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How to Survive & Thrive: AP English Literature & Composition

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

by Hannah Frank, special guest contributor

AP English

Literature and Composition is high-level reading and writing course that challenges students’ ability to comprehend and compose analyses of rich and complex literaturewritten in or translated to English.

We consulted with teachers, tutors, and recent AP English Lit & Comp students to come up with six very useful tips--three “how to survive” tips to help you achieve a score of 3 on the AP exam, and three “how to thrive” tips to help you earn a 4 or even a 5.  Here they are:

How to Survive:

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How to Survive & Thrive: AP Psychology

Monday, January 23, 2017

AP Psychology is an advanced social science course in which students “explore how psychologists use research methods and critical analysis to explore human behavior” (College Board).  It’s a tough but fun course, and it’s considered to be the perfect offering for students who love both social studies and science.

We consulted with teachers, tutors, and recent AP Psychology students to come up with six very useful tips--three “how to survive” tips to help you achieve a score of 3 on the AP exam, and three “how to thrive” tips to help you earn a 4 or even a 5.  Here they are:

How to Survive:

What’s fascinating about psychology is its real-life application. You’ll be able to observe these applications every day—and what’s a better way to study than hands on? My AP Psycho

logy teacher used to play Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” before every test he gave us as a way to calm us down; but due to conditioning, the one day he played the song when we didn’t have a test scheduled, our class dissolved into panic, as we’d associated the song with taking a hard test. But I’ll also never forget what classical conditioning is. Hands-on learning can be an excellent way to obtain and retain knowledge you’ll need for the exam.

You should have a working knowledge of important people, ideas, and their application. There are a lot of terms, but by making flashcards during each unit during the year, you can avoid last minute panicking over concepts from the first unit.

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How to Survive & Thrive in AP Biology

Monday, January 2, 2017

AP Biology is an advanced science course that challenges students’ understanding of biology through what the College Board calls “inquiry-based learning.”  Topics covered include evolution, cellular processes, genetics, ecology, and more.

We consulted with teachers, tutors, and recent AP Biology students to come up with four very useful tips--two “how to survive” tips to help y

ou achieve a score of 3 on the AP exam, and two “how to thrive” tips to help you earn a 4 or even a 5.  Here they are:

How to Survive:

1. Memorize the general workings of each process you learn, especially in the time leading up to each test. This class is largely centered around memorizing the details that make up the processes of life, so in order to get through it you need to put in the time and effort of memorizing the details of the various processes taught in this course. Take photosynthesis, for example: it is split up into two parts, the light and dark reactions which are further divided into smaller, more specific processes. Thus, you must learn many details in order to understand the process at the level you need to when you take the test.

2. Practice writing essays and free response paragraphs. Although this course is a science class, writing plays an important role and thus should be practiced constantly. Aside from the need to write in the free response section of the AP exam at the end of the year, it serves as a good indicator of whether you unders

tand a concept by determining if you can write a coherent summary of it.

How to Thrive:

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How to Survive & Thrive: AP Spanish Language and Culture

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

AP Spanish is the plateau (or meseta!) of classroom Spanish learning.  Not to be confused with AP Spanish Literature, AP Spanish Language and Culture is a rigorous course that challenges students to converse and write fluently in Español.  

We consulted with teachers, tutors, and recent AP Spanish students to come up with four very useful tips--two “how to survive” tips to help you achieve a score of 3 on the AP exam, and two “how to thrive” tips to help you earn a 4 or even a 5.  Here they are:

How to Survive:

1. Have a basic understanding of the many grammatical concepts—both elementary and complex—that the Spanish language is composed of, including conjugation rules for verbs, gender/number rules for nouns, and structure rules for different types of clauses (i.e. si clauses). Although some of these rules may seem incredibly simple, they are the basis of Spanish. So, to master the language, you must understand and review them. Do not rely solely on your memory of previous years of Spanish to bring your grammar to the AP level—many of these small details are easily forgotten, so make sure to review all of the grammar that you have learned thus far thoroughly.

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Why College in the UK Might Be the Best Fit for You

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Chances are that when you’re preparing for college, you’ve considered places that are more than just a couple hours away. Perhaps you’re from New York and considering Stanford, or instead you are a Midwesterner looking at Williams or Duke. In any event, going to college is a chance to go off to a place potentially far away and make your own way.

So why limit yourself to only colleges in the United States?

If you are willing to give your passport a workout, there are a number of advantages to considering studying in the United Kingdom.  

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How to Survive and Thrive in AP Calculus

Monday, September 12, 2016

AP Calculus is typically considered to be one of the toughest AP courses by high school students.  There are actually two versions of the course: AP Calculus AB, and AP Calculus BC.  BC is the harder course of the two, mainly because its curriculum covers a wider range of problems.

