Math Superstars Tutoring

albert-einstein.jpg"The mere formulation of a problem is far more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skills. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science."

-Albert Einstein



Tutoring Tuition

Rates:

  • 4 classes - $100.00
  • 8 classes - $175.00

Additional sibling discount:

  • 4 classes -  $75.00
  • 8 classes - $150.00

Tutoring Dates and Times:

Monday class     3:30pm - 4:15pm

Wednesday class:  3:30pm - 4:15pm

Discovery Playground's Math Superstar tutor program is designed specifically for children in Kindergarten through 5th Grade.

Class Requirements

Your child should already be familiar with using the mouse and keyboard.

Your child must display attentional skills appropriate for a classroom environment.

Your child must be performing at grade level or better in all subjects to get the most from this class.

Discovery Playground's Math Superstars tutorial program implements a unique combination of using computers and basic math fundamentals to teach your child how to truly become a Math Superstar.

 


 

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We've got a real problem with math education right now.

Many learning math think it's disconnected, uninteresting, and too hard. And teachers are also frustrated. Yet math is more important to the world now than at any point in history.

So what can we do to fix it? 

We think the answer is staring you right in the face.  Use computers.

We believe that correctly using computers is the silver bullet for making math education work.

In the real world math isn't necessarily done by mathematicians. It's done by geologists, engineers, biologists, financial professional, all sorts of different people.  It's actually very popular.

But in education it looks very different -- dumbed-down problems, lots of calculating - mostly by hand.

So let's zoom out a bit and ask, what's the point of teaching people math?  Why is it such an important subject in education?

Let's ask another question. What is math?

What do we mean when we say we're doing math, or educating people to do math?

Well we think it's about four steps, starting with posing the right question. What is it that we want to ask? What is it we're trying to find out here?  So the next thing is take that problem and turn it from a real world problem into a math problem.  Once you've done that, then there's the computation step. Turn it from that into some answer in a mathematical form. And of course, computers are very powerful at doing that. And then finally, turn it back to the real world. Did it answer the question? And also verify it -- crucial step.

Now here's the crazy thing right now. In math education, we're spending perhaps 80 percent of the time teaching people to do step three by hand. Yet, that's the one step computers can do better than any human. Instead, we ought to be using computers to do step three and using the students to spend much more effort on learning how to do steps one, two and four -- conceptualizing problems, applying them, getting the teacher to run them through how to do that.

Crucial point here: math is not equal to calculating.

Math is a much broader subject than calculating.

It is understandable that this has all got intertwined over hundreds of years. There was once only one way to do calculating and that was by hand. But in the last few decades that has totally changed. We've had the biggest transformation of any ancient subject that we could ever imagine with computers. Calculating was typically the limiting step. So we think in terms of the fact that math has been liberated from calculating. But that math liberation didn't get into education yet. 

We think of calculating, in a sense, as the machinery of math. It's the chore. It's the thing you'd like to avoid if you can. It's a means to an end, not an end in itself.

We should be using computers for doing the calculating and only doing hand calculation where it really makes sense to teach people that. And we think there are some cases. For example: mental arithmetic. We still do a lot of that, mainly for estimating. People say, is such and such true, and I'll say, hmm, not sure. I'll think about it roughly. It's still quicker to do that and more practical. So I think practicality is one case where it's worth teaching people by hand. And then there are certain conceptual things that can also benefit from hand calculating, but we think they're relatively small in number.

So what are the issues people bring up with this?

Well one of them is, they say, you need to get the basics first. You shouldn't use the machine until you get the basics of the subject. So my usual question is, what do you mean by basics? Basics of what? Are the basics of driving a car learning how to service it, or design it for that matter? Are the basics of writing learning how to sharpen a quill? I don't think so. I think you need to separate the basics of what you're trying to do from how it gets done and the machinery of how it gets done. And automation allows you to make that separation.

So automation allows this separation.

So there's another thing that comes up with basics. People confuse, in our view, the order of the invention of the tools with the order in which they should use them for teaching. So just because paper was invented before computers, it doesn't necessarily mean you get more to the basics of the subject by using paper instead of a computer to teach mathematics.  If you were born after computers and paper, it doesn't really matter which order you're taught with them in, you just want to have the best tool.

So another one that comes up is "computers dumb math down." That somehow, if you use a computer, it's all mindless button pushing, but if you do it by hand, it's all intellectual. This one kind of annoys us. Do you really believe that the math that most people are doing in school today is really more than applying procedures to problems they don't really understand, for reasons they don't get?

When they're out of education, they do it on a computer.

And think of the real world. Do you really believe that engineering and biology and all of these other things that have so benefited from computers and maths have somehow conceptually got reduced by using computers? I don't think so; quite the opposite. So the problem we've really got in math education is not that computers might dumb it down, but that we have dumbed-down problems right now.

Well, another issue people bring up is somehow that hand calculating procedures teach understanding. So if you go through lots of examples, you can get the answer -- you can understand how the basics of the system work better. We think there is one thing that very valid here, which is that we think understanding procedures and processes is important. But there's a a fantastic way to do that in the modern world:

It's called programming.

Programming is a great way to engage students much more and to check they really understand the math problem they are solving.   So to be clear, what we are really suggesting here is we have a unique opportunity to make math both more practical and more conceptual, simultaneously.  And we open up so many more possibilities. You can do so many more problems. What I really think we gain from this is students getting intuition and experience in far greater quantities than they've ever got before. And experience of harder problems -- being able to play with the math, interact with it, feel it. We want people who can feel the math instinctively. That's what computers allow us to do.

Using computers allows us to reorder the curriculum.

Traditionally the curriculum has been by how difficult it is to calculate, but now we can reorder it by how difficult it is to understand the concepts, however hard the calculating. So calculus has traditionally been taught very late. Why is this? Well, it's just hard doing the calculations. But actually many of the concepts are understandable to a much younger age group. We were talking about what happens when you increase the number of sides of a polygon to a very large number. And of course, it turns into a circle. You can see that this is a very early step into limits and differential calculus and what happens when you take things to an extreme -- and very small sides and a very large number of sides. Very simple example. That's a view of the world that we don't usually give people for many, many years after this. And yet, that's a really important practical view of the world. So one of the roadblocks we have in moving this agenda forward is exams. In the end, if we test everyone by hand in exams, it's kind of hard to get a curricula changed to a point where they can use computers during the semesters.

We have to make sure that we can move our economies forward, and also our societies, based on the idea that people can really feel mathematics. This isn't some optional extra. And the country that does this first will, in our view, leapfrog others in achieving a new economy even, an improved economy, an improved outlook. In fact, we even talk about us moving from what we often call now the knowledge economy to what we might call a computational knowledge economy, where high-level math is integral to what everyone does in the way that knowledge currently is. We can engage so many more students with this, and they can have a better time doing it. And let's understand, this is not an incremental sort of change. We're trying to cross the chasm here between school math and the real world math. And you know if you walk across a chasm, you end up making it worse than if you didn't start at all -- bigger disaster. No, what I'm suggesting is that we should leap off, we should increase our velocity so it's high, and we should leap off one side and go the other -- of course, having calculated our differential equation very carefully.

We want to see a completely renewed, changed math curriculum built from the ground up, based on computers being being available; calculating machines are everywhere and will be completely everywhere in a small number of years.  We're not even sure if we should brand the subject as "math", but what we are sure is it's the mainstream subject of the future.

Let's go for it.