We must do more than teach math

We must do more than teach math
We must do more than teach math
Krista Marks

Krista Marks

CEO, Woot Math and Woot Tutor

We must do more than teach math

It no longer feels okay to be silent. As I watch the events in Minneapolis, Louisville and Brunswick unfold, I am filled with sadness, anger, and an urgency to do more.

Dr. Robert Berry, someone I have long admired, a beloved education professor, a past president of NCTM, a Black man, recently posted: 

"To my mathematics educators, We Teach More Than Mathematics. We must engage in anti-racist and trauma-informed education in our daily practices...BTW, I’m not OK."

At Woot Math, our work is focused on helping teachers ensure that all students have the math foundation they need to succeed. But Dr. Berry is right. We must do more than teach math. We must work to ensure that Black students have access not only to a safe and welcoming place to learn but also a safe and welcoming place to live.

The truth is they don’t. In our country, they never have. While we have repeatedly been shaken by the brutality captured on video, the reality is that for the Black community this is not new. 

As we strive to figure out how to do more, we have begun by financially supporting the Center for Policing Equity (CPE), an organization at the forefront of addressing bias in policing. I greatly admire the work of Dr. Tracie Keesee, a remarkable leader, who is the co-founder of CPE, former Deputy of Training at NYPD, and a retired 25-year veteran of the Denver Police Department. 

We also plan to read, listen, and learn from our Black colleagues, leaders, friends. We will identify ways that we can support and amplify their voice, their power. They are not alone. We stand and act in solidarity with them. 

Krista Marks,
CEO, Woot Math

June 3, 2020

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Crush the SAT with these Brain Hacks

Crush the SAT
Crush the SAT
Jeff Ward

Jeff Ward

Principal Engineer, Woot Tutor & Woot Math

Crush the SAT with these Brain Hacks

Are you taking the SAT this summer? Are you worried about test anxiety? Or time management? Maybe you’re looking for tips for test taking? The good news is, you’re already armed with the most important weapon for success – your brain! You knew that, of course, but do you know why that is, and how you can best use it?
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Let Your Brain Work Its Magic

What’s the first thing you should do when presented with an SAT math question? Especially those long word problems. You may have heard some tips that suggest reading the answers first, or reading the last line of the question, or underlining key information in the question. All those things can be helpful, but be careful. You can easily get confused by focusing on one piece of information too quickly, without the context of the whole problem.

Before you jump into details, take just one second and glance over the whole problem. Glance at the answers. What is this problem looking for? A number? An equation? A longer sentence (don’t read them yet!) Glance at the figure. What information does it provide? A linear graph? A geometric figure? A table of data?

In that moment, your brain is instinctively gathering high-level clues, building the critical context to shape your thinking. This works because your brain is hard-wired to quickly recognize past experiences, preparing you for the task at hand. With these bits of context in your mind, go ahead and read the problem through, carefully and attentively. Feel free to mark important information or keywords along the way.

When you take time to glance at a problem, you are better equipped to recognize what’s important.

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Your Brain’s Achilles’ Heel

The enemy to your brain’s natural functioning is stress. During the SAT, you might be stressed if you feel like you aren’t ready, that time is running out, or start doubting your answers. You might be afraid that you aren’t going to get a certain score.

You start to sweat. You stop being able to focus. AHHH!

We’ve all been there, and it’s a terrible feeling. Stress shuts down your critical thinking and reasoning, and engages your fight-or-flight response. The more you focus on that anxiety, the more your brain shuts down. Having those thoughts is normal; you’re not alone.

The key is to recognize your doubts and fears, take a deep breath, and choose to shift your thinking to focus on the positive.

Confidence

Your Secret Weapon: Confidence

The opposite of stress is that calm, cool confidence that comes from being prepared. The assurance of knowing you’re ready. The little voice that says, “You are going to crush this test!”
In fact, you are going to crush it! How do I know? Because you’re preparing right now! And think of this – you’ve been preparing in school for over 10 years! That’s thousands of hours across dozens of math topics. Your brain has a literal treasure trove of past experiences to build on.

Do you feel the confidence growing? You should! You’ve come a long way.

The preparation that you are doing right now is gold. Repeat after me, “Goodbye, stress. I am going to be ready, and I’m going to crush the SAT.”

The confidence that comes from being prepared – from doing the work to get ready – is gold.