We consulted with teachers, tutors, and recent AP Calculus students to come up with four very useful tips--two “how to survive” tips to help you achieve a score of 3 on the AP exam, and two “how to thrive” tips to help you earn a 4 or even a 5.

How to Survive in AP Calculus:

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Good Summer Reads--No Matter Your Taste!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

With summer almost here, it's time to decide what to read by the pool (or in the park...or even on the couch--whatever!)  We therefore turned to some of our trusted friends in the teaching world to find out what books they're recommending to their students.  But we didn't just ask English teachers; we also asked teachers of social studies, science, and even math.  Here's what they recommended (in alphabetical order):

What is the What? by Dave Eggers 

What is the What? tells the story of Valentino Achak Deng, one of 20,000 "Lost Boys" who escaped the horrors of Sudan's second civil war, walking thousands of miles to Ethiopia and, ultimately, resettling in the United States. This book is a treat, so beautifully written and so compelling that the pages fly by even faster than you want them to. David Eggers works magic, creating a character whose voice will stay in your head long after you've put it down.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr   

Marie-Laure, the blind daughter of the Paris Museum of Natural History's master locksmith, flees the Nazi occupation of her city at age 12 and finds refuge in the coastal town of Saint-Malo along with one of the museum's—and the world's—most precious gems.  Meanwhile, a German orphan named Werner, a phenom with radio circuitry, rises through the ranks of the Hitler youth and travels around Europe with a small squadron tasked with hunting down rebel radio operators until one day, when his path through World War II converges with Marie-Laure's.  The winner of the 2014 Puliter Prize for fiction.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver 

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Latin Students: Study the Classics this Summer in Florence or Rome!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

CALDER CLASSICS

Summer in Italy 2015

Calder Classics invites high school students of Latin interested in Ancient or Art History to join us in Italy this summer. Over the course of a 2-week program limited to 6-8 students, the Classics will come alive daily as we translate Latin works such as Vergil’s Aeneid or Livy’s History of Rome and explore related ancient and art historical sites, all while immersing ourselves in the modern culture of either Florence or Rome.

Master Latin

Each day students & their mentors will read & discuss Latin literature by influential ancient Roman authors in a residential “salon” style environment.

Dive into Italy's Rich Art, Culture and History

Whether visiting Botticelli’s Primavera & Birth of Venus in Florence or the Colosseum & Imperial Fora in Rome, we will discuss the history & broader themes of these cultural treasures as well as their connections to the texts we read.

Live the Italian Life

While staying in a beautiful villa on the Oltrarno in Florence or atop the famous Aventine hill in Rome, students have the chance to experience an Italian lifestyle.

Register online today for our 2015 Summer Programs in Florence & Rome! Any questions call 917-533-3712 or visit calderclassics.com

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How to Take Better Notes in History Class

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Of all of the courses you are required to take in middle and high school, history may demand the most careful, diligent note-taking.  Unfortunately, history textbooks often complicate matters, as they tend to present an overwhelming amount of information in the form of text, sidebars, graphics such as tables, charts, and maps, and images such as photographs and illustrations.  On top of all of this information, your teacher presents his or her emphasis on historical events, facts, and dates through lectures, PowerPoint presentations, videos, and other methods of teaching.  

The question, then, is how do you go about organizing all of this information most effectively in order to prepare for the next essay or test? We’ve consulted with our expert history tutors, and here are four simple tips that will help you take better notes and get organized for that next major assignment.

Tip #1: Take straightforward yet thorough bullet-point style notes in class.

Some history teachers move through material in class quickly, so it’s important that you develop an efficient and systematic note-taking method that will enable you to thoroughly record the most important information.  Bullet-point style notes are an effective way to boil all of the information your teacher covers down to what’s most essential.  For example, if your teacher is lecturing on Muslim Spain, your notes might look like this:

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Tutor Spotlight: 5 Questions with Kevin T.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tutor Tango is excited to welcome the versatile and dynamic Kevin T. to our online tutoring network.  Kevin has been teaching and tutoring for the past four years, and he holds a BA from the City University of New York, as well as a law degree from Brooklyn Law School. He tutors a wide range of subjects, from Algebra and Geometry to English and Spanish, and he also has experience with test prep.

We recently talked to Kevin about his teaching and tutoring experiences, and here are the highlights:

1. What inspired you to become an educator?

When I became truly conscious of the education gap and the need for more effective solutions to help younger people to improve their lives, I decided to join the effort. I noticed the problem of students who wanted to learn more, but they suffered from inadequate educational structure in too many of their school districts. As a board member at one my children's high schools, I am even more dedicated to making sure that the students I tutor can receive the help that they need to get ahead and surpass some of the obstacles preventing them from the opportunities that they crave and deserve.

