It matters: Help your kids plan challenging courses next semester

Parents know when Spring time is coming. The days get longer, the allergies flare up, and students start stressing out over registering for next year’s classes.

The stress may come from a number of factors: Will my friends and I get the same teacher? How many advanced classes, if any, should I sign up for? Is this schedule too challenging or too easy?

Since 2006, the number of students taking Advanced Placement classes has nearly doubled to over a million. With universities steadily becoming more competitive by the year, students must be aware of  what a course load tells college admissions reviewers. Hopefully his/her guidance counselors have emphasized this already. But just in case, here’s how to have the conversation at dinner.

Don’t make assumptions/accusations about free time

A student’s course load, over time, tells a story. Ideally, the student will choose classes that progressively become more challenging — showing that they are open to growth. However, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. Students may opt for less strenuous classes if they feel their GPA would suffer otherwise, or they’re taking on more extracurricular activities, or even a part-time job.

While we of course want our students to push the boundaries of knowledge and growth, we must be careful to not shut down communication by attacking their lifestyles. If a student wants to take it easy on certain courses next semester, try not to reply with something cutting like,

Maybe if you played less video games, you’d have time to study for Calculus.

Instead, think of ways (s)he can make more time to study for a more difficult (and rewarding!) course. It’s an opportunity to discuss restructuring their time management, and how you can help them succeed in with more challenging classes.

Speaking of stress…

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These are tough decisions.

Figure out which courses specifically add to their stress

Students who have had poor experiences with a class tend to develop long-term aversions toward the subject in general. It’s no wonder why a student who struggled with Geometry might decide their brains can’t process math well, and coast by on the lowest-level math courses the rest of high school.

Pinpoint what subjects bring up the mental barriers first. Address them, and then weigh the cost-benefit analysis of whether the student can surpass the challenge. There are plenty of digital resources to provide online tutoring whenever they need it.

Establish positive expectations

Remember that students can be their own harshest critics. It’s up to us to let them know they have support and confidence behind them.

However, it’s equally important that students know that they have complete control over their future. Encourage them to ask themselves questions about what they want. Perhaps the most important question when deciding courses is not just, what do you want to show college admissions?

In fact, the more important question is, how would YOU judge yourself looking at this course load? In the end, students need to step back and look objectively at how their classes look on paper. Does it show that they pursued their interest? If it shows they took a less rigorous schedule, can they show that they made it up elsewhere?

 

If it looks like they took the foot off the pedal, let them know that college admissions won’t be able to see their greatness unless they let it show on paper.

Good luck navigating the testy waters of class registration — it’s just one leg of the journey towards graduation and beyond!

Math and football: Make the Super Bowl fun for squares and athletes

Super Bowl parties have a way of bringing a diverse range of people under one roof.

This weekend, you can walk into any household in America and find the following: Patriots fans and Falcons fans (obviously), Northerners and Southerners, crying and laughing. There’s the friend who doesn’t care about football enough to know what a touchback is, and the friend who eats all the chips before halftime.

But no matter the rivalries and differences, all students enjoying the game on Sunday night have the same dreadful reality the following day: math homework.

Alas, football is a numbers game. To make things interesting, we can add an entertaining side game of graphs and guessing to the mix. Even those who are only here for the commercials and halftime show will enjoy keeping score in this math-friendly game.

How to create and play Super Bowl Squares

The game works by randomly assorting digits 0-9  across the X- and Y- axes; either axis represents a team. The scores at the end of each quarter correspond with one of the random squares, so whomever player “owns” a random square at the end of the quarter is eligible to win regardless of how their rooting team is playing.

super-bowl-51-boxes-graphic

 

First, assign the inside squares.

Each participant pays to put their name on any random empty square in the lighter shade. $1 per square is a good starting point (if you are putting money on the line). Everyone signs their squares, not knowing yet what numbers they’ll get. Take turns choosing until all squares are filled.

Second, fill in the X- and Y- axis.

Now that the lighter squares have names, draw numbers 0-9 from a hat and fill them in the X-axis (Patriots in this case). Draw again and do the same for the Falcons on the Y-axis.

