Math Education Concepts

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Quick and Dirty Guide to CCSS Math

Written For Tutors

In all my years of tutoring (20+) I have yet to go through one full year without a major issue arising, in mathematics education, that tutors have to face.  This year (and over the past few years) that issue has been Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  Many tutors want to know how to help their students when standards have changed, or become more uniform across states.  These changes have resulted in the development of mathematics curriculum and use of new texts in many school districts.  However, although many states have adopted the CCSS, the standards do not require a specific curriculum or text.  (This leaves the door wide open for companies to sell their products claiming to be aligned with the standards.)  To make matters more confusing, many districts can make their own decisions about what materials to use to teach their students.  This creates a struggle for many tutors: the materials changed suddenly, the expectations are higher for students, and parents can’t begin to explain why their child struggles with the content.

In light of this, I have good news… for tutors!  The standards are for teachers to worry about; your concern is helping your students learn the material being taught.  Below I listed a few tips/strategies for helping your students during the CCSS era.  Many of the tips here are not original or new, but may be more relevant to the expectations placed upon students as a result of the CCSS.  So, let’s get going…

Please feel free to add to these or modify them to accommodate your students’ needs.  I hope this is helpful and will alleviate some stress!

  • Help students think critically and analytically – higher order thinking is an expectation
  • The standards are for teachers to use during instruction – no need to feel compelled to include them in your instruction
  • Know and understand the standards so you can help your students – know what your students are expected to do and understand
  • Tutor with the same confidence you had before CCSS adoptions – students will trust you more if they feel you are confident
  • Get your students accustomed to justifying their answers – if your students can justify their answers, then, most likely, they understand the concept taught
  • Change the format of the problems so you can check for understanding – students should understand the concept behind the problem rather than just the procedure for solving it
  • Know the language used in the standards – encourage your students to use and know it as well
  • Speak positively instead of negatively about the standards – if you resist the change, so will your students, but they will hurt in the end
  • Don’t panic – or your students will panic as well
  • Relax – so your students can relax and learn


  1. Common Core State Standards
  2. Common Core Math Standards
  3. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
  4. National Research Council’s “Adding it Up”


Own Your Education

When I woke up this morning the last memory I had was of a dream that occurred only minutes, maybe seconds earlier.  I was standing in an elevator in a school district administration building.  The elevator was crowded and to my left stood a mother and her teenage (or pre-teen) daughter.  They were having a conversation and quite naturally, I was listening.  The conversation had something to do with the girl selecting a high school for the coming year.  She didn’t want to participate fully in the selection process.  Like so many young people today, she wanted her mother to make the decision for her.  Well that conversation got my blood boiling, but in a good way… I think.  This is what happened next (I’m paraphrasing, but you’ll get the point)…

I turned to the young lady and told her that she should go and get involved in the selection process.  I told her to go to the schools, tour the classrooms, and get a feel for the environment.  I reminded her that she should select the place that would feel conducive to learning for her!  Finally, I said “you will be here for eight hours each day, not your mother, you will have to sit in these classes all day, not your mother, and you will have to eat the food, not your mother!  Own your education!”  By that, I meant that she should take control of her education by making those important decisions that would impact her education journey.

Then I woke up.  It was one of those dreams that felt real, like I was on that elevator and speaking with that family.  The truth is that is exactly what I would tell young people today, “own your education.”  This is the one thing we have some control over, the one decision many parents allow children to weigh in on.  The one decision that could determine their future career, lifestyle, path!  Granted, young people do need some guidance and direction, but should have some autonomy when it comes to deciding where they will attend high school.

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Choosing the Right School for Your Child

Reblogged from Citywide Math and Science Institute Choosing the Right School for Your Child | Citywide Math and Science Institute.




So, How Did I Get Here

CollageMost of my life I was told I could be a doctor.  Eventually, I began to believe it.  I was smart, so I was told, focused, and determined.  I enjoyed going to school (I had perfect attendance most of my life).  I enjoyed learning and doing my homework.  Blend all of this with a competitive personality (I liked getting A’s) and you have a great combination of the skills needed to succeed in medical school right?  Well, I thought so and I was on my way.

I enrolled in the Health Academy program in my high school.  I interned at a local hospital my senior year of high school (Radiology Technician Assistant).  And I went to college with the intention of majoring in chemistry in preparation for medical school.  Right!  So, how did I get here?

During the summer prior to my freshman year of college, I took a pre-freshman chemistry course.  It seemed pretty easy, so I thought I would fly through the chemistry program with ease, so I registered for a higher level chemistry course my first semester.  I studied so much that semester, only to receive a C, and a C- in lab.  In addition I earned a C in Calculus I.  Something had to give.  I tried the second semester with the next level chemistry course, same results.  I put forth so much effort and did all the right things, only to earn C’s.

Medical school was getting further away.  Time was winding down and I had to declare my major.  I decided being a doctor would require too much effort (organic chemistry and whatever came next was waiting for me).  I thought about what I wanted to do.  I was still working that out when I decided to major in the subject that comes easiest for me.  You said it: Math!

So I declared my major and figured out the rest along the way.  So, how did I get here?  I followed the path that worked best for me.  And yes, I did work to earn my A’s in math.  I joined study groups, I went to office hours, and I even went to the tutoring center.  I was determined, but I also enjoyed learning math concepts!  My joy of math made it feel easy!

Today, I am helping students of all ages learn math (and sometimes they actually enjoy it).  This was my natural path.  Yes, I could have been a doctor!  But being a math instructor/teacher/tutor is what I was meant to be.

I wrote all of this to say “follow your path.”  It will come to you.  It’s okay if it seems too easy, it’s okay if it’s a path that’s different than what you thought, and it’s okay if others wonder what changed along the way.  As long as you follow your path, then you will get there too!

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Dread Math Homework?

Reblog from

Dread Math Homework? You’re NOT the Only One…Math Homework Solutions Are Here |