2. What qualities in a tutor do you think are most important?

I wholeheartedly believe that a tutor must be understanding of the student's individual needs and goals. In addition, a tutor must have a focus on ensuring that the student is going through the critical thinking and learning process with a guide, rather than a person who will essentially do the work for the student and hope that the student picks it up along the way. Tutors have to possess a solid understanding of alternative ways for students to experience that epiphany where their work starts to come together with their understanding.

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How Math Study Habits Lead to Exam Success

Monday, January 5, 2015

Math classrooms around the country echo with cries of "I did so much study, but the questions on the exam were nothing like the homework!" In the corresponding staff rooms, teachers and professors shake their heads, knowing that the questions were just like the homework (if not EXACTLY the same). What is going wrong? 

Most people understand there is a connection between homework and class performance: if you get behind on homework, you expect your grades to drop. However, we may not know what makes good homework. As a student or parent, it is tempting to think that quick homework is good homework - you couldn't be doing math fast if you were no good at it, right? To understand what might not be so good about quick homework, let's think about what happens when you can't do a problem: you go to your notes/book/tutor for a similar example and see how to proceed. This results in you finishing the problem quickly; in fact, you are normally just fine after you have seen the trick to getting started. Does this sound familiar? It should: it's completely logical and a good basis for study. 

BUT... 

The problems start when this is your ONLY form of study, because in an exam, you don't get a nudge. 

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Tutor Spotlight: 5 Questions with Jeremy D.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tutor Tango is excited to welcome the savvy and dynamic Jeremy D. to our online tutoring network.  Jeremy has over seven years of combined teaching and tutoring experience, and he holds a Masters in Education from the Harvard University, as well as an MS from NYU. He tutors a wide range of subjects, from Algebra and Art History to Music Theory and Spanish. He also knows his way around a standardized test or two, such as the ACT and SSAT.

We recently conducted an interview with Jeremy, and here are the highlights:

1. What inspired you to become an educator?

I felt I could help a very particular type of kid: the smart, occasionally misbehaving kid whose talents don't always get recognized; in other words, the type of kid I was.

2. What's the most unconventional or non-traditional tutoring method you've tried?

I've often relied on the principle that asking a kid to teach a concept helps that kid grasp it more deeply. Being a lover of music, I've had students use and create songs to help deepen their understanding of an academic challenge.

3. What books have inspired you to educate and learn?

I'm a lover of words, and any poets that use them creatively inspire me. For instance: Stephen Crane, Bob Dylan, e.e. cummings, Laurie Anderson, the Coen Brothers, Tupac Shakur, Mark Leyner, Amy Tan, Maureen Dowd, etc.

4. What advice do you have for high schoolers stressed out about the college application process?

Focus on one application at a time, set deadlines for yourself three weeks before actual deadlines, share your essays with supportive people who you trust to tell you the truth and not just say, "It's good."

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How to Make the Most of Your Test Prep Experience

Monday, November 3, 2014

by Kristen R., Tutor Tango Test Prep Expert 

Standardized test prep tutoring can make a tremendous difference in your SAT and ACT test scores. In the 7 years I've been tutoring high school students for these important tests, I've helped them fill in knowledge gaps, incorporate test-taking strategies, and build confidence for test day. But once- or twice-a-week tutoring sessions alone will not maximize your test performance. Homework assignments, from vocab and grammar drills to practice test sections to math problems, are just as important as session time with your tutor. 

So how do you get the most out of your test prep homework?

1)  Actually do your homework – every day!

So many students view their test prep homework as optional or “extra practice,” when in fact it’s essential for success. To do your best on test day, you must be disciplined about your homework every day. Set aside 30 minutes a day for your test prep homework and tackle it in a quiet space at a table or desk (not on the couch!). Setting a timer can help motivate you to give that homework all you’ve got for the required 30 minutes.

2) Be an advocate for your own learning.

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Tutor Spotlight: 5 Questions with Bridget G.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tutor Tango is excited to welcome the highly-talented and charismatic Bridget G. to our online tutoring network.  Bridget has ten years of tutoring experience, ten years of teaching experience, and she holds an MA in English Education from the City College of New York. She tutors English (writing and reading), psychology, and the verbal and writing sections of a wide range of standardized tests, including the ACT and SAT. 

We recently sat down with Bridget (via cyberspace, to be specific), and asked her a few questions.  Here are the highlights:

1. What inspired you to become an educator?

I moved to NYC when I was 25, looking for adventure and fulfillment. While riding the NYC subway, there were these blazing black and white ads touting the new Teaching Fellows program. It was a well-placed advertisement, with heart-warming anecdotes, and I felt like they were speaking directly to me. It was kind of a moment of clarity, when I just knew what I needed to -- and should be doing. It was one of the best decisions of my life.

