinds of study.  Write a journal. Really?  Yes, writing down your thoughts can help you review your day and your network of knowledge.  so keep on writing, preferably handwriting.  Writing or printing by hand engages different parts of your brain.  People – and yes even young people – retain more information when they have physically written out notes compared to typing them.

Study.  I don’t mean look over your notes once, or three times, or one-hundred times.  I mean study.  Close the book, look away from the screen, stop listening to the lecture recording, and ask yourself if you can answer questions without looking or listening.  If you don’t know the answers without reading them in front of you, then you don’t know the material!  Self-testing (or you can use a buddy) is one of the best methods (not to mention the most overlooked and underused method) to prepare yourself.  Don’t cheat yourself by thinking that you know something without ever testing this hypothesis.

Be kind to yourself.  Reward yourself when you have done a good job.  Recognize the value of working hard but also the value in working smart.  Make sure you get a good night’s sleep.  Catnaps are good, too, if they are brief.  (Catnaps might be a misnomer.  Don’t sleep like your cat for sixteen hours a day!)  Make sure you eat healthy meals – small and numerous is best to keep your body (brain is included) performing at a steady rate.  Don’t let yourself off the hook!  Wait – I thought you said to be kind to yourself?  Yes, sometimes kindness = toughness.  You need to be honest with yourself – no cheating – no lapsing on scheduled homework time – no excuses.  The reward you get later is the kindness component.

### Making the most of homework time:

If you are focused and using solid study strategies during your homework time, you will retain far more information; gain more knowledge; and do better on quizzes, tests, and exams.  You will be working smart which is at least as important as working hard.

### Reducing the pain:

If you are focused and using solid study strategies during your homework time, you will begin to find the material is learned faster and better.  You might even be studying for less time and getting more out of it – reducing the “pain.”   You know the value of your efforts, so the pain factor starts to become less noticeable even during the sessions.

These are very broad strokes on how to make the most of homework time AND reduce the pain.

Try these discount coupons for a more involved look.

Study Skills – Become an A+ Student

Test & Exam Strategies

Of course, for a more personal touch – check out the website, and contact me.  I can set up personalized programs that will help you, or your child, reach your goals.

Website: www.tutoringcentral.com

E-mail:  tutoringcentral@inbox.com

# You Be the Teacher – You Be the Student!

## You Be the Teacher – You Be the Student!

Yes.

You can be both a teacher and a learner at any age, and you can do so at the same time.

What do I mean by this?

When you are trying to learn something, put yourself into the teacher’s role.  Pretend that you are teaching yourself.  Alternatively, you can pretend that you are teaching an imaginary classmate.  (Suggestion – pick someone you like!)

This method is not only good for retaining information, but it will also help you learn how to explain concepts, plots for stories, themes, terms, etc.  When the test or exam, or even a pop quiz, arrives, you will have already had practice explaining in your own words – and you will remember!

Teaching others – even imaginary others – is a great gift to you.

Have you ever taught a child, parent, sibling, or friend how to ride a bike, play a board game or video game, read, dance, play a sport and so on.

I bet you have.

Remember that teaching (or learning) is not all about academic subjects.  In fact, you have many learning experiences long before you ever get to school.  Parents, grandparents, siblings, and other family members are your first “teachers.”  They help to get you sitting up, to turn babbling into single words, to stand, and to walk.  Many of the things you learned before you went to school were also learned – at least in part – with you being your own teacher.  Practice, practice, correction, practice, practice, tweaking a bit, practice, practice – mastery!  (Of course, the practice, corrections, and tweaking usually go on much longer.) There is a lot of trial and error learning going on right from the very beginning of your life.

You have probably taught yourself many things since then, particularly anything that you are very interested in doing.

The fact that you might not be completely enthralled with learning algebra, or history, or science, does not negate the fact that you can be your own teacher during practice sessions. Giving yourself permission to take over both roles will enhance the learning experience, make it much more interesting, help you remember, and may even make you a little more understanding and empathetic toward the classroom teacher who is trying to help you gain the knowledge.

So, give it a try during your next homework session.  Be the one to answer the questions as always, but try being the one who asks the questions as well.  Practice being the one who encourages you to learn, who directs you to the right pages, who points out the important bits, even the one who is stern when you go astray.

