March 5, 2012
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Do you have a mental block trying to learn math?  After the classroom teacher gives you an explanation that seems simple, do you try to solve a problem and get stuck not knowing what step to take next? Do you study many long hours, and still not understand the subject? 

I am a Math anxiety tutor and I specialize in helping students who have learning difficulties with the subject.  I first find out what their particular misunderstandings are, then I’ll form a lesson plan individually for each of their needs.  I ask leading questions to guide students into the correct answers. I teach online, using video streaming in the privacy and comfort of each of the students’ homes so I can help them relax to overcome mental blocks.  .

Have teachers, other tutors or classmates, you’ve talked to, not been able to help?

           Most teachers, acquaintances, parents, who are good at math often assume it’s as easy for students as it is for themselves because they’re unable to put themselves in their position.  But I can patiently relate to them.  In preparing a lesson, I blank out whatever I know about the topic, from my mind, and I  read over the textbook word-by-word to myself.  Afterword I can explain the subject in basic words that students easily understand..

         Do others imply that you’re unintelligent because you can’t learn Math?  Do their comments make learning the subject even more difficult?

          I recall when I’d taken an undergraduate engineering course, myself, one time when I didn’t understand a word in an entire chapter.  I felt berated then, like any of my new students do today.  I teach them the same technique in blocking out critics’ offensive comments as I’d used myself.

Are you unmotivated to study Math because you think you won’t need it anywhere in life?  Does it seem you’ll only have to pass the course, then afterward you’ll completely forget about it? 

          Math includes something far more important than just manipulating numbers.  Math involves reasoning and organization of thought which can be helpful in almost everything you do.  When you make any small or large decision, will you be making them only on how the situation appears or sounds? Or will you also make a point-by-point cost/benefit analysis?  Math can be the most vital subject you take, even if you were to major in art!

See sample lesson on page 3


One evening several years ago, I visited an acquaintance whose granddaughter Amy sat at the kitchen table doing algebra homework.   I noticed that she had a gloomy expression as if she might cry, obviously because she’d been struggling with the assignment.  Having used math for years, I knew the subject well.  I had no direct background in teaching, but I’d had complicated communication experience, explaining legal concepts to jury members who mostly had no previous courtroom knowledge.   Also I could speak in terms a teenager could understand.  My helping the acquaintance’s granddaughter worked so well, when I told her I’d come back and give her another  lesson, she asked me if she could also invite a couple of her girlfriends.  Afterward, each girlfriend also had another friend who needed help in Math and although I’d intended to remain retired,  at the age of 62, I soon had a new occupation.

As a tutor I found that explaining problem solutions to confused students was more challenging than the highly technical legal and mechanical difficulties I’d resolved in my previous careers.   The frustration troubled students feel when they try to learn and don’t can be worse  than the anxiety caused by not getting good grades.  They may feel it would be better to drop the course rather than frustrate themselves further.  Teaching them requires more than just a clear explanation of Math.

When I first meet a new student, I’ll establish a rapport with him.  I tell him/her that even though he may not learn Math quickly, he’s probably good at many things people who criticize him can’t do well.  Also, it’s not necessary to learn Math quickly, it’s important to learn it thoroughly.  Some students, who got the best final grades, had marks near the bottom of the class at the start of the semester.  A person is not credited as much by how he accomplished something in life, as he is by the fact that he did it.  Etc.


“Math,” sounds intellectual to students.  It’s something mystifying that they can’t picture in their minds, a subject that they think must be hard.  Just .hearing or reading the name of the subject indimidates them.   In my first lesson with troubled students, I tell them I’m actually not going to teach Math.  I tell them for the moment to forget everything they’ve heard about the subject.  I’m going to teach them Arithmetic.  That’s something any little kid can do, such as working puzzles with numbers. I have an easy step-by-step, detailed procedure for each topic, and I give them printed copies so they can focus on them without having to be distracted by taking notes.

I’ll ask a student write out a problem solution and explain to me what he’s doing for each step. When he makes a mistake I’ll ask him why he did it that particular way, and when he correctly completes a step, I’ll ask him why it can’t be done a different way.  Often I’ll ask the same question, in different words at a later time, and I’ll note any inconsistencies in his answers.  Then I’ll ask him to explain them if he can.   I’ll also look at all the classroom notes he’d taken, to be sure he’s noted the most important points emphatically.  If instead, his notes emphasize less important ones, I’ll ask him to tell me what he knows and I’ll explain the difference between it and what the pertinent rules are.

When I come to a topic which is mostly lecturing I’ll overcome any difficulty he may have concentrating, and I review fundamentals at the same time, by alternating my explanations with questions I ask him about previous concepts.  I use example problems which are simpler than those in the textbook..  My lessons are not at all intellectual.

To discuss the above matters further, go to my facebook page.  MathAnxietyTutor, or my e-mail:






SAMPLE LESSON  Temporarily missing.


Many teachers and students don’t prefer the above long method because it takes additional time.  I agree.  Use of the detailed method by beginning students, however, results in more correct answers.  After the students solve numerous problems with it and become confident, they usually use the short method.

I have concisely understandable explanations for all Math procedures, however when using them, students may still make mistakes by putting the quantities in the wrong place in the equations.   For instance, when solving algebra word problems they have to look up many times from their paper to the book and tediously search through many lines of details, and  they lose focus. To prevent this, I have them first make a sketch of the system, with pertinent equations, written directly on the parts of it they have to resolve, and then make a neatly compiled table of all the information.   Much of the work in problem solving, rather than being academic, is a matter of organization.


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