2. What's the most unconventional or teaching method you've relied on as a tutor?

I asked students to keep a journal for a semester, expressing their connections with the nightly readings. The connections could be in any format: drawing, poetry, stream-of-consciousness, really, anything. They were not allowed to have their names anywhere in the journal, just a number that only I knew. At the end of the semester, I heaped all the journals in a pile and asked everyone to chose a different journal. They took these journals and used them to write a short story about the person who wrote it. It never failed to inspire the students to create some of their very best creative writing. It’s total freedom, both in writing the journal, and the short story.

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4 Mistakes to Avoid in Your College Admissions Essay

Sunday, September 28, 2014

by Lauren N., Tutor Tango Expert Tutor and College Entrance Guru

          Admissions essays can be so hard and confusing that some people end up writing what they think "an admissions essay" is supposed to look like: the same boring 650 words that admissions committees have read a thousand times.

            Here are the four mistakes I see most frequently.

Mistake #1: Writing About the Same Service Trip that Everyone Else Took

I can’t tell you how often students and their parents have asked me if a specific service trip will make a good essay topic. Let me be clear: they’re asking this before they go on the trip, to decide whether going on the trip will be worth it. After all, community service trips are expensive. Ten days building houses for Habitat for Humanity in Costa Rica will set you back $2,000.00 + plane fare. You could volunteer with your local Habitat group for free, but what kind of essay would that make?

The expensive community service trip is the worst kind of cliché, a cynical attempt to buy a prepackaged Life Experience which can be transformed into a winning essay. Admissions committees know this. They’re asking you to paint a picture; you’re handing them a postcard you got in a gift shop.

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Tutor Spotlight: 5 Questions with Matthew S.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tutor Tango is excited to welcome the highly-talented and charismatic Matthew S. to our online tutoring network.  Matthew has eight years of tutoring experience, four years of teaching experience, and he holds a BS in Mathematics from the City University of New York. He tutors algebra, calculus, geometry, precalculus, and math sections of a wide range of standardized tests, including the ACT and SAT. 

We recently sat down with Matthew (via cyberspace, to be specific), and asked him a few questions.  Here are the highlights:

1. What inspired you to become an educator?
I was daydreaming in a freshman film history class in college. I was an engineering student who just realized being an engineer is probably boring but I didn’t want my math credits to go to waste. It suddenly hit me that my favorite part of 6th grade was when my teacher let me teach the class for 2 minutes and the girl that never spoke exclaimed at the end, “I got it now!”

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Work Hard, But Really...Work Smart

Monday, September 1, 2014

by Jason Silverberg 
Tutor Tango English Tutor
 
With our ever-changing world constantly lapping itself technologically and growing more convenient by the minute, concentration on the task at hand is in short supply. How can we buckle down and focus when social media is just begging us to skip out and play? Difficult yes, but impossible? Certainly not. Here are a few tips to help you keep your head in the game...or out of the game if games are your distraction. Either way. 
 
Class Time
As alienating as it might sound, minimize distractions by sitting away from your friends. Classes are short and you’ll be reunited in no time. Absence make the heart grow fonder, and think of how impressed the members of your inner circle will be when you regale them with what you learned while they were in the back of the room scribbling on desks.
 
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5 Questions to Help Fine-Tune your Summer Reading List

Monday, June 23, 2014

5.  Are any of the books I’m reading ‘literary’?

What is a ‘literary’ book, you ask?  According to editor/publisher/professor Jane Friedman, a work of fiction is ‘literary’ if it meets the following four criteria: (1) it’s intellectual; (2) it has depth; (3) it’s more about character than about plot; (4) it has style.  Chances are, the English department at your school assigned a book or two for summer reading that most definitely meets all four of these criteria.  You should certainly read at least one literary book, and challenge yourself to identify Friedman’s four criteria as you read.

4.  Are too many of the books I’m reading ‘literary’?

If literary books are the only kind you’ve put on your summer reading list, perhaps you should consider branching out.  You might try a work of nonfiction, such as a biography or an historical overview of a particular war or time period.  And if you really want to do yourself a favor, you might plan on reading a work of nonfiction that will enhance your enjoyment of a literary book you have to read.  For example, you might read Rick Atkinson’s The Guns at Last Light, about World War II in 1944-1945, before reading Joseph Heller’s classic, Catch-22.

3. Am I reading any books that challenge me?

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What in Tarnation is a Pupsplanation?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

In the first volume of Satires, the poet Horace observes that “teachers often give cookies to boys about to be taught” (I.1).  Certainly much has changed in educational practices since Horace’s lifetime in Ancient Rome, but the tactic of “sweetening the deal” for students is still very much alive today.  Teachers often encourage students to focus and work patiently by offering them rewards, such as sweet treats (like the “cookies” Horace mentions) or the chance to watch a fun YouTube video when finished.