Finally, sit back and watch.

At the end of each quarter, check the last digit of each team’s points and find their intersection on your board. For example:

1st Quarter: New England 13, Atlanta 7

Now find (3, 7) on your graph and – ah! Bob took that coordinate earlier! He wins ____ (whatever you decided was the payout / prize for the first quarter).

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2nd Quarter: New England 16, Atlanta 14

Going into halftime now. Find (6, 4) and the lucky winner gets the second payout.

Feel free to get creative with the rewards for each category to make it interesting: for example, the total winnings could be spread evenly across all four quarters, or perhaps the winners at the end of the second and fourth quarters just happen to get a larger reward than the winners of the first and third. All up to you.

Now, enjoy your company and American sports while you have the time; for tomorrow, your real math homework is due.

Mom joins her daughter’s college math class, discovers the tool to success

Parents often share their kids’ math anxiety. Even if students have the same calculus we learned back in the day, it’s still stressful if we can’t offer much help when they struggle with homework.

But one mom defied mental (and physical) odds when she joined her daughter in a basic math class at Fullerton College in Orange County, California.

She hadn’t sat in a classroom in twenty years.

An article in the OC Register features Marie Anderson, a woman in her 40’s who tested out of high school to join the workforce before becoming a mother of two. She climbed the corporate ladder before she was diagnosed with an incurable autoimmune disease that took her job and home.

Still, she eventually gained her strength back, and had a new desire to join her daughter in summer classes. Math was still tough:

Daughter often tutored mother outside of class, explaining equations, rules and concepts. Anderson returned the favor when she could, with things such as fractions and word problems. The two regularly sat at the kitchen table and quizzed each other on terms written on flash cards.

Study buddies, Pimental called them.

The semester “bonded us,” she added. “I felt much closer to her knowing she was going to be there to support me.”

Ok, we know most parents don’t have the time to enroll in math class with our students. But there’s still a valuable lesson in communicating about homework:

Be as invested in their studies as you’d like them to be.

Be curious; have your son or daughter explain concepts to you. Studies show that students learn more deeply about a subject if they can teach it to someone else. Have your student play the role of tutor, and you may both learn something (and it may not just be about math!)

However, even with open modes of communication, math was still challenging for Anderson. The academic stress triggered her illness, so she would make herself “sick being stressed out about school.”

Thankfully, she found a resource that saved her: an internet-based program through the college that provides tutors and online resources to improve math skills.

“Part of what we do is meet with students one-on-one to help them see that they come to college with a wealth of knowledge and experience,” said Michelle Garcia, SDSI manager. “We want them to learn how to apply that knowledge they’ve gained to college, to give themselves the opportunity to experience new ways of learning.”

Twice a week for two summer months, Anderson in 2015 worked with tutors who implored her to attack her weaknesses.

Anderson trusted the process and eventually aced her Math 129 class – which gears students for business calculus. She hopes to continue her studies onto UC Berkeley and start her own part-time business.

Props to you, Mama Anderson!

With the proven style of one-to-one tutoring, she was able to overcome the stress barriers of her math coursework. The fact is, individualized teaching can fill gaps that even family can’t replace.

Not all online tutoring services are made the same, however. For example, Yup really focuses on learning, as tutors don’t give students quick answers. We train our tutors on our pedagogy codeveloped with Stanford professors and every session focuses on 3 core dimensions.

The first dimension is student engagement.

We want to build off existing knowledge. Our sessions start by saying something like,

Hey ___ , welcome to Yup. Let’s work on your problem together. What have you done so far?

The second dimension is building confidence and creating growth mindsets.

Our tutors are trained to use language that encourages students and helps build confidence in their own abilities. We say things like, “Almost there! :)” or “Nice try!” rather than, “no thats wrong,” when a student makes a mistake. This gets session to go from 10 minutes on average to 30 minutes on average.

The last dimension is checking for conceptual understanding.

