Tutor Talk

Words of wisdom, advice and true confessions from Applerouth’s professional tutors.

Ian Harkins, Premium Tutor
New York Market

“After being an SAT tutor for 2 years, I have a deep, dark secret I think it’s time to share — I hate maths. My brain just has never worked like that. It’s never come easily to me. I love hearing about the cool ways to apply it to the real world, or what an equation’s implications are for theoretical physics, perhaps. But as for sitting down and doing out a problem, it’s like I have a brick wall falling down on top of my brain. And I hear time and time again the same thing from my students. So, I’d like to take some time to address that.

If you are like me, and are intimidated by standardized maths tests, be it the SAT, the subject tests 1 or 2, the ACT, or any others, I promise you that you can turn that around and come to love those sections. Your comfort level with mathematics can have NO bearing on how you do in those sections. Why? Because the College Board is lying to you. The math section should almost not be named to math section. It would be more accurate to call it the “Read-directions-use-your-graphing-calculator-and-solve-puzzles” section. They may not use any math that you have learned past Algebra II, what students normally cover in 9th grade. You do not need to practice doing mathematics equations. You can rather practice doing Mastermind or number riddles, and it would perhaps prepare you better for that test. You can tackle any maths problem by learning how to take the maths out of it. For example, if you come up against an algebra problem, plug in a number, and go to town with it on your calculator (hey, they let you have it, why not use it). If you hit a geometry problem, draw a picture, and do it out that way.

So maybe you think you should take the level 1 maths instead of the level 2 subject test, or you’re leaning towards the ACT instead of the SAT because the problems are harder in the SAT. I’m saying, with some practice so that you can get used to the formats of the questions, you can fly through these problems once you perfect tactics that work for you. Don’t be scared by them. They’re all simple maths problems disguised in difficult looking questions. The only challenge is knowing how to unravel them. And that’s something I can do with my hopeless grasp of maths.”


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