Another approach taken by many teachers is to present information sweetly.  Think of a foreign language teacher who sings the conjugation of a verb (or the declension of a pronoun--see this), or an English teacher who dresses in costume while dramatically reading the dialogue of a play.  Educational studies have shown that this sort of teaching is effective, as it helps students to associate new ideas and concepts with positive (or at least memorable) stimuli (for one example, see this). With this in mind, we launched our Pupsplanation series on Facebook back in early March.

A  "pupsplanation," as its portmanteau name suggests, is the explanation of an abstract idea by a cute, cuddly puppy.  To date, we’ve shared photos of six adorable puppies “pupsplaining” key concepts particular to a wide range of academic subjects:  the electoral college (Government), the ablative absolute (Latin), Lewis-Dot structures (chemistry), comma-splice run-ons (grammar), and, most recently, Boolean Logic (computer science).

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EdSocial: 4 Ways to Use Social Media in the College Application Process

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Let’s face it: getting into your dream college is harder today than ever before.  According to the NYTimes, the world’s most competitive institutions had their lowest ever average acceptance rates in 2013, with the best of the best, like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, accepting lower than seven percent of those who applied (Harvard, for example, accepted only 5.79%, or 2,029 students out of the 35,023 who applied).

Do a simple Google search--something along the lines of “how to distinguish yourself for college admissions”–and you’ll find no shortage of articles offering up hundreds of useful tips, from the specific (“How to Distinguish Yourself if You Go to a Small High School”) to the broad (“What Colleges Want to See on Your Application”).  No matter what the particular angle or focus of such articles is, exactly, almost all of them suggest that the applicant express genuine passion and enthusiasm for the schools to which he or she applies–not only in the application essay, but also during interviews and even during campus visits.  

But if you’re a busy high school sophomore just embarking on your college search, how do you find the time to do all of your “homework” on the schools you’re most interested in?  And what if there simply isn’t time in your hectic schedule nor room in your budget to visit the dozen or so institutions on your shortlist?  Luckily, you can learn almost everything you need to know about the schools you’re thinking of applying to by following them through their Social Media sites.  Here are four ways to do it.

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5 Ways High School Students Can Make the Most of Summer Vacation

Monday, March 31, 2014 by College Advisor Cheryl DiLanzo, courtesy of A+ Test Prep and Tutoring.

When college admissions officers review your student’s college applications, they will be looking carefully at how he spent his summers. Here are some suggestions for how to make the most of summer vacations:

1. Volunteer – As long as the volunteer work is something that the student feels passionate about, it doesn’t matter what the nature of the volunteer work is. Students who are interested in animals may want to volunteer at an animal shelter or rescue organization. If the student is interested in health care, volunteering at a local hospital is a good option. Note that college admissions officers typically expect a volunteer commitment to last at least 40 hours total hours. Volunteer experiences also make good college application essay topics because they allow a student’s passion to shine through.

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AP History: Which Course is the Best Fit for You?

Sunday, March 9, 2014 by Kate H., Tutor Tango Subject Tutor and Test Prep Expert

AP Euro! AP World! APUSH! AP Art History! Oh boy, there are a lot of history courses to choose from -- and I can only assume you have time for one intense history class next year, so you definitely want to make sure you choose the right one for you.

AP European History is probably going to be the most difficult of the group -- but that should not be a deterrent. It is harder simply because you have not been exposed to all the many, many (many. many. MANY.) conflicts in Europe on such a scale. That said, it’s also one of the most entertaining classes history has to offer. You get to learn about defenestration, which then starts a war. A long one. Yes, you definitely have to pay attention a little more (and know when you’re getting lost in one of France’s revolutions) and keep a pad and paper handy for questions, but when you’re done, you absolutely know how to take notes and focus for history courses. AP Euro lets you understand a little bit more about our world and why countries today behave the way they do; it sets up the fundamentals for connecting dots to every region in the world. If you’re a self-motivated student who doesn’t mind a little bit of confusion and a little bit of pushing your own study-train, AP Euro is a great, challenging fit for you.

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EdSocial Installment #5: Tumblr + Math = Fun X 3!

Sunday, February 23, 2014 Tumblr launched in 2007 as an image-oriented microblogging alternative to conventional text-driven blogging sites like Blogger and Wordpress. Just over seven years later, the social media monster boasts a $1.3 billion acquisition by Yahoo!, over 172 million blogs, and over 77 billion blog posts, including many by celebrities (such as John Mayer, Zoey Deschanel, and Lady Gaga, to name three).

