Tag Archives: learning

Use Your Math Intuition | TutorNerds

Classroom parties are always a good time. Snacks, laughs, games, maybe even an unexpected educational moment or two. But how come everyone secretly can’t wait for it to end? Maybe it’s because there’s a whole lot of jellybeans at stake. The curiosity in the back of the classroom, a large mason jar filled with candy, has drawn more attention than Mr. Ludlow’s embarrassing dance moves.

“Closest Guess to Actual Amount Wins Candy,” reads the paper, crudely held on to the jar by two strips of scotch tape. Fair enough, I could guess that. Let’s see – from what I can count, there’s at least a hundred and fifty. A respectable strategy. After all, counting is one of the staples of mathematics. Mr. Ludlow would be proud. So how come, after hours of painstaking anticipation, it’s revealed that my guess was 335 jellybeans shy of a victory? And how come Jonas, who merely glanced at the jar, guessed five over? He doesn’t even like Jelly Beans.


There’s three answers that come to mind: Jonas thought about the numbers intuitively, Jonas was lucky, Jonas cheated. Only the first one is relevant to learning, so let’s discuss. In Annie Murphy Paul’s article, How Guessing Games Help Kids Solve Math Problems this phenomenon of intuitive thinking is now being supported by science. In her words,

“a new study suggests that by playing games that involve quickly guessing how many items are in a group of objects, children can help themselves become better at traditional math problems.”

What the article calls “an intuitive sense of numbers” can be of great benefit to a student. In detail, intuition creates a personal connection to numbers  basic counting fails to do. Instead of approaching a difficult math problem as foreign, a student may now feel familiar with the units on the paper, and have a sense of familiarity with the problem. As a result, the student can answer the question faster and with more accuracy. Paul’s article draws on many studies to support these claims:

“Other research has shown that children who are better at intuitive number tasks also have higher math grades and perform better on math tests—but Hyde’s study first to provide a causal link. Their research shows that practice on intuitive number tasks actually causes better math performance in children.”

From an educator’s standpoint, it’s an important skill that’s easily practiced. Tutors, teachers, and parents can support this way of thinking by simply asking, “how many so-and-so’s do you think are in there?” Once the student begins using intuition to sense numbers, he or she, with practice, will begin to do so with accuracy.


Here at TutorNerds, we are committed to giving you an advantage. Whether you’re seeking help in Pre-Algebra,  Statistics, etc. our process of matching you with the right tutor is the first step to mathematical success. If you are concerned your intuitive sense of numbers isn’t what it should be, what better way to improve than a professional tutor, at your convenience, working directly with you? Read more about how we operate here.

Back to the mason jar. Turns out Jonas had a great tutor growing up.  Thanks to years of guessing, “how many so-and-so’s? ” His intuition for numbers is strong. More importantly, Jonas has higher math scores to compliment his pockets full of jellybeans.

Energy Drinks and Children: Should They Be “Wired?” | TutorNerds

Energy Shortcuts

Life is busy; as adults we know this all too well. While there are natural ways to fight stress and gain energy, many of us take short cuts. Recently, that popular choice became energy drinks. Adults understand they come with possible side effects, but age and maturity help to make an informed decision. For children, this thought process isn’t there. Energy drinks (Monster, Red Bull and Rockstar to name a few) are technically safe, but what harm is really being done to younger people, and are the negative side effects worth it?

The HillAny adult can tell you caffeine affects people differently. Dr. Marcie Schneider, a physician in adolescent medicine, expands this idea to children: “For some people, caffeine enhances their moods. For others it makes it worse. For kids who have some anxiety . . . caffeine can really increase [it].”1 to the mix is only asking for trouble. Additionally, she adds that since caffeine is a stimulant, it could cause a change in appetite. Adolescents tend to grow rapidly, so a significant increase or decrease in appetite could cause unhealthy weight gain or loss. Registered dietitian Ann Condon-Meyers reminds parents, “When you have a kid who is drinking more than one sugary drink a day, it’s a set-up for obesity.” As caffeine is addictive, children are being set up to fail; they’ll require more stimulants to get through the day, while increasing their sugar intake. (Read: 10 energy drink dangers)

Sleepless in Los Angeles

Another side effect of caffeine is sleep; specifically, a lack of it. Parents of adolescents
know how important sleep is to their health. However, caffeine is inherently known to cause sleeplessness, which as Dr. Matthew Keefer explains, will only make things worse. “They probably need a good 8 plus or 10 hours a night and teenagers as whole tend to get a lot less sleep. Many use caffeine to stay awake, and using a drug to make up for a deficit isn’t good.” Again, creating a cycle of dependency at such a young age is anything but helpful. As adults we should know better, but as children they could be making themselves vulnerable to complications down the road.