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Preparing for the SAT Math Test

One great way to prepare for the math SAT is to review the College Board website (the authors of the SAT.) They provide a sample math exam which is an ideal way to learn what to expect.

For example, the site shows the standard crib sheet that is provided during the SAT:

SAT Equation Reference

Awesome, that’s a dozen things you don’t need to memorize! They also note that some questions require fraction and decimal answer input, giving a few examples of each:

SAT Number Input Form

Simply knowing what to expect reduces the surprises and stress on test day.

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Don’t Go It Alone: SAT Bootcamp

It can be overwhelming to prepare for the SAT on your own. That is why Woot Tutor created an intensive, 4 week SAT Bootcamp. The course focuses on the math portion of the SAT. It provides live tutoring with an expert and feedback on daily math practice.

Your instructor will help you build your confidence, reviewing typical types of problems and brushing up on concepts that you might have forgotten. The course culminates with a full practice test and a 1-on-1 personalized plan for success. Since our tutoring platform is entirely online, it’s convenient and affordable. You can get the preparation you need right from your home!

If you’re taking the SAT this summer, sign up now for our Spring 2020 bootcamp!

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You can be much more productive at school. Here’s how.

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Diana Rapp

Diana Rapp

High School Math Teacher & Woot Tutor

You can be much more productive at school. Here’s how.

During the school year it is hard to keep track of assignments, quizzes, presentations and exams. One of the benefits of technology is it can make your life easier which allows you to be more productive.
Personally, I use a mix of everything. I have different calendars, a few reminders apps, and apps that help me slow down. Sometimes our phones can be a pain, but if used correctly they can be a powerful tool that allows you to be more efficient. As a high school math teacher, I have seen first hand how these apps help kids and adults be more productive and organized, and I hope they can help you…

Are you a student who writes everything on their arm to remember? How is that working out for you?
Hmm, not too well?

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Reminder Apps

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Have your smart device do the remembering for you.

You know that feeling when you are in a group project and someone assigns you a task and you wonder if you will forget about it later? I can relate. That is why I strongly recommend using a reminder app on your smartphone (if you have one). Students often tell me “I will meet with you tomorrow at lunch to retake that test.” Lunch rolls around and they never show up. Later they frantically come into class, “I totally forgot about my test retake!” I always have student set reminders on their phones.

Both iPhone and Android have great built-in reminder apps that allow you to assign priority, time and dates, and notes to help you remember all of the necessary details. There are also a variety of third-party apps available that do this plus a lot more. Some of my favorites include Any.do, Trello, and Asana.

Android

A great Android app is Any.do. Any.do can create lists for everything you need and organizes events into chronological timelines. Pretty neat!

iPhone

The Reminder app on the iPhone also works perfectly for this. You can assign priority, time and dates, and notes to reminders.
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Notes

Handwritten notes not your style? Want a tech savvy way to organize your thoughts and ideas? Evernote and OneNote are both easy to use apps that help you capture and prioritize your ideas. They also have to-do list features so nothing will be forgotten. You can add photos, webpages, and even audio to your notes. These apps also sync across devices so you can access you Geography study guide on your phone or your computer. Talk about a game changer. 

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Calendar

Are you a student who writes everything on their arm to remember? How is that working out for you? Hmm, not too well Keeping track of important dates and deadlines is a skill necessary for success in school. I always give my students a few minutes during class to organize themselves. Everyone has a different method for doing this. I see some students take out their smart device and open their calendar, some have a classic assignment book, and other creative tools. Some students really love the look and feel of an assignment book or paper calendar, and I get that. It is important that you use the method of organizing that is best for you.

I prefer calendar apps.

Every smart device should have some version of a calendar app. When your teacher, coach, or parent gives you a due date or an event that you need to attend, your next step should be entering it into your calendar.! The benefit of using the smart device calendar is being able to access that calendar from other synced devices or websites. This means you can access your calendar anywhere. Never forget that important Spanish presentation ever again!

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Grammarly

I wish that Grammarly existed when I was in school! It would have made a huge difference in my life and I probably wouldn’t have sent all of my essays to my mother to proof read. I am a math teacher, so numbers and letters speak to me very differently than essays and grammar. I haven’t personally used Grammarly, but I have heard good things. Grammarly is a Google Chrome extension that helps you edit your own words using technology. Think of Grammarly as spell-check on steroids. Taking the time to edit your work and using Grammarly could make a difference in your letter grade.

