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Test Taking & Managing Anxiety

Posted on April 6, 2011 at 1:08 AM Comments comments (68)
Test Taking and Managing Anxiety

A certain level of anxiety is helpful as it inspires one to take action and study. However, too much anxiety can lead to avoidance behavior as one may procrastinate, or it may cause one too freeze during test time. This can lead to going “blank” during the test—all of a sudden your forget everything, perhaps you lose your ability to focus, your heart starts beating faster, and you become more panicked and flustered. You may find that you run out of time or are unable to complete problems you have already studied.
So, how can you cope with test anxiety?
1.    Adequate preparation.    

  • Waiting till the last minute creates feelings of being overwhelmed as there is too much information to be learned in too little time.    

  • So, break studying down into small chunks and prepare ahead of time.

~~>Study a little bit every day. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part, so commit to 15 minutes a day. You may find that once you get started, you will go over the 15 minutes.

~~>Try to see the bigger picture. Often, titles and highlighted words can key you into the big picture. Make connections to previous readings or notes.

~~> Create 5-7 key words that represent the material you learned and be able to verbally elaborate on each word/concept.

  • Get a tutor. They can help ease the burden of studying if you are too overwhelmed.
2.    Be kind to yourself.

  • Practice self-care.

~~> Practice deep breathing. Individuals tend to breathe shallowly or even hold their breath when feeling anxious. Sometimes they are not even aware of it. Shallow breathing limits your oxygen intake and adds more stress to your body, creating a vicious cycle. Breathing exercises can break this cycle. Set 15 minutes to practice breathing. You may be surprised how energizing or relaxing this could be. If you dismiss this suggestion, just notice and get curious about why.

Exercise 1        
~~> 1. Sit up straight and allow your feet to touch the ground.
2. Place one hand on your diaphragm and the other on your chest.
3. Take in a deep breathe in through your nose and exhale slowly though your mouth.
4. Inhale and exhale on a count of 5 and overtime try to work your way up to a count of 8.
5. Your hand should move out as your inhale and the hand on your chest should stay relatively still.
6. If you lose your concentration, just come back to your breath.
7. Do this for 15 minutes.
8. Notice your experience. Notice if this helps you feel more relaxed or nervous. If you become more anxious, notice where your mind went. Notice why an exercise that was meant to relax was anxiety provoking. Did you have judgements? Was it too boring? Waste of time? Just notice and keep practicing. Try this in the now or tomorrow morning!

Exercise 2                
~~> 1. Cover your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left.
2. With your index finger cover your left nostril and exhale through your right.
3. Then switch sides.
4.Practice this for at least 5 minutes. Try this now!

  • The importance of good posture cannot be overstated. While sitting, we tend to slouch, which compresses the diaphragm and other organs, resulting in shallow breathing. Slouching also strains muscles in the neck and back. It is helpful to sit in a chair with good back support to avoid fatigue that leads to slouching.
  • Get enough sleep. If you don’t there is no amount of coffee that will compensate for your lack of sleep. Also, research shows that sleep helps to solidify learning and memory.
  • . Talk to yourself as you would talk to a 4 year old. For example, you may have a big test coming up.  You might say something to yourself like “Off course I’m feeling nervous and overwhelmed. I have a huge test and have had several assignments and I’m feeling really tired.” If you can’t talk to yourself in this way, get curious about why not…

* Stop, breathe, smile, and go slowly!
Yasi Shamtoub, M.A.

Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Learners

Posted on January 19, 2011 at 3:36 AM Comments comments (202)

Individuals differ in their learning styles. Below you will find descriptions of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. However, remember that they are just categories and things are not always so cut and dry. Individuals can have a predominant learning style and yet display characteristics of the other learning styles.

Your learning style may be the single most important key to improving your grades.

