Fancher Tutoring Service

Sunday, November 23, 2014

This WILL be on the test!

But how do you remember it? The obvious answer is to write it down, take notes, record it on your phone or an old-school tape recorder if you are allowed (a strategy that has never actually worked for me, btw. Who remembers to go back and listen?). What happens when you've never been taught how to take notes? You flip to a blank page in your nearest notebook and start jotting, not a completely wasted effort. Dustin Wax, an anthropologist, artist and contributor to has written that

Writing is great practice, but just writing it down isn't enough. If you haven't ever been taught to take effective notes, you may have just grabbed a Grammar notebook to jot down a math formula, or have written down the foundations of the Fibonacci sequence next to your map of the circulatory system. That won't do you any good when you go to check over your notes before finals and realize that you have seven chapters of material spread over five notebooks, sprinkled amidst doodles of dragons and cars and superheros burning holes through your textbooks. 

There are several steps easy steps you can take to make your life easier before you ever begin writing in class:

1. Keep separate, CLEARLY DEFINED areas for each subject. If you are allowed, keep completely separate notebooks. If not, make sure that you have dividers with visible tabs in your binder. When you designate which notebook for which subject, KEEP them separate. Separate but equal is allowed here. 
2. Always have your proper materials on hand. It takes way too much time to hunt down a pencil and make sure it is sharp or find a pen that has enough ink to last the class. Oh, crap! Does that handout need holes to fit in your binder? You'd have more time to listen and pay attention if you'd kept a folder, portable 3-hole puncher, or sheet protectors in your binder so you could just slip the paper in and get on with your life. 
3. Know your writing style. Are you artistic? Do you doodle over everything? Maybe a notebook with 2 columns will help you. Take your notes on one side, doodle on the other, but never the twain shall meet. Are you mathematical and practical, but messy - never keeping your lines and numbers straight? Graph paper will help keep you in line.

Once you have your prep down, it's time to get to writing. It is tempting to just open your ears, shut your mouth, and jot down everything you hear. Try it that way and you'll quickly find out that you will fall further and further behind and really not take in much of your education. Your teacher's entire career is based off of how fast he can shove information in to your brain. It's guaranteed that he can speak faster than your hand can move. There's help for that though. Everyone processes what they hear differently, but there are several ways to help you learn whichever way is best for you. Start off by turning to the first blank page in your designated notebook, dating the top of the page, and giving it a subject head (ex: "Coordinate Planes", "Battle of Stalingrad" "Cheesecake Brownies").
Cornell (two-column) notes: Divide your paper in to two columns - one side is 1/4 of your paper and is for jotting down formulas, words to define, and "big" ideas. The big side is for writing down definitions, summaries, and little details. Leave a space at the bottom of your page to write down an overview of your notes that day. 
Outlining: Uses levels to organize ideas. This requires a little bit more thought as you go along, but can result in more complete notes. Use indents, roman numerals, bullets, slashes, and dashes to properly record your thoughts
                  I. This is a new topic or main idea
                       A. This applies to the idea above it. If there is an A, there must be a B.
                            i.)This applies to A. If there is a i), there must be a ii)
                            ii) This also applies to A
                       B. This applies to I.
                              - This applies to B. There is no i), so there is no ii). A single - is appropriate.
                II. A new topic or main idea separate from I.
                           Indents work when there is not enough information to justify new letters or bullets. 
Charting: Uses a chart of columns and rows to relate information in a visual way. Create headings. Write facts and information under each heading. Each new fact gets a new row. Rows should relate to each other.
Mapping: Uses a chart to emphasize critical thinking and show relationships. Draw circles for the main idea. Draw other circles and connect them with a line to the main ideas that they apply to. 
Sentence Notes: Writing main points and details in sentence form, 

The two most popular methods for classes such as History, Literature, Grammar, and Mathematics would be Cornell and Outlining. They provide speed, simplicity, and efficiency while still capturing the heart of what you need to know. Outlining does require the ability to think quickly to organize appropriately, as well as a bit more time to decide just how much space  you need. With outlining, it is more difficult to go back and fit notes in if your instructor decides to backtrack. Cornell is not as linear and allows room for additional information. It does, however, require you to go back and make sure it is organized properly when you study.  

Charting and mapping work well for visual learners, as well as being most ideal for concept based classes like Biology. These methods allow you to instantly form patterns and relationships in your mind and help when rote memorization is desired. 

Sentence form is usually not best when time is of the essence, but can help when you don't know which ideas are going to be important later. 