When the student and tutor finish the problem, the tutor will say something like,

Hey, great job on that one. But let’s try another problem. Instead of 4x +7, what if the problem was 9x + 3? Can you try solving that?

This lets us ensure students have mastered the concept. We evaluate every session to measure learning and hold tutors accountable to student outcomes.

Check out the app here.

Math anxiety is real – but scientifically manageable. Here’s how:

Parents often hear the same dinner table response to the question, “how was school?”

“Fine.”

Fine can mean uneventful, but for students experiencing math-induced anxiety, fine can mean many things: sweating and squirming as the teacher hands out a test; feeling like the world is coming down as she returns the graded test back. There are untold stories of breakdowns, hours of unnecessary stressing over homework, and even hiding low scores.

The worst part about anxiety in students is their difficulty in explaining it to others – even family and teachers.

But how can parents help?

Let’s first look at what students are battling with. As online math tutors, many students approach us with two common problems:

  1. I study hard during the week but on the day of the test, I freeze up on the questions.

  2. I put in the hard work studying, but my scores always fall short.

Both of these problems can get in your head and become toxic once test day arrives. But recently, scientists have shown that it’s often the student’s mindset – not necessarily the work ethic – that gets in the way:

Understanding the issue can be a kind of chicken-and-egg problem, however. Does math anxiety cause low performance, or do skill problems trigger the stress? The two probably feed on each other, Vukovic says. Indeed, she argues, if low math knowledge were the only issue, building up those skills should erase the problem. Instead, research shows, simply dealing with the anxiety can improve math performance. That suggests that anxiety alone can sabotage math performance, regardless of someone’s skills.

Various researchers found that when you pair math with anxiety, you not only experience memory loss but PHYSICAL PAIN as well. Students already have to endure Physical Education; let’s not add more pain to the syllabus.

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Math can hurt.

Behavioral researchers in one article found positive results when students participated in expressive writing (jotting down their emotions about a test for seven minutes) versus just stewing in silence over their anxiety. The same article suggested that students and their families destress by using an app that incorporates math with their bedtime stories.

So the results seem clear. Two of the best ways of working through math anxiety are:

1) Self-expression

2) Making math feel like a familiar part of your daily life

That’s where online tutoring apps come in. While homework is an inevitable daily staple of student life, it becomes a large contributor to math anxiety. If you had a resource on hand that could connect you with a 1-to-1 tutor whenever you need one, then you’ve taken care of both issues: a user-friendly interface with open communication.

Download the Yup app here.

Will Artificial Intelligence replace tutors in the future?

In case you haven’t noticed the trend in movies and series (see: Ex Machina and Black Mirror), the message is clear: Artificial Intelligence will soon become an inevitable part of daily life – whether we like it or not.

As part of this trend, EdTech writer Neil Jarrett recently suggested the ways AI will revolutionize the classroom as we know it. One big way is the shift in how students could use chatbots to understand school material:

Ai driven chatbots are the marketing tool of now, letting brands interact intelligently with consumers through their website or Facebook Messenger. While these bots are designed to produce a specific conversion (inbound traffic to that brand’s website, ordering a product, etc), this same technology can be used for education.

A chatbot within an edtech platform, powered by robust machine learning algorithms, could be able to give students direction and tips on specific types of problems, or connect them with the exact educational resource they need in seconds. This definitely explains why Bill Gates is pouring a fair bit of his fortune into developing education chatbots (3).

As always, Bill’s on to something here. Most of this generation has received academic instruction from a computer, and has used an electronic database for research. But what about when software can provide human-like responses and mimic teacher-student interactions?

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For example, if you run into a difficult math problem on your homework, chatbots can theoretically be a game changer. But there are many factors to consider:

Can chatbots build a rapport with students?

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AI has discrete learning capabilities, but how well can it tap into what a student already knows about their specific problem? Building trust is hard enough to do with human tutors; it’s also a key indicator as to why a student is seeking help: without a level of human interaction, what keeps a student feeling accountable to the integrity of their work?

Can chatbots give students confidence?

