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 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.

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. 

Managing your child’s budget: Movie theater hacks, Money-saving apps, and more

Every day across the country, a student runs out of monthly mobile data. With a part-time job and/or full-time school on the schedule, the young adult must make a crucial decision: purchase more data or be able to afford more fro-yo this weekend?

These financial decisions seem insignificant to parents (who shoulder essential family expenses). But student activity on weekends can be boiled down to just a few predictable expenses, i.e. shopping, going to the movies, driving around with friends. Yes, just driving. The rising cost of these relatively cheap pastimes make life difficult for students who aren’t able to directly outsource these costs to their parents’ credit card.

Our schools aren’t exactly making life easier, either. Data shows that in 31 states, local government spending on schools fell even after the recession ended from 2008-2014. Adjusted for inflation, students are still getting duped out of funding.

While counties divert money away from schools, families have had to scrape harder to find alternative methods of tutoring, and in some cases, having the students find jobs to make ends meet.

However, students are evolving when it comes to making money and having fun. In the age of information and technological innovation, parents are also finding new ways to save money and track their youngsters’ spending habits. We might be a bunch of online math tutors, but that doesn’t mean we can’t show you a few more budget hacks we’ve picked up as poor millennials:

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Students: Want to get ahead? Learn to code

Once an elusive skill known only to the computer geeks who residing in Silicon Valley, coding has since become accessible to anyone with access to the internet.

These days, even your grandmother and cousin in elementary school can tap into free (yes, free) resources to begin learning different languages of code. For good reason, too: it teaches problem solving, analytical skills, perseverance and attention to detail. Employers around the country are looking for more young coders, and not just men.

Even supermodels and high schoolers are coding.

The coders who built the Yup app created the chat-based interface so students can connect with a live tutor for help with their math homework. As such, we want to give YOU the resources you need to get started coding your own app (or website, or just coding for fun!)

Coding for youngsters

Code.org provides educators with the tools to teach coding to users of all ages. It uses games targeted at specific age and skill levels — an enjoyable way to immerse students in programming concepts. For inspiration, you can review actual projects students have made.

That one time, at Coding Camp

For working professionals, Northwestern University recently opened doors to its new coding ‘boot camp’, which claims to make a web developer out of you in 24 weeks. This camp is unique in stressing that coding isn’t just for the millennial generation: current professionals can and should add coding to their skills repertoire.

For students, Apple has added coding and robotics sessions to its summer camp

 

Where are America’s missing students?

We all remember the one or two classmates who were chronically absent from school. Days, sometimes weeks would pass by and you barely even noticed the empty desk at the corner of the room. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there is a concerning number of these classroom phantoms: Over 6 million students nationwide missed 15+ days of school in 2014.

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Prolonged absences, even when excused or due to unforeseen causes, can prove to be detrimental to a student’s progress and momentum during the fast-paced school year. It’s not just an epidemic of nationwide high school senioritis; K-6 students are at high risk as well.

With the right data and community initiatives, we can figure out how to get more students back into the classroom. There may be some individual strategies to implement in the meantime:

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Parents: Get your kids to open up about school

As a college student, I’m finally at a point where I can retrospectively look at my relationship with my parents. All the driving lessons, the holidays, the college trips, the vacations(the list of landmarks go for miles). I can appreciate my time with them now more than ever — especially knowing that not every kid is as fortunate to enjoy two parents’ presence.

But in glossing over how our relationship has evolved, I can’t ignore the rocky points of (mis)communication. For one reason or another, car rides went silent and some dinner time conversations couldn’t have been shorter if we were eating alphabet soup.

Most of our conversations after work and school are routine and ordinary. But since the classroom is a serious and sometimes stressful place that physically separates students from parents for most of the day, we should pay more attention to how we talk about school. Whether your child is in elementary school, secondary or getting situated in college, these tips will help avoid the silence. Continue reading

What to do when your kid lies, explained by Kevin Spacey

When I was a kid, I learned early on the benefits of feeding my parents the occasional small white lie. A missed chore here, a skipped errand there — if I chose the right time to not mention it, I could avoid angry judgement from the Church of My Disappointed Mother.

As parents, we find that truth is not absolute. We tell lies — or half-truths — not with the intention to deceive but to help their developing minds better comprehend this crazy world around them.

But what happens when they become the truth-benders? How, where and why did they learn to use our presumption of their bright-eyed innocence against us? It often begins with covering up small mistakes or bad behavior. If this scares you for what may grow into a psychological ordeal, then you may want to identify the root causes of the small lies. In the fictitious political world, we can benefit from taking advice completely out of context. Take it away, Frank.

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Snowpocalypse: A How-To

It is upon us. After a record-warm winter season across the country, many regions are seeing the first heavy snowfall of the year. Depending on where you currently reside, you’re either scoffing because you’ve seen it before, embracing the news, or living in a tropical region where none of this matters (the state of envy, California).

Once the fresh powder sets in and road transportation stops, you rejoice in your free time! No school! Here’s how to best use your time in a snowstorm to avoid cabin fever, productivity loss, and overall boredom.

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