So there you have how to take notes. How do you know what you should be noting? First off, listen to how your teacher speaks. Anything that the she repeats several times is usually a good idea. The summary at the beginning of class usually covers what they want you to know from the last class, so that is a great place to start your day's notes. Record dates, names of people and places, and any word that has to be defined. Write down any questions you may have, as well as the answer - you'll probably have the same question again when the material is not so fresh on your mind. Examples - if the concept is one where your teacher says "to illustrate..." or "Say we have...", then it is one that is important to them. That means it should be important to you. Write it down. Any time the subject changes, make a new heading.

I hope this helps. If you have any other note taking methods or classroom strategies, I'd love to hear them. Leave a comment for me below!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fancher Tutoring Service:Private Math Tutoring in Cullman, AL and the Terrible 2's

I am proud to introduce my in-home, in-office, or online tutoring service to Cullman County, AL, Fancher Tutoring Service! For the past several years, I have been helping kids and adults learn better in a more informal setting and recently decided to branch out on my own. My specialty is in middle and high school math, backed up by a degree in Mathematics and another in Business. I currently am pursuing a B.S in Accounting with a minor in Mathematics at Athens State University and have completed many courses and days of field work in the general education and special education areas.

Through my work over the past year with adults with disabilities and through my own learning experiences with math theory classes, I've realized that the best person to help another get though their struggle is often a person who had struggles themselves. When my assignments did not come easily to me, I had to research and discover new ways to teach myself, which then led to a greater understanding of the material that I was able to pass on to my classmates. I aim to bring the same dedication and research to every student that I am able to reach now.

To that end, I've decided to refresh myself on every level of math taught to public school students. I've skipped Kindergarten and 1st Grade, as those are basic number recognition, ordering, and one digit operations. Last week I worked through the 2nd grade Go Math! textbook
I'll admit, it has been quite a while since I was in Second Grade but I really hadn't expected anything new. However, parents be warned that the numbers aren't different, the answers aren't different, but the strategies by which the students get there are nowhere near the same as the straight forward ways we are used to. It didn't take more more than a couple of hours to read over every lesson. The first quarter of the book is relatively easy, even for 2nd graders, but by the middle half I had to stop and make sure I had applied the right strategy to get the proper steps. (Was it Friendly numbers, half, then double or half THEN friendly numbers and double?) The second half went quickly with an overview of time and measurements (with a brief introduction of the metric system) and estimating those.

Over and over I have heard parents say "This stuff is too complicated! What is the point of all of these extra steps." I've even been guilty of this myself. But after working through the book and practicing the problems, I realized how TRULY USEFUL this stuff can be. By teaching the kids how to find 7*12 by subtracting a 2 from 7 to get to 5 (a friendly number) so that they can easily multiply that 5 by 12 to get 60, then multiplying that subtracted 2 by 12 to get 24 (a friendly fact), and adding those two facts (60+24) to get the answer 84, the kids have not only memorized a multiplication fact, but have come to understand the basic foundations of mathematics and by extension the entire logical world!

...Which sounds crazy, but seems to be true to me. Instead of telling a child "here. 7x12=84. It is what it is," we are teaching them How and Why 7x12= 84. We are teaching them the basics of the factoring that they will utilize in middle and high school. We are teaching them to look at a problem and break it down in to easily manageable and relatable units. Instead of being daunted that they can't remember 7x12, they can think of the facts that they do know and work from there using strategies that are being drilled over and over again.

 Later this week I'll tackle 3rd Grade and see what it's been up to since I left. I must confess that I can't wait to move on to 4th and learning the same strategies as my son, but I'll do my best to give the little purple book its due diligence before advancing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hand Movements to Learn Math Better

Researchers at Chicago have been doing some studies lately. Apparently, when children use certain hand motions, they learn concepts like grouping better. This is pretty interesting because it means that even when children have a hard time learning things a certain way have another option. One commentor on the article had some interesting insight in to why this may work:

"In Asian cultures for example, the use of an abacus... is widely accepted as the best way to teach kids math. The cognitive association of sliding the pegs around and doing the equations eventually becomes so ingrained that after a certain point, they dont actually need the board anymore and can mentally 'visualize' the board with their hands. There are videos on youtube of Asian young-adults doing math faster than calculators and you can see them lift their hands and slide an invisible abacus around infront of them."

I know that I use my hands a lot when I talk. I wave and gesture and twirl around. When I danced (badly) when I was younger, I learned the words to the songs easier if there were movements to remind me of the next line.

There seems to be a valid point here. I'd definitely like to do a little more study and try teaching some of these movements to the students that might benefit from an alternate way of learning.