"They had invented a set of rules which, if you followed them without thinking, could produce the answer...

if you didn't understand what you were trying to do"

(Physicist and Nobel prizewinner Richard Feynman on traditional math education)

if you didn't understand what you were trying to do"

(Physicist and Nobel prizewinner Richard Feynman on traditional math education)

## My Teaching Philosophy

Logic and Quantitative reasoning skills are essential elements of decision-making in the modern world - in Austin and beyond. So why does studying math make so many people uncomfortable?

I believe that, too often, we present math as a canned system of rules, procedures and formulas to be memorized. It can be hard to see what any of it is for or how it relates to the physical world around us. I know that some people are happy to memorize the rules and move on… but many others are left confused and uninterested. For those students who want to understand what they’re doing and why, math can end up a frustrating subject. They don’t succeed in class, and they decide that they “just can’t do math.” I believe this is the wrong conclusion! Furthermore - I also believe that these students can benefit greatly from one-on-one interaction with a personal coach.

My teaching style rests on three pillars - Trust, Confidence, and Critical Thinking:

I believe that, too often, we present math as a canned system of rules, procedures and formulas to be memorized. It can be hard to see what any of it is for or how it relates to the physical world around us. I know that some people are happy to memorize the rules and move on… but many others are left confused and uninterested. For those students who want to understand what they’re doing and why, math can end up a frustrating subject. They don’t succeed in class, and they decide that they “just can’t do math.” I believe this is the wrong conclusion! Furthermore - I also believe that these students can benefit greatly from one-on-one interaction with a personal coach.

My teaching style rests on three pillars - Trust, Confidence, and Critical Thinking:

Building Trust - answering the "Why":

Many students are unsatisfied with a traditional approach to mathematics because it ignores their curiosity. They long to know "Why does it work?", "Why do you do it that way?", "Is that the only way to do it?" - and of course, the all-important "Why is this important?". Unfortunately many of the "Why" questions are difficult to answer in a classroom - because there are many of them, and every student has different questions - so they are often brushed aside, leaving students frustrated and distrustful.

This is one area where one-on-one interaction with a personal coach is extremely valuable, and I take it very seriously - I believe in building an environment where students know all questions will be treated with respect and answered to their satisfaction. For many students, this sort of interaction can completely transform their attitudes towards mathematics!

Building Confidence with Active Learning:

Another important aspect of math is that you must learn it "actively" - just as you can't build muscle by watching someone else lift weights, you can't learn math by watching someone else solve problems. In my experience, students only get to "ah - now I get it!" when they have successfully solved a number of problems.

Because of this, my tutoring sessions focus primarily on having students solve problem after problem until the solution becomse second-nature to them. This approach builds confidence and self-esteem in students, leading to a self-perpetuating pattern of success in the subject.

Building Critical Thinking Skills:

Finally, no skill is particularly useful unless you are able to apply it critically. Thus, I encourage students to ask (and answer) key questions, including:

- What question do I need to answer, and what form will the answer take?

- Can I translate this question into mathematics, and if so, how?

- How closely does the mathematical question match the original question?

- What form will the answer to the mathematical question take?

- How do I know if this answer is right?

- How do I know if this answer is reasonable?

Armed with the skills to answer these questions, students can not only do well on their coursework, but also tackle important quantitative issues throughout the rest of their lives.