It may sound corny, but it’s proven that students perform better when they receive positive reinforcement during individualized tutoring sessions. It’s simple to program phrases like, “keep going, you’re almost there!” into a chatbot’s algorithm. However, AI’s conversational patterns have a ways to go before it can recognize a student’s learning process by the way he/she approaches a problem.

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Can chatbots provide mastery of learning?

How will the AI know when it’s leading you to the answer too quickly without explaining the steps to get there? How can it confirm that the student truly grasps the underlying concepts – so that he/she can apply them to similar problems in a quiz?

These questions are what we already ask of our human private tutors who operate online. As Bill Gates stated in a recent interview,

…There are online services where human tutors walk kids through their math lessons. But by using chatbots, a major area of investment for companies like Facebook and Microsoft, these robo-tutors have the potential to be free — while simultaneously reaching millions of kids.

Until chatbots start eliminating the need for human private instructors, human-operated services like Yup will use the most optimal way of one-to-one learning: world-class human tutors leveraging technology to engage as many students as possible. What a time to be alive!

 

4 Ways Artificial Intelligence Will Revolutionize the Classroom. — EDTECH 4 BEGINNERS

It’s hard to see anything other than artificial intelligence being the next frontier of the edtech front. More specifically, machine learning has quickly gained the potential to overhaul what educators can accomplish with technology due to how rapidly the field has advanced within the last two years. Using machine learning, truly “smart” education solutions that […]

via 4 Ways Artificial Intelligence Will Revolutionize the Classroom. — EDTECH 4 BEGINNERS

The holiday gift list for students who hate math, by math tutors.

If you’re a last minute gift-giver like I am, the best-case scenario you can hope for is to find a present that looks like you put just the right amount of thought into it.

There’s no better way to create that effect than by giving a gift that provokes thought and stretches the mind.

When exchanging gifts over the holidays, many students are just happy to get a break away from finals. However, too much time away from the books means they might be getting a little soft around the mental edges. As online math tutors, we’ve come up with the best brain-efficient holiday gift list for students.

Warning: if the student gift recipient is a math-hater, you may get some backlash (or at least an eye-roll and reluctant, “thaaaaanks.”). Do not be discouraged. As a third grader I received a Rubik’s cube for Christmas and threw it in the corner. I picked it up a year later and began to master it. I am now an adult and can solve one blindfolded. The lesson here: these math gifts will one day make you the smartest, coolest person at the company holiday party. 

Arduino Starter Kit

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Arduino is a computer hardware/software company that makes DIY kits that allow for endless possibilities and afternoons of STEM-y goodness. This gift is perfect for bringing out the engineer from within a student by familiarizing them with processes and automation.

Arduino boards are able to read inputs – light on a sensor, a finger on a button, or a Twitter message – and turn it into an output – activating a motor, turning on an LED, publishing something online.”

math-cheat-sheet-wall-clocksMath Wall Clock

Students spend most of the class period staring at the clock anyway. While they’re at home, they might as well be internalizing math concepts.

Of course, there’s no high-level computations happening here. But associating the Pythagorean theorem every time noon comes around is a great sign to grab some lunch.

Plus, it looks cool?

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Go Board Game Set

You could buy a chess set, but that would make you lame and un-original. If you want a game that will actually make itself out of the original packaging, then the Chinese Go may be your best bet.

The rules are simple enough for a 12-year-old to pick up, yet the level of mathematical complexity ranges widely. The game teaches abstract math concepts and strategy. It is perfect when the Wifi is slow.

615nEpgVInL.jpgThe Math Myth: And Other STEM Delusions

By Andrew Hacker

A great gift for the cultured artist in the family who swears he/she doesn’t have a “math brain”. You can’t go wrong if that’s the case: they get to read a bestselling novel while gaining an understanding about the importance of quantitative subjects.

From the Amazon summary:

Andrew Hacker’s 2012 New York Times op-ed questioning the requirement of advanced mathematics in our schools instantly became one of the paper’s most widely circulated articles. Why, he wondered, do we inflict a full menu of mathematics—algebra, geometry, trigonometry, even calculus—on all young Americans, regardless of their interests or aptitudes?