Students learn in many ways, like seeing, hearing, and experiencing things first hand. But for most students, one of these methods stands out.
Why is this important? Research has shown that students can perform better on tests if they change study habits to fit their own personal learning styles.
For example, visual-learning students will sometimes struggle during essay exams, because they can't recall test material that was "heard" in a lecture.
However, if the visual learner uses a visual aid when studying, like a colorful outline of test materials, he or she may retain more information. For this type of learner, visual tools improve the ability to recall information more completely.
A simple explanation of learning styles is this: Some students remember best materials they've seen, some remember things they've heard, while others remember things they've experienced.

You may recognize your own style quickly, once you look over the characteristics. If any of the traits and characteristics below sound familiar, you may have identified your own style.

Visual Learner Characteristics

Visual learners are those who learn through seeing things. Look over the characteristics below to see if they sound familiar. A visual learner:

  • Is good at spelling but forgets names.
  • Needs quiet study time.
  • Has to think awhile before understanding lecture.
  • Is good at spelling.
  • Likes colors & fashion.
  • Dreams in color.
  • Understands/likes charts.
  • Is good with sign language.

Learning Suggestions for Visual Learners

  • Draw a map of events in history or draw scientific process.
  • Make outlines of everything!
  • Copy what's on the board.
  • Ask the teacher to diagram.
  • Diagram sentences!
  • Take notes, make lists.
  • Watch videos.
  • Color code words, research notes.
  • Outline reading.
  • Use flashcards.
  • Use highlighters, circle words, underline.

Best Test Type for Visual Learners:
Diagramming, reading maps, essays (if you've studied using an outline), showing a process
Worst test type:
Listen and respond tests

Auditory Learner Characteristics

Auditory learners are those who learn best through hearing things. Look over these traits to see if they sound familiar to you. You may be an auditory learner if you are someone who:

  • Likes to read to self out loud.
  • Is not afraid to speak in class.
  • Likes oral reports.
  • Is good at explaining.
  • Remembers names.
  • Notices sound effects in movies.
  • Enjoys music.
  • Is good at grammar and foreign language.
  • Reads slowly.
  • Follows spoken directions well.
  • Can't keep quiet for long periods.
  • Enjoys acting, being on stage.
  • Is good in study groups.

Auditory Learners Can Benefit from:

  • Using word association to remember facts and lines.
  • Recording lectures.
  • Watching videos.
  • Repeating facts with eyes closed.
  • Participating in group discussions.
  • Using audiotapes for language practice.
  • Taping notes after writing them.

Worst test type:
Reading passages and writing answers about them in a timed test.
Best test type:
Auditory Learners are good at writing responses to lectures they've heard. They're also good at oral exams.

Kinesthetic Learner Characteristics

Kinesthetic learners are those who learn through experiencing/doing things. Look over these traits to see if they sound familiar to you. You may be a kinesthetic learner if you are someone who:

  • Is good at sports.
  • Can't sit still for long.
  • Is not great at spelling.
  • Does not have great handwriting.
  • Likes science lab.
  • Studies with loud music on.
  • Likes adventure books, movies.
  • Likes role playing.
  • Takes breaks when studying.
  • Builds models.
  • Is involved in martial arts, dance.
  • Is fidgety during lectures.

Kinesthetic Learners Can Benefit from:

  • Studying in short blocks.
  • Taking lab classes.
  • Role playing.
  • Taking field trips, visiting museums.
  • Studying with others.
  • Using memory games.
  • Using flash cards to memorize.<.li>

Worst Test Type:
Long tests, essays.
Best Test Type:
Short definitions, fill-ins, multiple choice.