But beyond all of Tumblr’s well-earned hype, it’s become a convenient forum for bloggers to post educational content. As its microblogging format lends itself particularly well to the posting of images, it abounds with wonderful blogs that share cool and stimulating visualizations of mathematical concepts, problems, and solutions. And since we love math, we giddily scrolled through volumes of math-related Tumblr blogs (made easier, of course, by searching Tumblr for #math), and now we present to you our five favs.

1. Curiosa Mathematica (curiosamathematica.tumblr.com) - Curiosa is the official Tumblr blog of professor Jens Bossaert, who teaches math at the University of Ghent in Belgium. The organization of his blog is as delightfully simple as its tagline: “A collection of beautiful mathematics: attractive pictures and fun results.” Some of the more recent posts include a YouTube video of a wooden calculator that represents binary digits with falling marbles, and a photo of Roger Penrose, a mathematician and physicist standing on a floor covered with the aperiodic tiling pattern he gave his name to (they’re called Penrose tilings).

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SAT - Verbal: Top Secret Test-Taking Strategies

Monday, February 10, 2014

by Henry Zheng, Tutor Tango Test Prep Expert

Like you, I was once a student who dreaded the verbal section of the SAT because it didn’t seem to have answers that could be arrived at with a formula. However, as with any other test, doing well requires a systematic approach toward developing your mental toolkit. Hopefully the strategies below can allay your anxiety.

Manage Your Time Wisely
There are two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section for the Verbal portion of your SAT. Some people think that if they were given all the time in the world, then they would get every answer correct. Welcome to the unforgiving world concocted by the College Board in which time is precious. Start practicing without timing yourself. As you become familiar with the test, time each section without giving yourself any leeway (one minute over is one minute too many).

Preparation
Many people think that great readers and writers are born with the mystical ability of invention. However, just like in math and science, improving one’s reading comprehension requires constant practice. This means not only taking test after test under simulated test-day conditions, but breaking down each section and tackling each type of question critically. Approach your sentence completions, short passage and long passage questions with an eye for finding out why you got the answer wrong. It is painstaking at first, but you will gradually understand the patterns that govern critical reading questions. Also, it doesn’t hurt to also find out why you got the answer right (hopefully not from lucky guessing).

Plan of Attack
Although there is no direct formula for obtaining a correct answer, there are strategies that will guide you toward the right answer for each portion of the verbal section.

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EdSocial Installment #4: Too Cold For a Field Trip? Take an Instagram Trip!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Since its launch in the fall of 2010, Instagram (often referred to as “IG”) has become one of the most popular social networks for photo and video sharing. And like some of the other great social media sites, such as Facebook (which acquired Instagram in 2012), Pinterest, and Twitter, it has quickly become a convenient hub for curating and sharing educational content. Museums have found it to be an especially simple and effective way to broadcast artwork and other exhibits, and some have even created interactive tours for Instagrammers.

After perusing about a dozen of the most active museum sites on IG, we got to thinking: why not take a virtual field trip? No matter where you live--or how cold it is outside--you can visit some of these awe-inspiring museums from the comforts of your own home...and even on your smartphone! So here you go: an Instagram field trip to 5 cool museums around the world:

Stop #1: The Louvre (@museelouvre: 33,721 followers; 74 posts). Pour yourself a little cafe, grab a croissant, and go to http://instagram.com/museelouvre. There you’ll find beautiful snapshots of some of the classic museum’s most famous paintings and sculptures. First, check out one of the most recent additions to their IG collection, the Portrait de Madame Soustra, by Marie-Denise Villers. While examining the lovely Madame, open a new tab or window to learn more about the artist, whose two sisters were also highly-talented painters. Then, before you go, be sure to scroll down for a peek at a few shots of the snow-covered exterior of the Louvre--iconic Pyramid and all.

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Using Technology to Improve Your Spanish Listening Skills

Monday, January 6, 2014

by Jayk G., Tutor Tango Staff Subject and Test Prep Tutor

Spanish is a tricky language. One could spend years studying Spanish on paper, yet be let loose in a Spanish-speaking country and be completely unable to communicate. That's why listening to real conversations is just as important, if not moreso, than book learning.

The only true way to learn Spanish is complete immersion, surrounding oneself with hispanophones. With the busy lifestyle of a modern person, this may be easier said than done. Thus, we happily turn to technology, to provide us with a myriad of Spanish Listening situations.

If you're lucky enough to live in a large American city, Spanish speaking populations may be just around the corner. While conveniently located, actually understanding the coursing flow of words which sallies forth from a native speaker is easier said than done.

So, our first bit of technology we must champion is the tape recorder. To the untrained ear, one can simply not hope to separate and comprehend the fast and insistent march of palabras that cascades forth from Spanish speaking lips. But a tape recorder can allow one to slow down these words, or--an even more common feature on many devices--repeat these words over and over.