The Math Myth expands Hacker’s scrutiny of many widely held assumptions, like the notions that mathematics broadens our minds, that mastery of azimuths and asymptotes will be needed for most jobs, that the entire Common Core syllabus should be required of every student. He worries that a frenzied emphasis on STEM is diverting attention from other pursuits and subverting the spirit of the country.

Disclaimer: This book is sure to spark heated dinner table arguments about the usefulness of institutionalized math classes

Partridges and pear trees: The math behind the 12 Days of Christmas!

This is not a drill: Holiday season is finally upon us. December is a hectic month for everyone: moms, dads, Santas and students.

While using online gift shopping and Christmas music as distractions from math homework, the obvious question (other than solving for X) becomes:

How much would it cost to actually purchase everything in the 12 Days of Christmas ?

Before we can appreciate the total price (hint: it’s not cheap), we have to understand the broad math concepts behind the market that sets the price.

At Yup, our tutors provide help with your math homework, but we also believe that you should be able to draw real-life applications from math as well. The same goes for physics and chemistry: we teach you how to solve the problems, not just give the answer.

Here’s a little crash course in economics. We break it down to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas”, so you can show off your math chops the next time you have to sit through the overly repetitive “six geese a-laying”.

According to PNC’s Christmas Price Index,  the total for this season’s gifts, including 11 pipers piping, is $34,363.49.

So how do the numbers break down?

According to PNC’s yearly index, here are the individual costs for 2016:

A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE

$209.99

(-2.3%)

This gift’s price decline from last year is fully due to the Partridge which fell 20% from $25 to $20, due to oversupply of game birds. The Pear Tree will set you back $189.99 – the same as last year.

TWO TURTLE DOVES

$375.00

(+29.3%)

Supply couldn’t seem to keep up with the demand this year for these popular lovebirds! This gift experienced the biggest spike in price from last year, compared to the rest of the gifts.

THREE FRENCH HENS

$181.50

It’s been a quiet year for the French Hens. There was no change in their price, due to steady supply and demand in the past year.

… and so on and so forth. Head over to the article to see the rest of the gifts (including the most expensive item by far).

But you may be asking,

What – or who – sets these prices?

There are many factors that explain why the cost of a partridge went down from $25 in 2015 to $20 in 2016 (even though the overall cost rose about $232).  Here are some economic terms to know:

  • Deflation: Refers to a widespread decline in prices that also has the potential to undermine the economy by stifling production and increasing unemployment.
  • HyperInflation: Occurs when prices rise by 100% or more annually. It can destroy economic stability and even political stability by driving the price of necessities higher than people can afford.
  • Index: Is a statistical measure of the changes in a portfolio of stocks representing a portion of the overall market. It is a sample meant to represent the performance of the whole.
  • Inflation: A persistent increase in prices, often triggered when demand for goods is greater than the available supply or when unemployment is low and workers can command higher salaries. The US Federal Reserve Bank and central banks in other nations try to keep inflation in check by decreasing the money supply, making it more difficult to borrow and thus slowing expansion.

We still haven’t mentioned one thing… the fact that you’d actually end up buying the same gifts every day for 12 days means that your total ends up being a lot more than $34,000… check out this video to see what I mean:

Therefore, the index refers to the cost of all the items as they are, while the “true cost of Christmas” refers to each item x 12 for every compounding day of Christmas. When applying this math to each of this year’s items, you get a grand total of $156,507. That’s $1,000 more than in 2015.

Basically, the holidays ain’t cheap if you want to walk the walk.

Trends over the past 30+ years that PNC has been calculating the index show us that the 80’s were a very different time. If you’re curious about the costs adjusted for inflation and wages when your parents were youngsters, head over to PNC.

Even expert physicists get scared of math. Here’s how to overcome the phobia.

Last week we discussed why your aversion to math is just in your head, and gave tips on how to overcome the cynicism.

