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


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?


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:




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.




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.



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.

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:


The Variables


‘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.


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 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


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.











‘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:


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).



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.


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.





Star Wars: The Force Awakens explained via High School Teachers

Because you’re not old, you spent your early years watching real action movies (you know, made with real green-screen effects, not the primitive camera work). James Bond from the 80’s doesn’t look as cool as the new version, and neither does the original Star Wars series. Either that, or you just don’t care that much about the new record-setting movie but still want to get it.

Well, here we’ll explain the characters in a way every high schooler can relate to:

Han Solo/Gym Teacher

He’s the cool guy, the loose cannon, the jock who never really left high school. He’s been here before, guys.

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