It may be a little presumptuous to suggest that our novice speaker plant themselves in a public place in a Spanish speaking neighborhood and record conversations, but it is possible. We do recommend meeting and talking with a native Spanish speaker and perhaps interviewing them, asking them a list of questions prepared in Spanish, and then recording their responses.

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Five Cool Educational Gifts for the Holidays

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Most social media sites devoted to education are sharing holiday-themed posts this time of year. So as part of our EdSocial blog series, we decided to jump on the bandwagon (or on Santa’s sleigh, perhaps we should say) and do a little holiday-themed research ourselves. We wondered: where can one find gifts that are both cool and educational? Gifts that are fun, unique AND promote learning--all at the same time? Gifts that students might love; that parents might feel good about; and that teachers might even make use of in the classroom?

So on Cyber Monday of all days, we searched the web for some of the best online marketplaces for gifts that meet the above criteria. The three sites that yielded the greatest abundance of cool and educational gifts for the holidays were Fatbraintoys.com, Uncommongoods.com, and Scientificsonline.com. Below we present five favorite finds from these sites that parents, teachers, and students would be delighted to unwrap--and learn from--this holiday season:

1. Haba’s Coliseum Set (Fatbraintoys.com: $42.95)
This wooden block set contains 110 pieces, the sum of which is a miniature recreation of the ancient Roman Colosseum. Although the suggested minimum age for the set is 3, Haba boasts that it “appeals to people of all ages.” If you’re a parent of a Latin student (or a Latin student or teacher), you might supplement play with a brief study of the Colosseum’s construction and history in the Roman Empire.

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For a Well-Dressed Lab Report…Try a Vertical Bowtie!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

by Elizabeth L, Tutor Tango Staff Subject and Test Prep Tutor
The First Rule of Lab Reports is: Always follow your teacher’s instructions for the content and format of your report. The Second Rule of Lab Reports is: There are no other rules. To get the best grade, your report has to have what your teacher expects.
So I did ask my teacher, but I feel got the runaround. What now? No reason to panic. You now have the opportunity to self-organize and showcase your scientific writing. When college students ask me what to write in lab reports, I often advise the ‘Vertical Bowtie.’ This report is wide at the top, narrow in the middle, and big at the bottom.
Wide at the Top: The first part of your intro should be thematically wide, reflecting the most interesting and important idea of the lab. So often I read lab reports that begin like this: “The purpose of this lab was to separate plant pigments into X, Y and Z molecular weights.” Yawn! This narrow topic sentence was probably copied out of the lab manual (always a no-no) and doesn't show much independent thought. A more exciting opening would be: “Photosynthesis supports all life on Earth. This is only possible because plants have evolved a variety of light-capturing pigments, which can be separated biochemically.” This topic sentence is broad, interesting, and tells me that the student really understands the context of the lab work.
After starting wide, the rest of the Introduction should narrow down to the specific problem and experimental context. So, if your Big Idea is photosynthesis, the specific problem is how to separate pigments, and the experimental context is the plants you studied: “In this lab, we extracted leaf pigments from purple kale (Brassica oleracea) and green parsley (Petroselinum crispum) using alcoholic and organic solvents.” Notice that we do NOT go into any detailed methods here; save that for your Methods section.

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A Pentad of Piquant Pinterest Boards for Social Studies Students and Teachers

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

According to its “About” page, Pinterest is a “tool for collecting and organizing things you love.” Scroll down and you’ll find links to “pinboards” (on which users “pin” photos, images, or anything else gleaned from the web) about topics as varied as “unexpected burger toppings” to “homes on stilts.” But students and teachers alike are using Pinterest more and more these days for educational purposes. In fact, there’s a Pinterest board entitled “Using Pinterest in Education,” which includes 61 pins from sources such as teachthought.com, edutopia.org, and pbs.org–all with information about ways to use Pinterest for the classroom.

Drawing from this new and exciting tradition, we decided to explore Pinterest boards devoted to history and the social sciences. Overall, we found many wonderfully colorful boards, well-pinned with images and links to a wealth of useful information for both educators and students. Here are five (a “pentad”) of our favorites:

5. History, by National Geographic: This pinboard, with over 40 pins and 2,100 followers, has the look you would expect if you’re familiar with the iconic magazine that curates it. In sum, it’s filled with classic black and white stills and action shots that captivate viewers and bring history to life. A series of recent pins highlights athletes competing in the 1908 London Olympic games (don’t miss the strong and elegant female archers adorned in floor-length gowns). Other pins include graphic images from World Wars I and II, and colorful “Milestones in Underwater Geography” repinned from reefbuilders.com.