Wow!

I know you will be increasing your learning by a substantial amount!

If you need more encouragement or direction, I am always willing to help.

Website:  www.tutoringcentral.com

Or – if you want to get started right away:  Sign up here!

This weeks Video: You Be the Teacher – You Be the Student

# Become an Excellent Listener and Get Positive Results!

Become an Excellent Listener and Get Positive Results!

## Pardon, what did you say?

Listening is not simply hearing.

I am sure that you have experienced many times when you “heard” something, but you did not pay attention to it and have no idea what the person said to you.

Of course, we can’t pay close attention to everything we hear each day, or we would go crazy.  We need to sort the important from the unimportant.  We need to “weed out” those bits of information that aren’t going to help us.

When you are studying, however, you can learn certain tactics to help you get into the zone so that you don’t miss the bits you really need.

You can train yourself to be a better listener.

## Be Attentive

Sit up straight and look alive!  Don’t just “look” alive, but be alive.  Sometimes it takes a little effort to engage yourself in a particular topic or to listen to a speaker that does not automatically entertain, but you can train yourself to do better.

I know in today’s world that everyone wants splashes of colour, musical backgrounds, dancing ponies, and so on in order to learn; however, not only are these not necessary – they are often more distractions to learning than helpful additions.

Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit, especially with the dancing ponies, but you get my point. Not every teacher, not every class, not every book, has to “force” you by being entertaining ad nauseam to get you to learn.  The learning is actually your job!

Oh my God!  He said it.  I have to DO something!

Yes.

Learning is up to you.

Not entirely, of course; but you are the main component.  So, here comes another horribly shocking fact.  If you don’t want to learn, you won’t.  If you find a subject boring, then that is your fault.  You need to do something about it.

Go into every class and every course with the attitude that you are going to get the most out of it.

You are going to be alive!

## Make Eye Contact

If you are listening to a teacher, or even a student’s presentation, always try to make eye contact.  Your eyes are like a window, but they also reflect in some sense.  You probably have experienced this yourself sometimes.  You are talking to someone, and he or she keeps looking away or staring into space.  When this happens, you get the distinct feeling that they are not particularly interested in what you are saying.

What happens then?

Well, you abbreviate what you are saying, or you simply stop.  The speaker does not have any motivation or encouragement to keep going if the “listener” is not listening.

Social cues are very important.  If you are not attending to the teacher, he or she will know!  Trust me.  It doesn’t matter how large the class is either.  You might think you are “lost in the crowd,” but you are not.

Not only is it a courtesy to make eye contact and engage with the speaker, but you will learn a lot more.

Once the teacher knows you are not prepared to listen, your grade begins to fall.  The teacher might not even be conscious of this effect, but it will happen.

Not only that; but, if the classroom is filled with many non-attentive students, the teacher will not be encouraged to give as much as she or he would in front of a more positive group of actual listeners

It’s human nature!  We all need a little support to reach our best performance.

(Note:  Don’t stare, of course – but make frequent eye contact.)

## Be Open

While you listen (and make eye contact), think of possible questions rather than interrupting with your opinions (at first). You want to give the speaker – whether that is a teacher, professor, other student, etc. – a chance to present all of his or her ideas and explanations before making too many judgements.  Of course, you are always going to be thinking about what you agree with and what you don’t, and these thoughts can formulate your questions. But you want to remain open to new ideas, contradictory thoughts, opinions that you might automatically disregard under other circumstances but that could change depending on this presentation or argument.

## Sit Near the Front

You will want to be able to hear the teacher / presenter.

You will have fewer heads bobbing in front of you and being distracting.  (Or entirely blocking the view.)

The instructor will notice (note above) that you have come to learn.

It will be easier to make eye contact and focus on the lecture rather than other students, movements, windows, etc.

Remember, you want to be in control.

## Listen for Verbal Cues and Watch for Non-Verbal Cues

There are lots of possible verbal and non-verbal cues, but here are a few.

Repetition – If a teacher is repeating a point several times, it is likely because he or she sees this as important.  In other words, worth noting.

Slowing down – speaking very carefully.  (Don’t forget this.)

Speaking more loudly. (I’m driving this point home to you.)

