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!

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!

 

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.

Should you pull an all-nighter? Use this equation

We’ve all been there.

Somehow, through all the craziness of the quarter/semester/term, through the countless homework assignments, the tears and laughter, the events and study groups so carefully planned…

You realize you may have to stay up all night for school. As online math tutors, we’ve seen countless students log into the Yup app during a stressful all-nighter. Therefore, we’ve created a simple cost-benefit analysis formula that can help you decide whether or not to watch sunset and sunrise.

Before you decide to embark on this strange, twisted journey, plug in your own variables and see where the equation takes you:

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The Variables

t

‘t’ is the time you have until the assignment is due or the test is administered. If judgment day is happening in under 24 hours, then you might think you already have no choice but to pull one. However, there are other variables to consider here.

When you plug into the equation:

t = 1 if you have greater than 24 hours to prepare.

t = -1 when you have less than 24 hours.

W

This is the likelihood that you’ll reach your target grade by winging the whole thing. How comfortable are you with the material?

This is also a self-expectation variable. Obviously you want to turn in only your best work, but you have to consider factors such as: what other classes must you be awake for the next morning? Do you want to look like a wilted piece of spinach? Can you afford to take a lower grade and preserve your sanity?

W = 5 if you could half-study/half-watch Netflix and be fine.

W = -5 if you still have to remove the plastic wrapping from the textbook.

F

F is for Focus. To what extent will you need to use cognitive function the next day? If you deprive yourself of sleep, you risk losing key bits of memory you worked all night to fortify. Even your ability to operate a motor vehicle becomes impaired.

If you have a test to perform well on, F = 1

If it’s an assignment you can crash on and not think about the next day, F = 5

A

This variable determines whether or not you should pull the All-Nighter.

If A is 0, sorry, but you probably should work through the night.

If A is below 0, consider hitting the books hard but getting enough rest to function and perform in the morning.

Mind you, these are simply suggestions. We understand students have busy lives, but we still recommend preparing far ahead of the 24-hour window. You can cut down on the time by heading to app store and downloading Yup, so you can chat with a professional tutor whenever you need homework help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobile app tutors are the missing part of the equation

Sprint just announced the launch of its 1Million Project, which will provide mobile devices (along with high speed internet connection) to one million disadvantaged high school students across the country. The program is in line with the federal government’s initiative to increase educational access to low-income households.

But will this effort effectively shorten the “homework gap” that currently hinders students without access to proper after-school help?

Millions of families currently cannot afford to keep a broadband connection at home, so introducing both the device and the data eliminates virtually all cost barriers to reaching the web.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said:

…the internet is an incredibly powerful tool for learning. But it’s a huge problem in America that we have 5 million households with children that lack internet connections. Those kids have a huge disadvantage and we are failing them.

By the start of the 2017-2018 school year, one million kids will have a data-enabled smartphone, tablet or laptop in their hands. Everyone’s happy, right?

Not so fast.

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Many sociologists and education policy wonks have noted that bridging the digital divide doesn’t necessarily address the growing ‘digital inequality’ in our students.

Putting an iPhone in a student’s hand won’t empower them to study.When looking at the full context of a kid’s life circumstances, skills, support groups and intangible factors like confidence and grit, we can understand that not all beneficiaries of this program will be adequately prepared for its intended purpose.

Who’s to say a student won’t go straight to the pawn shop after receiving their phone just to buy dinner?

Only when students see the immense power education can have in changing their lives, will they foster the curiosity to use the internet for informative purposes.

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That’s where mobile tutoring apps come into play. With the daily social frustrations facing children from low-income backgrounds, academics can prove to be an even higher mountain to climb. But when you introduce a one-to-one tutoring style, the increased attention can make confidence skyrocket.

Now imagine a one-to-one tutor (from institutions like MIT and Stanford) available 24/7 on your kid’s mobile device. No car, no long-term fees. Just student and tutor, chipping away at the “impossible” homework problem in math/chemistry/physics.

Otherwise, kids are gonna get all these free phones and just look at memes all day.

 

‘Thrivers’ vs. ‘Divers’: Why high school success doesn’t guarantee A’s in college

According to a recent blog by the Washington Post, high school grades may be the best predictor we have to foresee college success… but it’s still fairly useless.

The blog focuses on a study conducted by the University of Toronto, which found that incoming college freshmen, on average, predicted they’d score a 3.6 overall GPA after their first year. Pretty solid goal to hit, especially factoring all the social and academic adjustments. The average actual GPA for the first year? A sad 2.3.

So with all the high-scoring high school kids, why were their college GPAs so low? Sure, college courses are more challenging (as they should be), but that doesn’t paint the whole picture. A bunch of smart wonks got together and conducted a personality test on the students to find more answers:

They focused on two kinds of students. The “thrivers” were those who did much better in college than their high school grades would have predicted. The “divers” were those who did much worse. Mostly, these students were neither superstars in high school nor delinquents — they all got fairly good, respectable grades. But upon arriving at college, the thrivers averaged A’s, while the divers averaged F’s.

You can read the rest of the article here.

It turns out that intelligence really isn’t a large factor in determining success. As math tutors, we chat with all different kinds of students on the Yup app. We see the same common personality traits in the ‘thrivers’ and ‘divers’ from the study in our sessions.

Here are some strong habits to make (or break) in order to thrive in school:

Conscientiousness

Most students who took a dive described themselves are being less likely to be careful or thorough in their work. In school and in the professional world, this is a huge factor that perhaps isn’t obvious in a college application but becomes very clear in the work you turn in.

You can cultivate more conscientiousness by approaching assignments and studying as though you were the on reading it. For example, if you were in the teacher’s shoes, what would you think of the quality and time you put into your essay? Professors and TA’s in college have more time and resources to dissect your submissions, and therefore you must care more about the minute details. They say it’s impossible to teach someone how to care about something; so raise studying to the same standard you hold Harambe (RIP).

download

Grit

Many psychologists and education gurus talk about this trait, and it’s not what you eat with shrimp.

Grit is how you respond to adversity. Do you thrive in uncomfortable situations, socially and academically? How creative are you with problems that don’t have a conventional solution?

For example, if you run into a problem with math homework and can’t get a hold of immediate assistance, look out for alternative resources to fix the problem. Yup connects you with live tutors via mobile app fpr help with math, physics or chemistry – whenever you need it.

Organization

Some K-12 teachers have pointed out a trend of students delegating more organizational duties to their parents and more recently, their own teachers.

Once these students get to college, the professors give out the syllabus on day one and that’s the last time they’ll notify for due dates; no extensions, check-ups or reminders. Students must learn quickly how to become their own secretaries.

Find what time management skills work best for you and prioritize accordingly. Nailing down a habit of planning your work ahead doesn’t require much brainpower once you get into a rhythm, yet can make all the difference in your end results.

 

 

 

 

Back 2 School with MathCrunch

I know it’s a little early for back to school posts, but here at MathCrunch we like to be prepared. More importantly, we want you to be prepared. Not only do we have tutors waiting for you whenever you get stuck on a math problem, but we’ve ALSO come up with these super useful tips to help you start your school year off right. WE CARE! Enjoy this back 2 school special!

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