Adventures of a Midwest Transplant

Seriously, I Can Teach Anyone Math

I mentioned before how I was starting to do volunteer work. It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to make that happen, and I’d forgotten how much it means to me to help people for no better reason than they need it.

Reaching out to the organization I did was totally on a whim, inspired by my need to get some “extra-curriculars” for grad school. There was just something about the website they setup that really reached out to me.

They take a lot of different types of volunteers, including tutors. Tutoring is right up my alley. I did a lot of tutoring at my church in Chicago. I also worked in the Chemistry tutoring lab when I was in undergrad. I’ve helped out a few friends over the years with classes they struggled with as well.

As the title of this post says, I feel quite confident I can teach anyone math. I can teach them almost anything. Just not history. It’s hard to teach a subject I don’t know well. I can’t tell you dates and quote all that stuff from history, nor have I ever figured out a way to remember it effectively. But enough about history, I want to focus on math!

If you don’t like math or you swear you’re no good at it, I blame your math teach from the fourth or fifth grade. That seems to be the time in life where people either realize they are great at math and/or enjoy it. If you don’t realize that, resentment builds until it’s finally released the day you don’t have to do math anymore (except for counting money).

The woman I’m tutoring is from the category of people who don’t like math. As expected, her dislike stemmed more from not understanding some of the fundamentals than truly disliking the subject. I blame her fourth grade teacher.

Getting to the location to begin tutoring wasn’t easy. It was a part of Brooklyn I’ve never been to before (there are still so many parts unexplored honestly), but luckily my HopStop app helped me find it. When I got there, the lady who runs the place confirmed I was who I said I was, and let me know the house rules.

They are pretty strict, but they are providing a service to teach women who have no place else to go how to create a stable life for themselves and their unborn child. The work they do and the people they’ve helped is really inspiring.

Some of the people they help come from some pretty bad situations, so I won’t say any more about the actual organization for safety’s sake.

When I mentioned some of my other hobbies and interests, the lady seemed interested in other ways I could help the woman I’m working with as well. She asked if I’d like to come over and show her a few healthy home-cooked recipes for dinner once or twice a month. Also, she asked If I could take her out in Brooklyn or in the city for some cultural excursions.

I thought I’d just be helping someone advance in their pursuit of a degree, but it looks like I’ll be taking on a much more active role with her. It’s pretty exciting to think I could help even more than originally expected.

Once we got through the formalities and introductions, we jumped right into the math. One of the reasons I’m so good at teaching people math is that I teach them not just what they need to know for that lesson, I teach them how to learn the next thing even before it comes.

Math is a language and you have to learn the language if you want to excel in the subject. That’s the fundamental piece most people are missing. Math teachers all over the country are slacking by not teaching their students the language of math.

If you have no idea what I mean, and I haven’t lost you by mentioning the word math 100 times in the last four paragraphs, I’ll explain what I mean.

3 + 2 = 5                3 – 2 = 1

That simple addition is a sentence in math. So is the subtraction. If you want to learn to add, you can learn on a number line.

Image from SparkNotes

If you’re using a number line, then the three represents your starting point. The plus and the minus both represent the direction you’re going to move. The two represents how far you must move. The equal sign represents that the answer is coming. The five and the one represent the answer.

Okay, enough teaching. If anyone is still reading this post, I swear I’m moving on.

We focused on the basics for the first tutoring session. We filled in some gaps in her knowledge and found out how she learns best. She is a visual learner, so the number line method, along with some almond for counting, worked best for her.

We ended up having a pretty good time, laughing and learning. By the time I was heading home, she was asking me to give her some sample problems that were tough for her skill level so she could practice.

When someone requests more work, that’s always I sign that I’ve made the learning fun. I left feeling so energized. It’s been so long since I’ve taught, and I kind of forgot how much I love it. If only they paid teachers more, I might’ve considered that as a career field.

Anyway, I’ll be going back again this week. I gave her a bit of homework to do, so hopefully she got it all done and we can move forward. This woman has an interest in going into the medical field. I’m feeling pretty good about helping someone reach their goals, just because. I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy yet energized like one of those USA Character commercials.

This week I also start my other volunteer projects I’ve reached out to. Wish me luck that it goes well.

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