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From Mathematical Anxiety to Academic Excellence

Some people regard physics as the king of sciences and mathematics as its queen. Sadly, far too many students see these “royals” as cruel and treacherous tyrants, bent upon sabotaging the academic aspirations of young adults. Parents may sympathize but they cannot always provide direct assistance because they may have forgotten many of the subject details by the time their children get to high school. Unlike riding a bicycle, mathematics is a “use it or lose it” type of skill and physics depends upon it heavily.

Mathematics and physics also have a widespread reputation for being difficult. Students will frequently do their best to avoid either one of them. The bright side of this is that when students can be guided from floundering to flourishing in these subjects the confidence boost can spread to other areas of study. To the adept, such mastery can even bring a degree of respect.

Our standard education system includes many teachers and professors who are doing their very best to help their students learn what they need to know but the system is flawed in both design and implementation. The worst of these defects may be the commodification of students. The “sage on the stage” model, with a teacher standing at the front of a large classroom, became a cost-effective way of delivering basic literacy and numeracy skills to a significant portion of western society during the industrial revolution. This paradigm has taken global civilization a long way but it does have its limitations. Optimized for mediocrity, it tends to leave some students behind while holding others back. There is little room for individuality.

At times, a more personal approach is required. This is where private tuition can make a lasting difference in a young person’s life. It’s a simple idea that can be extremely effective.

Do any of the following sound familiar?

  • Your child’s grades in math and science have been on a gradual decline in recent years and now you are suspecting that some fundamentals just did not get mastered along the way. The need to reverse the trend has become urgent because he or she is in Grade 11 or 12 now and new concepts are being presented to them at an unprecedented and unforgiving pace.
  • Your child has always done well in school but this year/semester they report that they just don’t understand what their new math or physics teacher is saying.
  • Everything was going well until the regular teacher went on leave and was replaced by a sub.
  • Your child is reluctant to ask the teacher questions, either in class or privately, because they are afraid of sounding stupid.
  • The block/section your child wanted to get into was full or had a time conflict with another course so they have to take math or physics from a teacher they have had problems with in the past.
  • Your child took math or physics in first semester last year and is taking it in second semester this year so, having gone for 12 months with no exposure to either subject, they are extremely stressed because they feel like they have forgotten everything.
  • Your child has missed, or is expected to miss, a lot of school for health reasons or extracurricular activities.
  • Your child was determined to avoid math and science but then, after learning a bit more about life, decided on a career for which proficiency in math or physics must be demonstrated so he or she now has some catching up to do.
  • Academically, your child is far beyond his or her peers and wants to learn more math or science than the school is able to deliver to someone that age.
  • You (or your child) are taking an online course and there is some help available via email, telephone, or Skype. In spite of that, you just need someone to explain things to you in real time and to spot what goes wrong when you try to solve problems on your own. Anonymous online help may work well for those subjects that are mostly about text but standard consumer technology is just too clumsy for non-trivial equations.
  • You majored in the humanities but now want to move into business or engineering.
  • You went straight into the workforce after finishing high school but, having decided to go back for more education, you are quickly realizing how much math and physics you have forgotten. You may also feel intimidated by how some of your fellow students seem to know so much more than you do.

The most obvious thing to do in any of the above scenarios is to simply get some help.

Sometimes “peer tutoring” is all it takes. Educational institutions often have a structure in place to promote the practice. I always encourage students who are strong in a subject to formally or informally help others who are struggling. Aside from the character and community building benefits of providing service to others, it also helps them learn the material at a much deeper level because it forces them to see concepts and questions from different perspectives.

More commonly though, your child’s peers may lack the technical expertise, mentorship experience, and patience required to guide a fellow student through significant conceptual difficulties. This is where professional assistance becomes advisable.

Helping students in the final years of high school and the early years of university to understand mathematics and physics is what I love to do.

Have you noticed that, until this sentence, I have not used the words test or exam? Some tutors, and especially some tutoring companies, specialize in intensive test preparation. Aside from passing along some basic advice, I do my best to avoid it. My “retro” philosophy is that the only sensible way to prepare for any “evaluation instrument” is to thoroughly understand the material.

Would you like to know more?

If, having read this far, you want to know more about me and my private tuition practice, I invite you to explore the rest of my modest website.

The Testimonials page contains a collection of what others have said about my work.

FAQ is where I say more about the work I do and provide operational details like how much I charge for my services. There I use a standard Q&A format to make specific information easier to find.

The Private Online Sessions page has a detailed explanation of my increasingly popular technique for using the internet to deliver my services as an alternative to in-person sessions.

Gallery is simply where I put my own photos that I want to share without having to send people links to the popular photo-sharing websites. Some of these have little to do with my work as a private tutor other than pertaining to conversations I have had with clients.

My Blog is probably the most interesting part of this site. It’s certainly the most popular because it gets updated the most often. I try to average at least one post per week on some current topic related to math, physics, or education. Should you fear missing any of my attempts at wit and wisdom, you can always subscribe to my RSS feed using the icon provided amid the social media buttons in the upper-right area of most pages on this site.

About Me is, as the name suggests, the most autobiographical part of this website. It does contain some of the traditional resume-type details but I have tried to emphasize the more interesting personal information.

The Contact page is a standard web form that generates an email message that gets sent to me. Although you can always try to reach me on one of my social media channels, I strongly recommend the contact form because it is more reliable and will get the promptest response from me. I look forward to hearing from you.

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