Literal verbal cues such as saying, “Here is the clincher!” or “This piece is important.”

Listen for the words in the following list:

Most importantly, therefore, to summarize, as a result, on the contrary, first of all, for these reasons.

All of these (and more) are key words or phrases that should make you perk up your ears!

If your teacher is writing on the board, listen (and take notes).

If your teacher is deliberately making eye contact with several students as she or he is making a point, this is probably important.  Make sure you “zero-in” on what is being said.

If your teacher is gesturing dramatically (my grade 9 math teacher used to smash the chalk on the board whenever something very important was being delivered) – concentrate on what he or she is saying because these actions usually indicate important material.

There are always exceptions to the rule.  A teacher might become suddenly passionate about something completely unrelated to your algebra or essay writing assignment; however, if you are paying attention to these verbal and non-verbal cues, then you can sort the salient data from the chaff as you hone in on what is being said.

## Avoid Classmates Who Like to Distract

It will be very difficult for you to follow all the advice given above if the classmates that are near you keep fidgeting, whispering, passing notes, texting, showing you their latest YouTube video finds or funny Facebook pictures, etc.

Get away from them during class.

Enjoy their antics, their great personalities, their humour, and their judgments and comments for the lunch hour or after school.  They could be the best friends ever outside of academics, but you need to take control when the learning is about to happen.

Remember that you have the power to take control of your learning.  Using these tips will help you become an excellent listener and get positive results.

I would love to be your coach.

Website: www.tutoringcentral.com

For more tips, check out this week’s video.

Listening Well

# Exam Time

## Tips for Doing Well on Exams

Test yourself before the examination.

You should practise the information you have been learning. You may work in a group, but make sure the group isn’t just a social gathering in which very little “study” is accomplished.
By self-testing you will be able to monitor how well you have mastered the material. It is much better to find out what you don’t know before the exam. You will have time to brush up on weak areas or information you have forgotten.

Find out as much as you can about the exam.

• What kind of exam will it be: multiple choice, true/false, short answer, essay?
• What material will be on the exam?
• What is the relative importance of different topics on the exam?
• What is the time limit for the exam?
• If the teacher doesn’t automatically give you this information, ask him/her. Usually teachers are receptive to students who want to know how to prepare.

Try to predict what might be stressed on the exam.
If the teacher has stressed certain areas in class, these are probably going to be on the exam and likely to count for more marks.

Learn the teacher’s testing habits.
Looking back at a teacher’s previous tests and exams will give you an idea of his/her general format and the kinds of questions he/she usually asks.
Some teachers tend to look for details while others look for the “big picture” or general themes and ideas – knowing what a teacher is looking for can reduce the amount of preparation time, but – even better – can increase the accuracy of your preparation.

During review, ask yourself questions you think might be on the test.
If you have used SQ3R and solid note-taking tips, you will know the key points and major ideas of the course. With some practice, you will be able to predict many of the questions that will actually be on the test. Preparing to answer these questions beforehand will put you miles ahead – answering the same or similar questions on the exam will be easy!!

Prepare for the type of test questions you expect.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle before the test.
• get a good night’s sleep
• eat breakfast (if the exam is in the afternoon – eat lunch)
Your mind will work better if you take care of your body.  They are not exclusively separate entities.

If you really must cram for the exam, do it intelligently.
Pick out the most important parts of your notes or text for study.
Scan and survey for general information.
Note: Try to break yourself of this habit of procrastination and cramming for next time – use the tools you have at your disposal now to schedule and follow through with a PLAN to reach goals.

Be anti-social right before an exam.
Do not discuss the exam with other nervous students just before the exam.  This will make you second-guess yourself and increase anxiety.

Becoming “Test-Wise”

Making it or breaking it in the first five minutes.
• Read and understand the general directions.
• Don’t skip over the directions – listen to instructor’s additional directions (if any) – underline any key words in the directions.

Do you need to answer all of the questions or is there a choice?
How are you supposed to record my answers? – pencil, pen, on the test sheet / separate sheet or booklet – special pencil for computer scoring?

Survey the entire test.
• How many questions are there?
• How many pages, and are they all there?
• Are their different weights given to different sections or questions? (Knowing this will help you divide your time appropriately –giving more time to the heavily weighted sections.)

