December 5, 2018

Harvard Bound: One Student's Passion

During a private tutoring session, one of my middle schoolers made a public service announcement: he's going to Harvard! This announcement was actually posed as a question initially. We were developing an approach for a math project when he asked if I thought he could get into Harvard. Usually, off-topic questions are tabled until the end of sessions since our time together is limited. One pitfall of being a business owner is the temptation to focus on the business and not on the people, to value outcomes over individuals. This time, the decision was easy.

 Harvard Bound: One Student's Passion (math project)

It was how the student posed the question that prompted me to shift gears from tutoring to coaching. He was apprehensive, hesitant... as if attending Harvard was this far fetched notion for a young black man from Mississippi. I can't say the student's mindset was surprising. There are so few opportunities for young people to learn about academic pioneers in the black community. The fruits of HBCU's (historically black colleges and universities), prominent civil rights activists, and sports icons are more widely acknowledged than Ivy League Black History and today's Ivy League Black Reality.

I aim for two outcomes for each client - preK, K-12, adult populations, parents, and educators. I aim to help clients increase confidence and improve performance. My instinct, after hearing the way this student questioned the possibilities for his life, was to seize the opportunity to affirm his ability to not only attend, to graduate from Harvard University. In that moment, I decided that nurturing confidence in his ability to make this dream a reality weighed significantly more than making the grade in math.

 Harvard Bound: One Student's Passion (chemistry unit project)

What's more, choosing the person over the outcome continues to pay dividends to this day. The student earned an A on the math project by following the plan that we developed together when he returned to school. More recently, he scored 110 as a science test grade on a chemistry unit project. There's no doubt his confidence is manifesting as out-of-the-box ideas and above-average execution of course requirements.

We don't want his growth to stop here. During the holiday break, we're going to spend time researching the life stories of Black Harvard and Ivy League graduates from Mississippi and around the world. Between the lines of his innocent question lies an opening to making reading and research both relevant and meaningful.

During my Character and Content training for educators, we emphasize the value of the words we choose. We discuss the importance of language, how the language of our self talk becomes our actions, how our questioning techniques influence student self talk. You're invited to schedule an in-person or virtual training; options for educators and parents available. 

Cultivating Grit: An approach to increasing confidence is a tool for exploring this concept as well. Learn more by visiting the website:

November 7, 2018

Couponing for a Cause: Improving math skill with real world experiences

Before we begin this post, I have to make a confession: prior to writing couponing blogs and becoming a stay-at-home mom (now a homeschooling mom as well), I was a math teacher. A middle school math teacher. Yes. I know... quite terrifying. And you know what? I loved it.

Instagram: @crazyshoppingcart

Teaching math is my passion. It's so much a part of me, that when I began taking advantage of couponing deals, all I could think about was how valuable the experience would've been for my middle school students during my teaching days. You see, couponing hacks are all rooted in math. 

If you want to learn more about how to coupon, check out my FREE ebook that offers couponing basics for beginners. This couponing guide teaches readers how to invest 20 minutes a week and save hundreds of dollars a year on groceries. 

Below are six reasons it's worth the effort for math teachers to join the couponing community.

Ratios, proportions, and unit price may all be written as fractions. In order to solve these kinds of problems (during a test and in the real world), we need to have a basic understanding of the properties of fractions. This can be challenging for many students, because understanding fractions requires us to generate a mental model of fractions operations. If fractions is a pain point for the students in your life, make fractions operations  more tangible through couponing.

Adding and Subtracting Decimals
When working with money, two places after the decimal represent cents (a fraction of a dollar). If an item costs $1.99, and the coupon takes off $1, it doesn’t make sense that the item would now cost $1.98. Lining up the decimal places when you add and subtract makes a lot more sense when you do it with money!

Unit Conversions
Couponing requires understanding of unit price. When you are trying to find unit price, items price labels may show different measurements. For instance, one bottle of soda gives volume in ounces but another shows volume in liters. In this case, couponers (and students) need to tap into their math skills to convert between the two units. A different example of unit conversions involves tripling the serving size of a recipe. Instead of purchasing 21 Tbsp of a grocery item, it may be necessary to convert this amount into cups.

A coupon or sale may provide for a certain percentage off the price of a certain item. Couponing teaching learners to calculate discounts in this way: students learn how to determine the resulting price after taking 25% off a certain amount. Why use percentages worksheets, when couponing gives real world experiences? Would you learn more from percentages word problems or saving cold hard cash in real life? Calculating discounts and sales tax are opportunities to solve multi-step mixed operations with whole numbers and decimal numbers.

Ratios, Proportions, and Unit Price
As couponers, we're always after the best deal. If six rolls of toilet paper cost $3, and eight rolls of toilet paper cost $3.50, which is the better deal? You have to brake it down into how much one roll costs with each deal. This involves using proportions to find the rate in price per roll, which is the unit price.

Greater than, less than, or equal to
An app called Flipp scans grocery stores near you. Searching the app shows the cost of grapes at different stores, for example. This feature of the app provides an opportunity to defend decisions about which store has the best deal. This approach is especially useful for comparing decimals.

 Facebook: @thecrazycart

There are many ways that coupons can help children master math standards; these are six important approaches to improving math skill with real world experiences. If you have other ideas, or you just want to share how you were able to use these tips, I would love to hear about them. 

Tiffany Thomas is a former math teacher and SAHM who loves finding good deals! She and her husband launched The Crazy Shopping Cart. They enjoy spending time with family, geeking out over sci-fi, and saving money.