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Calm

Close your eyes, breathe in slowly, and breathe out. Repeat 5 times. Don’t you feel a bit more relaxed? As humans, we can get caught up and lose sight of the moment quickly. Personally, I have noticed in the last few years that students are becoming more stressed. To combat this, I have incorporated weekly exercises in my class to relieve stress. I use Calm.com when looking for quick exercises to do with my students. The results are awesome and they always ask to do more. Calm is the #1 app for sleep and meditation. The app has something for everyone, from experienced yogis to newcomers just looking for a break.

Here are some more ideas to help you be more productive this school year…

  • Wunderlist– To Do list on all your devices – supports team collaboration
  • Trello – collaborative task list for Teams
  • Asana – To-do list that allows for super granular level of detail for todo lists and team collaboration

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A Fresh Take on Back-to-School Readiness

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Compass Image
Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M.

Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M.

Woot Tutor Coach

A Fresh Take on Back-to-School Readiness

The new school year is about to begin. Are you ready? Is your child? How will you each know?

To answer that question, you first each need to consider what you want the outcome to be. What accomplishments and feelings would you each like to have on the last day of school? Essentially, what are your goals?

In future blogs, we will be addressing how to develop some important tools and strategies for building your child’s Executive Function skills (the cognitive skills that give us the ability to focus, plan, and act in a goal-directed manner). But let’s start off with seeing what we can do now to help you and your child prepare for a successful school year.

Start with The End In Mind - What Are The Goals Of This School Year?

I am a firm believer that in order to make any change or progress, it’s helpful to start basic and small. You and your child will no doubt have different ideas as to what you believe is important and reasonable to set as goals for the year. As parents, we are often focused not just on the academic subjects, but on the broader life skills that must be developed to support achieving future goals. Things such as waking up independently, managing personal hygiene, and keeping personal space clean and orderly are on many parents’ minds. Students, in addition to thinking about their classes, are often focused on their developing social life, pursuing their interests, and having downtime to just chill.

A good place to start planning for the new year is by taking out a sheet of paper simply writing a list of what you each thought went well last year and what areas you would each like to see growth or change happen. While you may instinctively want to shape the list to your vision, it will be most valuable at this point to get your child’s input and perspective. When looking back over the areas that may not have going well last year, try to highlight the ones where your child can more easily see the value in working toward growth. The discussion is intended to help your child visualize a positive, satisfying, and productive school year.

Here are a few areas you may want to consider in your discussion:

Waking up independently
Getting adequate sleep
Finishing homework within a reasonable amount of time
Maintaining a reasonable GPA
Contributing to household chores
Participating in a school club
Participating in a sports team
Developing new friendships
Maintaining healthy personal hygiene

SMART Goals

Once you have developed your list of areas you agree could use improvement, then you can begin setting some goals. I recommend you start with just a few areas so as not to create too much overwhelm or stress. As certain areas improve, you can add on new goals. If the goal is too vague or broad, then it may not be valuable, motivating, or achievable within the coming school year. To ensure it’s value, you will want to elaborate on each goal listed. It is helpful to use the acronym SMART to supercharge your goals.

Each goal should be:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Realistic

Timely

For example:

"I will wake up on my own in time to be ready for the school bus."
"I will choose a club that interests me and will attend meetings regularly."
"I will develop a strategy to use regularly for studying for quizzes and tests."

The Action Plan

Once the goals are fully written, write down all of the things that he will need to do to make each goal happen. Include the materials he will need, the steps he’ll need to take, and anything else that might be involved in creating his success. Also, consider what support he may need and from whom. You may want to consider having a dedicated notebook or journal where all of your child’s goal planning and monitoring can be tracked. If it is a goal that involves your child doing something more independently than he has in the past, you may need to consider intermediary steps before expecting full independence. For example, if you have been his alarm clock all of these years, he may need occasional support as he transitions to using his own clock.