Jot down initial thoughts.
As you survey, you may want to jot down key terms or ideas that pop into your mind. You will be able to use them in your more thorough answer later.

Plan how you will spend your time during the exam.
Portion out your time according to the worth of different exam sections.

REMEMBER: Always leave a few minutes at the end to review your work and ensure you haven’t made any silly mistakes – especially important for essay type answers.  You might be surprised at what you find!

If you need further information on any of the topics here or more study tips, please contact me.

Come join me for some personal tutoring, online lessons, more study tips, or sign on to the mailing list at:

L.T.L. Tutoring Central

Let’s Keep Learning!

YouTube: Tutoring Central (click on videos to see everything)

# Studying for an Exam

Tips for Doing Well on Exams

Test yourself before the examination.

You should practise the information you have been learning. You may work in a group, but make sure the group isn’t just a social gathering in which very little “study” is accomplished.
By self-testing you will be able to monitor how well you have mastered the material. It is much better to find out what you don’t know before the exam. You will have time to brush up on weak areas or information you have forgotten.

Find out as much as you can about the exam.

• What kind of exam will it be: multiple choice, true/false, short answer, essay?
• What material will be on the exam?
• What is the relative importance of different topics on the exam?
• What is the time limit for the exam?
• If the teacher doesn’t automatically give you this information, ask him/her. Usually teachers are receptive to students who want to know how to prepare.

Try to predict what might be stressed on the exam.
If the teacher has stressed certain areas in class, these are probably going to be on the exam and likely to count for more marks.

Learn the teacher’s testing habits.
Looking back at a teacher’s previous tests and exams will give you an idea of his/her general format and the kinds of questions he/she usually asks.
Some teachers tend to look for details while others look for the “big picture” or general themes and ideas – knowing what a teacher is looking for can reduce the amount of preparation time, but – even better – can increase the accuracy of your preparation.

During review, ask yourself questions you think might be on the test.
If you have used SQ3R and solid note-taking tips, you will know the key points and major ideas of the course. With some practice, you will be able to predict many of the questions that will actually be on the test. Preparing to answer these questions beforehand will put you miles ahead – answering the same or similar questions on the exam will be easy!!

Prepare for the type of test questions you expect.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle before the test.
• get a good night’s sleep
• eat breakfast (if the exam is in the afternoon – eat lunch)
Your mind will work better if you take care of your body.  They are not exclusively separate entities.

If you really must cram for the exam, do it intelligently.
Pick out the most important parts of your notes or text for study.
Scan and survey for general information.
Note: Try to break yourself of this habit of procrastination and cramming for next time – use the tools you have at your disposal now to schedule and follow through with a PLAN to reach goals.

Be anti-social right before an exam.
Do not discuss the exam with other nervous students just before the exam.  This will make you second-guess yourself and increase anxiety.

Becoming “Test-Wise”

Making it or breaking it in the first five minutes.
• Read and understand the general directions.
• Don’t skip over the directions – listen to instructor’s additional directions (if any) – underline any key words in the directions.

Do you need to answer all of the questions or is there a choice?
How are you supposed to record my answers? – pencil, pen, on the test sheet / separate sheet or booklet – special pencil for computer scoring?

Survey the entire test.
• How many questions are there?
• How many pages, and are they all there?
• Are their different weights given to different sections or questions? (Knowing this will help you divide your time appropriately –giving more time to the heavily weighted sections.)
Jot down initial thoughts.
As you survey, you may want to jot down key terms or ideas that pop into your mind. You will be able to use them in your more thorough answer later.

Plan how you will spend your time during the exam.
Portion out your time according to the worth of different exam sections.

REMEMBER: Always leave a few minutes at the end to review your work and ensure you haven’t made any silly mistakes – especially important for essay type answers.  You might be surprised at what you find!

If you need further information on any of the topics here or more study tips, please contact me.

Come join me for some personal tutoring, online lessons, more study tips, or sign on to the mailing list at:

L.T.L. Tutoring Central

Let’s Keep Learning!

Email:  tutoringcentral@hotmail.com

Skype:  tutoringcentral

# Studying for an Exam

It’s that time again!