October 3, 2018

3 Questions to Answer before Hiring a Tutor

Few experiences are more exciting to me than providing the convenience and flexibility that my private tutoring clients enjoy. If this sounds boring to you, it's because I didn't mention the light bulb moments - wide-eyed prayers, clutched pearls, breaths of relief, and glowing smiles of accomplishment. Empowering clients with the knowledge and confidence to take on new challenges and demonstrate mastery is a skill set found only among the best tutors. This begins with advocating for strong home-school partnerships and taking massive action to bridge gaps - gaps in achievement, gaps in communication, and resource gaps.

Helping families partner with educators
Homework time and parent-teacher conferences are opportunities to identify gaps before they become potholes. We know that building strong home-school partnerships (not to be confused with homeschooling) is key to ensuring learners don't fall through the cracks. As learners age, historical patterns in parental engagement data tell us that participation drops significantly after elementary school. This is a challenging epidemic for educators and parents and family members to outrun when you're feeling overwhelmed and haven't taken a class in years. You know it's time to find a tutor.

If you're on the fence about tutoring, consider these questions.

  1. Are double shifts or school commitments preventing you from being involved?
  2. Are concerns about student performance snowballing?
  3. Are you struggling to cope with a learning disability?

No one has to know how you answered these questions. It's only important that you're honest with yourself and your needs (and your child's needs). I'm speaking to the parent or adult learner who typed 'tutor near me' in Google search and scrolled through pages of private tutors and tutoring agencies either without taking action or without finding a suitable tutor. Keep reading if you want to hire the best tutor the first time (or next time).

Whether math tutor, English tutor, chemistry tutor, reading tutor, or writing tutor, the best tutors and tutoring companies are committed to meeting your needs. Expert private tutors ensure the quality of service you receive reflects this commitment to meeting your needs (not the other way around).

National Tutoring Week is October 1 - 5, 2018.
Watch the video below to be the first to win one of four

It's time to find a tutor. Ask yourself these three questions.

1. Is the tutor certified by the National Tutoring Association (NTA)?

If the tutor isn't certified by NTA, does the professional have training and practical experiences that back up their claims to be an expert? What about referrals?

Many educators, professionals, and students tutor on the side to earn extra income. A teacher's license is different than tutor certification in the same way that a personal trainer's skill set is different than that of a team coach. Teachers and tutors are equipped to provide different experiences; the distinction is based on experience providing both kinds of learning experiences.

Though undoubtedly beneficial, learners who excel in whole class learning environments and require temporary support to tackle setbacks may not require the services of a certified/trained tutor; this type of student makes A's and B's most of the time. The imperative phrase is 'may not require'; still, some concepts may need to be taught by a certified tutor to achieve mastery. What's more, staying ahead often calls for the support of a professional as well.

On the other hand, learners with poor performance records benefit most from working one-on-one with a trained and experienced private tutor. For this second type of student, assessment data translates to D's and F's on a traditional grading scale. Moving forward without a private tutor may be likened to building a home on unstable foundation: at some point the home will no longer be able to serve its full purpose without intervention. Unfortunately in a classroom setting, intervention usually equates to missed seat time or instruction. Students receive remedial instruction instead of sitting through currently relevant instruction, which is a double-edged sword that makes tutoring the preferred alternative.

2. Does the tutor offer added value as part of the return on your investment?

Tutors step in when parents and family are unable to help with homework. The best tutors are not only experts in a particular subject area, they're also invested in tutee success. This commitment to the process manifests as quality service: providing timely feedback and flexible communication options, serving as a school parent liaison, engaging learners with creative activities, personalizing instruction, and tracking performance data.

Effective tutors also help learners reinforce instruction provided during tutoring sessions through planning. They prepare materials in advance or help students refine classroom notes in a way that extend learning beyond one-on-one experiences, beyond in-person and online tutoring. Expert private tutors look ahead and anticipate upcoming challenges using classroom correspondence.

You probably didn't know that the best tutors communicate with classroom educators and interpret performance data (e.g., graded papers, score reports) to personalize learning experiences. Hiring a tutor is like having a personal assistant; if your tutor doesn't make your life easier, it may be time to type 'tutors near me' into Google search again.

3. Are you ready to commit to the tutoring process?

If your tutor doesn't seek first to understand your unique challenges and goals, consider it a red flag. If your tutor doesn't personalize a learning plan to get you from where you are to mastery, consider this a red flag. If your tutor doesn't ask for performance data before meeting or during the initial tutoring session as well as periodically during the business relationship, consider this a red flag. If your tutor makes the grade, prepare to commit to the tutoring process.

Commitment looks different to different tutors and tutees. My clients who experience success consistently do these three things: communicate scheduling needs in a timely manner, volunteer performance data regularly, and complete reinforcement activities (or homework from tutoring sessions). You're ready to work with an expert private tutor if you're willing to make time to meet these expectations.

If you apply the advice shared in this post to your tutor search, then the expert you decide to work with will usher you into more challenging environments with ease.

I'm excited to highlight that I am National Tutoring Association certified, hold a Master's in Education, and held a teaching license during my time in the secondary science classroom.

My firm, Jackson Education Support is the only education firm in Mississippi where you can find a nationally certified tutor. This sets us apart.

We're eager to train tutors interested in joining the community. Don't let geography keep you from reaching out. You're invited to take advantage of online and in-person tutoring and training solutions.