Barriers and Obstacles

Often, the areas we choose as goals for ourselves represent some of the persistent challenges we face in our daily lives. “My goal is to exercise daily.” “My goal is to study more.” “My goal is to get to bed earlier.” If some of your child’s goals involve overcoming past challenges, it would be helpful to address the reasons why these areas have been difficult in the past. One of the Executive Function skills that all children need to develop is the ability to use their Self-Talk to help guide them in achieving their goals. Work hard with your child to tap into the barriers and obstacles they may have faced in the past when trying to achieve this goal. Empathy and encouragement may go a long way here. Be aware not to use any shame, blame, or criticism as this may shut your child down from talking and taking the chances they need to make the changes.

Keeping Track of Progress

Once a goal has been clearly defined, the steps have been identified, and the potential barriers and obstacles have been explored and addressed, it will be vital to help your child stay connected to his goals and on track with his plan. Keep in mind that often once the initial excitement of creating the plan wears off, it may become necessary to help him revisit and address any challenges he faces along the way. It’s also essential to help him acknowledge and appreciate the success along the way to help him stay motivated.

Learning how to set and track goals is a life skill that can help your child be successful throughout life. Keep in mind that this is a learning process and that sometimes the most valuable lessons are around choosing the best goals and knowing when and how to adjust our plans. Reach out to us if we can support you or your child with this process.

Enjoy the new year.

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5 Tips To Calm Those Back-to-School Jitters

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School Bus Image
Diana Rapp

Diana Rapp

High School Math Teacher & Woot Tutor

5 Tips To Calm Those Back-to-School Jitters

I still remember when warm summer days would feel long and endless. When my parents were okay with me staying up late because it WASN’T a school night. And then BOOM.

It is over and suddenly the first day of school would be just around the corner. I could almost hear the school bell ringing and those endless back-to-school commercials didn’t help.

If you are feeling more dread than excitement at the thought of school starting again, you are not alone. This is normal for many kids just like you. As someone who teaches high-school students, I have seen a few things that can help. Here are my top 6 tips for calming the back-to-school jitters.

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Get into Your Routine

A week or so before the beginning of school, start figuring out your school routine. If you are a student who thinks breakfast at noon during the summer is great (brunch, anyone?), now is time to get back on a school friendly sleep schedule. I recommend that 2-3 weeks before your first day back, shift your clock an hour each night until you are back to going to bed around the same time you would on a school night and then waking up as if you were going to school. I get it. It’s hard, but trust me, it will be much harder if you try to shift all at once on the first day back.

If you are feeling more dread than excitement at the thought of school starting again, you are not alone.

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Plan Your Lunch Ahead of Time

Sloppy Joe anyone? Are school lunches your least favorite meal? Is eating off campus making a hole in your wallet? Maybe it is time to start packing your own lunch. I suggest getting into a schedule of making healthy, filling, lunches ahead of time. Constantly, students are tired in class and the first thing I ask them is if they have eaten lunch. They respond, “I had a bag of hot cheetos and a donut from the grocery store.” I have some news, this is not a healthy lunch. As a growing teen, you need adequate amounts of protein, carbs, and fats.

I suggest, on Sunday night you make your lunch for Monday-Wednesday. Then on Wednesday night you can make your lunches for the rest of the week. Make sure you also pack snacks because as a growing human you are likely chronically hungry. There are tons of awesome meal prepping recipes on the internet. If you don’t have time to pre-pack lunch, ask your family if you can take last night’s leftovers to school… Big tip: Be extra nice to a teacher with a microwave.

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Reconnect with Friends

During the summer, it is easy to lose touch with your school friends. Remember that one friend from your chemistry class who you ate lunch with a few times a week? Or that kid who totally had your back when you forgot your calculator before your math final (we’ve all been there)? Shoot them a text and see how their summer went. Ask about their class schedule, maybe you can study together again. Reaching out to your classroom friends is one of the best ways to help ease the transition from summer to school.

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Be Prepared

Create a list of school supplies you will need. Check to see if your school sent out a list in advance, many do. Quick tip: shop at home first for your school supplies. This saves money, and also makes sure you reuse your own products, reduces your time in long lines, and helps you ‘Marie Kondo’ your desk drawers. If there is something you need, find friends who have taken the class before you. Even better, maybe they can also give you some of their tips for how to succeed!

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Practice Your Commute

If you walk or bike to school, start taking the commute when you have free time. It will get you in the habit of walking or biking more and you can also scope out the best routes. To make your commute more fun, download a new podcast or audio book to listen to on your daily commute.