5 Healthy Ways to Improve Learning...

Posted on December 1, 2010 at 4:11 AM Comments comments (139)
5 Healthy Ways to Improve Learning, Memory, and Concentration
  1. Exercise: 
Do not underestimate the power of regular exercise. It helps increase oxygen to your brain and releases endorphins, which help reduce stress, improve mood, and enhance memory. Some studies have also shown that exercise may cause neurogenesis, which is the creation of new neurons. 
2.   Reduce Stress:
Long term stress produces a hormone called cortisol which can have damaging effects on the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
                                                      3. Sleep deficiency:
The sleep cycle allows your brain to rest and repair. Too little sleep causes us to be drowsy and have difficulty concentrating. Studies have also linked REM sleep with learning and memory. Researchers have found that REM sleep deprivation leads to poor performance on recall tests and logical tasks. Findings also demonstrate that memory loss occurs when sleep is deprived on the same night or two nights after the material has been learned. Studies with animals have shown that rats  exposed to learning tasks, spend more time in REM and also fall into REM sleep faster if they have more trials of the learning activities.
4.     Water: 
Drink 8 cups of water a day. Water helps to cleanse your system by washing out toxins and to also increase metabolism. It helps to increase energy and make your body work properly. The human body is made of 58-78% water depending on body size.  
  • Tiredness
  • Migraine
  • Constipation
  • Muscle cramps
  • Irregular blood-pressure
  • Kidney problems
  • Dry skin   
5.     Nutrition:
Studies have found that free radicals may be associated with poor brain function. Vitamins B, B6 , B12, and folic acid can protect neurons by breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid, that is toxic to nerve cells. These nutrients also help to produce red blood cells which help carry oxygen. Spinach and other dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, strawberries, melons, black beans and other legumes, citrus fruits, and soybeans are a good source for these nutrients.
Antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E as well as beta carotene fight free radicals which may damage cells. Antioxidants also help improve the blood flow to the brain and body. Foods that contain these antioxidants include: blueberries and other kinds of berries, sweet potatoes, red tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, green tea, nuts and seeds, citrus fruit and liver.
Omega 3 fatty acids are associated with cognitive function. They are considered "healthy fats" and can be found in foods such as: salmon, herring, tuna, halibut, mackerel, walnuts, walnut oil, flaxseed and flaxseed oil.
Yasi Shamtoub, M.A.        

How to Improve Memory

Posted on November 27, 2010 at 4:44 PM Comments comments (394)
How to Improve Memory
Memory formation can be divided into three phases: acquisition, storage, and retrieval.
Once something is encoded into memory, the memory remains stored. The problem is not that the memory is gone, but that the connection or retrieval path cannot be accessed. Think of memory as a city. The more routes and modes of transportation you have to this city, the easier it is to access this place. Once you have traveled this route, you are less likely to get lost on subsequent trips and no longer need to rely on directions and a map, especially regarding trips you have made recently and frequently. The city doesn't disappear! 
So the question becomes how can one learn information in a way that strengthens retrieval paths both in the short and long run. 
  1. Attention
  2. Repetition
  3. Spacing
  4. Generation
  5. Connection
  6. Understand/Organizing
E.g. Let’s say that I am at a party and someone introduces herself to me. Her name is Jasmine. I need to be attentive to learn this new information. If I am not attentive the information perhaps will not encode. Perhaps I am paying enough attention for it to encode but do not manipulate the information in any way. Thus, I cannot access her name from memory but when she restates her name, I experience an “oh yah” moment.
If I repeat her name in my head a few times, I will be more likely to remember her name, especially if I space the repetitions. What I mean by spacing is the amount of time that passes before I repeat her name again. If I retrieve/generate her name after 10 minutes, I had to work harder to retrieve that information than if I allow 2 minutes to pass.
Perhaps when I first meet her, I try to connect the information with other information I already know. For instance, I know Jasmine means flower and this person also happens to look like Princess Jasmine from the Disney cartoon Aladdin. Now I have connected this information to two other networks, which will also make the retrieval path stronger.
E.g. I am studying for a history exam. I am reading the chapter. When I am reading the information, I need to pay attention to it in order to encode it. After each paragraph, I might verbally summarize what I read. If I summarize from memory, I am generating the information, as well as repeating and organizing it. I may connect the information to a previous section or chapter thus increasing connections to other networks and forming multiple retrieval paths.
After I read the whole chapter, I might try to generate the information I read from memory. I may do this an hour later, five hours later, and two days later. Thus, I have not only had multiple repetitions, but I have also had experience generating the information.
However, if it is multiple choice test I may only need to recognize and be familiar with the information and multiple generations may not be useful or efficient. For an essay test, I would need to generate the information and thus multiple generations over time may be more useful.
Yasi Shamtoub, M.A.