It turns out, even physicists are turned off by complex math equations (which are a huge part of their job): Behavioral scientists confirmed in a new study that even for professionals whose math skills are sharp enough to make a living off of, big numbers can still be scary:

The researchers found a significant inverse correlation between the number of equations in a given article and the likelihood that it would be referenced by other physicists in their own articles (an indicator of how well read a particular article might be).

The problem is not limited to the field of physics, either, say Fawcett and Higginson, who earlier arrived at a similar conclusion about math-heavy papers in the fields of ecology and evolutionary biology. The authors claim that in order to avoid being avoided, authors of academic papers need to cut down on the equations and try to get their ideas across in simpler language.

Conquering math doesn’t mean you have to jump at every intimidating problem on the blackboard. It’s about taking that impulsive, irrational (pun intended) fear of numbers and saying, “what the heck,” and giving it a try.

However, the study shows that maybe the onus isn’t always on the student to tackle complex math:

Ultimately, say the authors, it’s up to the scholars themselves to do better at communicating their work, even to an audience of their peers.

As the scientists behind the study note, the substance of a piece of work doesn’t determine its entire worth: it’s the presentation that also determines how people receive it.

Teachers are put in a tough position here. They have a set curriculum to follow and face strict benchmarks and guidelines to bring students with varying skill levels up to par. Making a lesson plan on the quadratic equation into something relevant to a high school student is no small task.

That’s where different styles of teaching and individualized attention come into play. For intimidating subjects such as math, physics or chemistry, homework can be a daunting task. Today’s students find themselves using their smartphones as distractions to the dry material in their textbook.

With tutoring apps like Yup, one-to-one learning becomes a fresh way to get through tough problems. World-class tutors help students see efficient ways around homework while understanding the concepts from the curricula.

Also, the chat-based interface creates a familiar mode of discussion with students who otherwise wouldn’t benefit from a stressful or intimidating classroom environment. Form and function come together to open a new world to kids with math phobia.

So if you or anyone you know has a phobia of math, just remember that it happens to the pros; sometimes you just have to see the problem in a new way. 

Schools and parents are using Uber to get kids to school. What if there was a similar app for tutors?

An isolated community college in Massachusetts made national news when its president decided she had enough with students paying for Uber rides to get to class.

“Because we have such a significant number of middle-income and lower-income students, having public transportation makes the difference between coming to college or not.”

President Gentile is baffled by the idea that her students can get to the mall, but not to school, and she’s in good company.

“Students really are leaving because of seemingly non-academic reasons like transportation,” says Melinda Karp, Assistant Director of the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College.

“They’re balancing work and school, they’re balancing family, and they’re commuters,” but when colleges provide the kinds of support systems that can “make life feasible,” Karp says, students are more likely to stay in school.

Most students are lucky enough to have access to numerous bus stops, carpooling, bikes. But what happens when the options fail? When there’s inclement weather? If it’s late at night or on the weekend, there’s still an Uber driver on call to get you where you need to go.

Yup is no different.

With the right conditions, all the perfect scenarios of learning come into play when you introduce mobile tutoring to a student. A world-class educator can instantly be at your service – whenever you need it – without you having to leave your desk (or bed, or back seat of your car).

Mobile tutors are patient, and Yup tutors don’t just give you the answer; they find where your troubles are and break it down for you until you understand the concepts thoroughly. Right there in the chat screen.

If parents embraced this kind of learning supplement the same way they’ve taken to Uber, their kids could breeze through math homework instead of paying for long hourly tutoring expenses and hauling their kids to a central location for sessions.

When you get to college, making it to class or to a study session becomes increasingly difficult with a cozy dorm room and the fact that it’s 7 AM. Mobile 1-to-1 tutoring gives you the best kind of learning freedom: pajama freedom.

A cheesy early-2000’s one hit wonder song went like this:

A thousand miles seems pretty far
But they’ve got planes and trains and cars
I’d walk to you if I had no other way

The Plain White Tees weren’t talking about their cross-country lover Delilah. They were talking about the regular tutor they desperately needed before a final exam. Those were the flip-phone days.

Now you have the App Store. Let’s get learning.