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5 Simple Things to Start Your Year Off Right

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Apple Image
Diana Rapp

Diana Rapp

High School Math Teacher & Woot Tutor

5 Simple Things to Start Your Year Off Right

As a high-school math teacher, these are the things I wish I could tell every student. They are not earth-scattering ideas, but they are proven ways to start your year off right. In fact, these are the tips that I wish someone had told me when I was in high school.
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Fresh Start!

Think of this year as a fresh start in math class. Regardless of your affinity towards math, a fresh start is exciting for everyone. New teacher, new classroom and new materials. This could be the year that math becomes your favorite subject. This is your chance to embrace a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that your abilities and intelligence can be developed through hard work and dedication. Research shows that people with a growth mindset achieve more than people with a fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are something they are born with). With a growth mindset, you know that you can always improve your skills with hard work, which in turn leads to greater growth, which ultimately leads to your success. Powerful stuff, no?

These are the tips that I wish someone had told me when I was in high school.

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Hey can I borrow a pencil?

Everyone knows those few students who never have a pencil. And to be fair, most of us have at one time or another been that student. This year, plan to arrive to your math class prepared so you aren’t fumbling and searching for a pencil for the first fifteen minutes. Having the right supplies means you are ready to learn and focus on the class – on learning. Also, make sure you have clean pieces of paper and erasers. Seriously. These little things matter and often make the difference from a stressful class to a successful class.
Checklist
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Set Goals

I believe in the power of goal setting. For everyone. At the beginning of the year, I set goals for myself. Start by thinking about your last experience in math class. What worked for you? Even more, what didn’t work? Take those ideas and try to turn them into goals. With goal setting it is important to be specific. For example, “Study More” is a loose and meaningless goal. Try this instead, “Twice a week I will go over my notes and organize my binder” or “Once a week, I will go to office hours to ask my teacher questions.” The more specific the goal, the easier it will be to stick to it.
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Mrs. Who? Mr. What?

Knowing your teacher is essential for your success. Your teacher is your go-to person for math help. Take some time to introduce yourself to your teacher and make it a point to go to a few offices hours the first month of school. Your teacher will take note and admire your commitment to the class so early on in the semester. Have you noticed that before big tests office hours are crowded, but at other times they are free? Those free hours are the best time to get real one-on-one help from your teacher. I have seen first hand the dramatic success that students can have when they make the time to come in and work with me during office hours. Also, nowadays many teachers have a website that they update frequently. Often this is where you can find assignments, schedules, and sometimes even notes from class. At the beginning of year, bookmark your teachers’ website so you can access it easily and regularly.
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Find Allies

Math class can be hard sometimes, which is why I recommend that you seek out your classroom allies early on. Try to connect with a few students in your class – what I call allies. Even if it feels hard or scary to build these connections, it can be a lifeline when you are struggling. Imagine you are out of class for several days with the flu or a cold. This is when your allies (and of course your teacher!) are there to help you get back on your feet. With your allies, you can form study groups, reachout for homework help, and share class notes. I know it sounds funny to actively think about building class allies, but the more people you have to lean on – the more people that have your back – the more likely you are to succeed.

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Meet Our Tutors: Mr. Jeff

Meet Our Tutors: Mr. Jeff

Meet Our Tutors: Mr. Jeff

Jeff is a math education fanatic. He taught high school math and science for 5 years where he developed a passion for integrating technology into curriculum and instruction.

Jeff moved to Colorado to pursue his passion for supporting teachers with technology in a PhD program at CU Boulder working with Dr. David Webb. During his journey through graduate school, Jeff has worked as a computer science teacher trainer, developed curricular resources for middle and high school teachers, taught elementary math education courses, mentored pre-service teachers in integrating project based learning into their teaching, and helped design tools to support teachers in implementing real time formative assessment.

Tutor Mr. Jeff Bush
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When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?

Leading wilderness trips for the YMCA in college showed me how rewarding it is to work with youth and support them as they learn to become more independent, confident and empowered. After college, I pursued teaching to work with youth year round and have summers open to still guide wilderness trips. While teaching, I developed an interest in how teachers need more support in integrating technology into their formative assessment practices and how students need access to tools that make math accessible and empowering, not phobia-inducing. That led me to graduate school and pursuit of a PhD at CU Boulder where my research and teaching have covered a wide range of projects but all mostly focused around the central theme of supporting math teachers, particularly with technology use and formative assessment.
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Tell us about an inspirational or funny moment you had with a student.