So should we ban the sale of energy drinks to children? Probably not, but as educators we want them to understand there are better ways to feel energized. Caffeine is a drug and caution should be advised when using it, no matter your age. At the end of the day, everyone could benefit from trying a more natural approach to improving their energy. A quick search will leave you with tons of options, but my favorites are the simplest: exercise often, kick junk food to the curb, and drink water like a fish. The next time your kid reaches for an energy drink, make a pledge to ditch the shortcuts and work on living healthier lives, together. Children may not understand the anxiety they have, and adding an energy drink

1 Cox, Lauren. “5 Experts Answer: Is Caffeine Bad for Kids?” LiveScience. Web. 23 Feb. 2012

Let’s “TED” Talk About It

Overwhelming Information

You’d have to look to the cosmos to find a metaphor for the seemingly unending amount of available information these days. Links, essays, videos, etc. stretched out like stars in the infinite space we call the web. In short, it’s overwhelming. With this wealth of knowledge comes uncertainty. It doesn’t take much searching to find the world is constantly jeopardized by problems; problems on a macro, micro, internal, external, you name it scale. So, how do we find motivation? How do we stay optimistic when it’s so easy to be scared?

ted-talks-tutornerdsWhat it comes down to, in my opinion, is inspiration. Equally infinite as information, inspiration can come from nearly anywhere. Music, movies, paintings, nature, teachers, tutors, even something as simple as a good laugh. The question I want to ask here is, how do we use the internet for inspiration?

1,600+ talks to stir your curiosity

TED works as a  platform for the greatest thinkers our world has to offer to describe, both poetically and scientifically, what excites them. A teacher’s dream come true; TED educates, illuminates, and most important of all, motivates. Suddenly, students are even  sharing their favorite TED videos on Facebook. Further, the expansive amount of topics the talks cover allows for nearly anyone to find a video that excites their curiosity.

To better understand the inspirational qualities of TED talks, allow me to give an example. It was the fall semester of my junior year in college. To fulfill my obligatory ‘Integrative Studies in Social Sciences’ credits, I enrolled in a ‘People and Environment’ course. The professor was an immensely curious, vehement speaker. His southern charm clashed with what he called our, “reserved Mid-West sensibilities.” What amazed me most about him, was his ability to remain so incredibly optimistic despite his vast knowledge of the world’s problems.

Every class we learned the painful realities our world faces in context to our destruction of the planet. Each new area of the world we explored, came with its seemingly never ending list of problems. To be honest, I was terrified. So how come this educator, who knew, in even greater detail, the perils of the planet, seemed so excited and content? The answer, to put it frankly, was his ability to turn inspiration into motivation.

He ended his classes on a positive note, and nearly always, with a TED video. For instance, one day we learned all about Brazil’s infrastructure problems, and how a country that large could potentially have a carbon footprint the size of Paul Bunyan’s boot if everyone started to drive. The hour long class was enough to fill me with anxieties of Brazil’s, and the world’s, future, but the final eighteen minute TED talk was more than enough to ease the worries. The speaker, a Brazilian city planner, used blueprints, paintings, and words to reveal his home wasn’t doomed to poor planing. In fact, Brazil was in a unique position to learn from other countries’ mistakes, and pioneer an environmentally friendly public transportation network.

tutornerds-ted-talkDid the speaker explain everything? Of course not. Due to time limitations, he had no choice but to gloss it up a bit. The point still got across, and a classroom of once anxious students turned into curious optimists. When I got back to my apartment, I researched everything I could about city-planning, green-public transportation, and Brazil. These were topics I’d never be curious about on my own. And there lies the beauty of platforms such as TED. On their own, they fall short of fully educating. In fact, recent articles have been slamming the site for its sometimes fluffy content. Isn’t that a positive consequence? The most beautiful  thing a student can do as a result of a TED talk is question it. In addition, there are many other websites – for example, Edge.org – that talk about these hypothesis and theories in much more detail. It’s a great jumping-off point for tutors and educators to get a student curious.

That being said, TED talks, and similar educational venues, do not replace educators, but, in fact, complement them – that is, if the educator doesn’t rely on the videos to teach the class for them. So, I leave it to you. What are your opinions on TED and other such website? Do you think they dumb-down highbrow topics, or inspire viewers to explore further on their own? What would you give a TED talk about?

For more information on future TED talks in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County, click here.

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