After my first year teaching, I woke the first day of summer feeling down about my own ability to teach math and inspire high school students. This is not uncommon for first year teachers but knowing that didn’t seem very comforting. My supervisor and mentor noticed my mood at our morning meeting told me that Michael Jordan didn’t become the star he was in his first year playing ball. It took him years of practice. This was inspiring to me. I had been telling my students that their hard work would pay off and that they could become better learners with more hard work. The same lesson applied to teaching. Later that day, a student wrote me an email talking about how he had been thinking about dropping out but often thought back to our Algebra class and how I had been patient with him, even though he didn’t always get the concepts right away. I encouraged him to retake quizzes and come in for extra help. Even though he didn’t always take me up on it, he said that knowing I believed in him is part of what helped keep him in school. I think back to that day as a pivotal moment where I decided I wouldn’t ‘drop out’ of a career in education but instead would work as hard as I could to become an all-star educator.

I had been telling my students that their hard work would pay off and that they could become better learners with more hard work. The same lesson applied to teaching.

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What’s your favourite thing about online tutoring?

I really like using our digital tools to help students become savvy math wizards. I use the fraction tools and other manipulatives whenever I can. I also love color coding with the drawing tool. Colors help guide notes but also can be a ton of fun!
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Why did you become a Woot Tutor?

Although I teach young teachers as a graduate student, I don’t get as many opportunities to work with k-12 students. Not only is it something that I enjoy, it also helps me practice and apply techniques that I read about in academia and develop an understanding for how to connect research and practice.
Jeff Bush on a summit
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What do you love about the Woot program?

I love that we teach kids to become self sufficient. I believe that everyone can become a “math person” with the right support, tools and attitude. Instead of being the tool that you rely on, Woot shows you the tools to use as you become an independent learner.
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What do you love doing in your spare time?

I love adventuring in the outdoors with my 5 year old Husky-mix, Sterling, and cooking delicious food for my friends and loved ones. Recently, I have also really taken to gardening. Nothing beets (oh, I like puns too) the feeling of a home grown meal.
Jeff Bush with his dog Sterling
Jeff has a Bachelors of Arts from Bowdoin College in Environmental Studies and Geology and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado. When he finds some time to himself, Jeff enjoys baking bread, adventuring in the mountains, and trail running with his 5 year old Husky mix, Sterling.

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Back-to-School Tips for Parents

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image of Pencil and paper
Jenny Ward

Jenny Ward

Woot Math Content Manager

Back-to-School Tips for Parents

The summer is flying by and before you know it school will be back in full swing.

As a mom of four kids ranging in age from kindergarten to middle school, the start of each school year brings a lot of changes to our household. With these changes come a mix of emotions; excitement is met with a bit of anxiety. We will relish these last few weeks of summer and then jump into back-to-school mode. I’d love to share a few tips and tricks we implement to make a smoother transition back to school.

Top 5 tips for back-to-school:

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Convey Confidence & Enthusiasm

Making sure children feel confident and excited about returning to school is one of the most important things parents can do to help their child. The enthusiasm we project sets the tone for their attitude. Many kids find the newness of each year to be a little intimidating. Remind your child of things that went well last year. From special times with friends to the awesome teachers they’ll soon see, encourage them to think about all the things they have to look forward to doing again.

Most importantly, tell your child how proud you are of them. Let them know that you believe this could be their most successful year yet!

If your student hit a rough patch last year, remind them that this is a new year and a fresh start. They will likely have a new teacher with new classmates which can change the entire classroom dynamic and learning environment. If your student struggled academically, now can be a great time to review those topics and skills so they start the school year feeling confident. Most importantly, tell your child how proud you are of them. Let them know that you believe this could be their most successful year yet!

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Collaborate On a Plan

It is empowering for kids to have a say in their day-to-day routines and schedule and there are few things better to promote buy-in from the whole family. Start off the new school year with a plan that you and your child create together. Encourage your child to think about how they will structure their after-school time. What activities do they want to participate in, and how will that impact their schedule? It’s important to help your child think through their workload when making this plan, especially as they get older and have more homework demands. Are there any new activities or clubs they want to check out? Is it realistic to be involved in two sports and three clubs? How much time will be needed for homework, and when will it be completed? If your student’s homework load is minimal, encourage them to use the “homework time” to read about something they are curious about, a fun book picked at the library. It can be a time to write and reflect, or even practice their math facts. The point is to carve out a consistent time for intentional learning.

Another fun way to get your child excited to go back to school is going school supply shopping. What kid is not excited to get new supplies? I also have found that supply lists can give terrific insight into the work ahead, and like to use them to talk about how they might be used with my kids. My kids love to write and draw so we often talk about what each composition notebook will hold. I can remember transitioning to high school and wondering how to use a compass and protractor in Geometry or how to navigate a graphing calculator. These tools can take some practice, so playing around and figuring things out before school starts can be helpful.

If your student will be going to a new school, plan to take a tour before school starts to help them feel more at ease on the first day of school. Many schools host a teacher meet and greet or back to school night before school starts which is another great opportunity for you and your student to meet their new teachers and get familiarized with the school and checkout their new classrooms, lockers, lunchroom, gym and more. This provided so much comfort to my oldest when she went off to middle school last year. Learning how to open a locker for the first time can be tricky. Navigating big hallways to get to classes on opposite sides of the building in short passing periods is also an intimidating task. So I strongly encourage practicing these skills before school starts for a much smoother transition to school.

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Restart a Daily Routine

Often during the summer we slip into a different, more relaxed routine with later bedtimes. My older kids shift the most often staying up past their normal bedtime and then sleeping late into the morning. To get back on track, I start a school-schedule with regular bedtimes and regular wake up times a couple weeks before school starts. It is probably the most important thing I do to help ease the stress of returning to school. This year, I am also going to have us practice their whole routine a few days before school starts. From picking out clothes and setting their alarm the night before to waking up and completing their morning ritual, getting in the car and heading to the bus stop.

It is not only important to consider the morning routine but also the flow of the after school schedule. Most kids need a little time to decompress after a long day of learning. Providing a healthy snack and then some time to get outside or do something active can be a great way to move into this part of the day. Once they have a bit of time to get some energy out, kids are more able to settle down to focus on homework.

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Celebrate Week 1

The first week back to school can be filled with lots of emotions and sometimes challenges. Engage with your child and celebrate the victories of the week! Here are a few questions you might consider asking your child this week:
  • Was there anything that surprised them?
  • What are they most looking forward to?
  • What challenges do they think they might face this year? Process with your child ways they might be able to overcome these challenges.
  • Did they meet any new friends?
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Weekly Check-in

Weekly check-ins are important for all ages, but it can be challenging getting some children to open up and chat about things as they get older. I know my middle school-age daughter would prefer alone time in her room instead of talking to me about every detail of her day, so sometimes it requires more effort to find out what is going on in their world. However, bedtime can be a great time to check-in and spend a little one-on-one time hearing about their day or how things are going with friends. You can inquire about the best and worst parts of their day or week. How is their homework load? Do they feel they have a good routine going? Finding a time that works for each of my kids, whether over a shared dinner or at bedtime, helps us stay connected during the school year!

I hope these tips help you prepare, and I wish you and your family a terrific new school year.

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What is Executive Function, and Why Should Every Parent Care?

Image of Light Bulb inside a head
Image of Light Bulb inside a head
Cindy Goldrich

Cindy Goldrich

Woot Tutor Coach

What is Executive Function, and Why Should Every Parent Care?

As parents, we want nothing more than for our children to reach their potential and thrive in the world.

Fortunately, science now helps us understand what gets in the way of some people being able to achieve their goals, large and small. You may have heard the term “Executive Function.” It is part of the brain located in the prefrontal cortex, and it is the last part of the brain to develop. Executive Functions are the cognitive skills that give us the ability to focus, plan, and act in a goal-directed manner — and current research shows that these functions are responsible for how effective we are at managing ourselves.

Diagram of Executive Functions

While children are young – it is generally the parents and teachers who act as the CEO of the brain. Our goal is that as our children develop and mature, they gradually become their own CEO’s.

I like to think of each of the Executive Functions as being a manager, and the overall manager is the CEO, Chief Executive Officer, of the brain captured in table below. I am going to describe what our Executive Functions are briefly, and you will see why being weak in a particular area can impact performance, regardless of how intelligent and motivated, we are.

MANAGERS – SKILLS THAT HELPS YOU DO WANT YOU DECIDE TO DO

Initiation/
Activation

These are the skills needed to get started on a task without undue procrastination. For example: get ready for school, start homework, begin a project.

Working Memory

Working memory is the “mental workspace” where we temporarily store, retain, and manipulate information. It requires the ability to use the brain’s “search engine” to hold on to and manipulate new information, while the brain figures out if it can connect this information to more long-term storage.

Self-Monitoring

Self-monitoring involves being able to use self-talk to monitor and regulate one's behavior, as well as to direct future actions. Using self-talk is a vital component involved in planning and problem-solving.

Effort

This is the ability to stay alert, engaged, and respond to a stimulus in a timely manner. Impairments in processing speed can affect a student’s ability to read, complete math problems, listen and take notes, make decisions, and participate in group discussions.

Attention

These are the skills related to controlling who and what you are paying attention to, staying on topic, filtering out other thoughts and ideas, and moving on from one activity to another as is appropriate.

Planning and Organization

These are the skills that involve setting a goal and creating a strategy to meet that goal. Planning for a future event requires forethought, estimation, and problem-solving

Emotion Regulation

Emotion regulation is the ability to understand and accept your emotional experience, to manage your emotions, and to respond with behavior that is appropriate in that moment. In the school environment, students must engage in emotion regulation on a daily basis. For example, they need to manage how they react to disappointing grades, struggles with their peers, and expectations that they may find frustrating, boring, or too challenging.

When we think about each of these Executive Functions as skills, then we realize that some kids need more direct instruction and support to develop confidence and proficiency. Understanding what Executive Functions are and how they impact learning, motivation, and behavior are the first step parents need to take knowing how to best support their child’s development.

At Woot Tutor, we believe it is essential that all children learn about their brains so that they can become their own best managers.

Note: If you have a child who seems to be struggling in many of these areas more than would seem expected for their age, you may want to seek an evaluation from a professional to see if ADHD or learning challenges are impacting their ability to perform

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Meet Our Tutors: Ms. Diana

Meet Our Tutors: Diana

Meet Our Tutors: Ms. Diana

Diana is a high school math teacher with a passion for differentiating and connecting with all students. Her goal in life is to create "ah-ha!" moments for students.

She has been teaching for four years, with experience as a middle school teacher and she has worked closely with kids with wide ranging special needs. She has been a tutor for six years and is dedicated to every clients overall academic success.

We asked Diana to answer a few questions, so that you can get to know her a little bit.a

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When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?

I knew I wanted to become a teacher when I was sixteen years old. I had always loved school and loved to learn. I would form study groups with friends and I realized that teaching is the best way to learn.
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Tell us about a teacher that believed in you and made a difference in your life?

I worked with the same math tutor from seventh grade to twelfth grade. He changed my understanding of what it meant to be a hard worker. He sat with me for hours until I understood a concept. He would allow me to explore and ask questions and he always had a clear answer. He taught me that patience and a clean piece of paper is crucial for success in mathematics.

He taught me that patience and a clean piece of paper is crucial for success in mathematics.

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What’s your favourite thing about online tutoring?

Online tutoring allows me to connect with clients no matter where they are. This brings ease and convenience to the clients. I love to connect ideas using the multitude of tools on the platform. Woot Tutor makes it easy to make true mathematical connections and successes for students!
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Why did you become a Woot Tutor?

I became a Woot Teacher because I love the opportunity to grow my tutoring experience and connect with students regardless of their location. Also, the tools the platform provides are exciting, I am able to have students use multiple representations such as tables, text and writing.
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What do you love about the Woot program?

Once again, the technology allows for deeper discussion and exploration of the content. The Woot Program takes everything I love about tutoring – personal connection, coaching, and student centered learning – and allows me and the client to connect anywhere! This is a very powerful platform because it gives flexibility in what is usually a rigid schedule. When working with families, things come up and they need to reschedule. Using the Woot Tutor program makes rescheduling a breeze!
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What do you love doing in your spare time?

Traveling the world and cooking are my two passions outside of teaching. I love bringing people together with food.
photo of Diana Rapp
Diana has a B.A. from the University of Colorado Boulder in Mathematics and Education and a M.A. in Mathematics Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado Boulder. Diana is a charismatic people person who loves to cook for friends and travel the world.

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