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College Essay Writing: Mining your Memory for the Best Topic

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

by Kate H
Tutor Tango Staff Subject Tutor, Test Prep Tutor, and College Admissions Advisor

When you sit down to write your college essay, it’s natural to feel absurdly daunted--after all, this thing could change your LIFE...change your FUTURE!

No. Take that pressure off of yourself right now--it’s an essay. Yes, you want to put your best foot forward, but you also want to be yourself and embrace the opportunity to show college reviewers just how amazing you are. And that’s really the golden rule about these college essays: YOU. You should focus on writing a good, interesting essay that showcases you as a writer and a person, but it needs to also showcase YOU. But wait! What on earth do you write about?!

There is no right or wrong answer about which topic to choose. Sorry. Of course, whatever you choose to write about, you want to make sure it answers the college’s prompt. Sometimes, they want to hear about you--who are you? Sometimes, they want to hear about themselves--why do you want to attend THAT university? And sometimes, they want to see some creativity. But within their question, within that bubble, the sky is the limit!

No matter what question you have to answer, remember who you are. Are you a fantastic creative writer? Do you love science fiction? You could easily twist all your answers into an allegorical story that takes place in space--and that way, you aren’t gouging your eyes out writing yet-another-two-page-essay.

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The Top Five Twitter Feeds for Your Science Fix

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Twitter is definitely one of the most convenient spots on the web to harvest information quickly. Savvy Tweeters set up “lists” of feeds to follow that can be categorized by topic. For example, we’ve set up over a dozen lists, many of which are sorted by K-12 subject: English, math, music, art, foreign language, etc. And lately, it seems that our list of science-related feeds is the one we can’t get enough of.

We find ourselves compelled quite often to click on these Tweets for further reading, to “favorite” them, and to “share” them with our followers. Beyond that, we think that many of these science feeds could be useful starting points for students conducting research or teachers looking to supplement classroom material with some of the latest information from the field. So, without further ado, here is our list of the “Top Five Twitter Feeds for your Science Fix.”

5. @WiredScience - If you like the magazine, you’ll love the Twitter feed, which, according to its description, Tweets about “science, space, energy, and robot sharks with lasers.” The team of four that runs the feed knows where to find the most stimulating stuff, from a catalogue of deciphered gorilla mating calls to cute pictures of sunbathing sea otters. And if you or your students are into planets and stars, then you’ll really love their RT’s (Twitterese for ReTweets) of @wiredspacephotos’s content.

4. @AMNH - The American Museum of Natural History has long been a popular NYC school field trip destination; its Twitter feed is one of the best places to begin a virtual field trip. Not only do they keep followers up-to-date on the most recent museum exhibitions, but they also share highlights from museum-supported field work around the world. In one recent Tweet forum, museum docents answered questions from viewers live-streaming marine biology research aboard the sea vessel Alucia, stationed in the Solomon Islands. Pretty cool.

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SAT, ACT, or Both?

Monday, September 9, 2013

by WilliamW
Tutor Tango Test Prep Expert and Subject Tutor

One of the most common questions that parents and students ask me during standardized test preparation is whether they should take the SAT or ACT. A good way to find out is by taking them both, but you still need a strategy for how to do this. Many students will already be able to make a judgment on the basis of their PLAN test and practice PSAT taken during their sophomore year. Nonetheless, it is not a bad idea to take both the SAT and ACT at an early test date junior year. If there is a significant difference between the two scores – which you can determine using an SAT/ACT score comparison chart – plan to retake the test on which you received the higher score.

However, many students will not be able to easily detect a clear advantage for themselves on either test in the case of similar scores. Thus, understanding the differences between the SAT and the ACT is also helpful for determining which one is more appropriate. The Princeton Review has a good article about the differences, and here are some highlights:

• Time Length: Overall, the SAT is a little longer than the ACT, but the ACT has longer sections with fewer breaks.

• Writing: The Essay portion of the SAT is included in the Writing section score, while on the ACT the essay does not factor in to calculating the composite score (the average of all four sections: math, reading, writing and science) and is actually optional.

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Announcing: Tutor Tango's 2013-2014 EdSocial Blog Series

Thursday, August 22, 2013

“Ed” stands for education, and “Social” stands for social media. Put them together and you get what we’re calling “EdSocial.”

Throughout the year we’ll be mining social media for the best in educational offerings, from cool vocabulary feeds on Twitter to dazzling Pinterest boards all about science to the most useful Facebook pages devoted to Test Prep tips. Excited? We sure are!

We’ll report the highlights of our search for the best EdSocial stuff out there toward the end of each month, complete with images, top five lists, and recommendations that might make your future searches a little easier. And if you know of an Instagram, Google+, Facebook, or other media page that you think might be worth our while, let us know: blog@tutortango.com.

In between EdSocial posts, we’ll be offering up our own useful material as composed by our highly talented and experienced staff tutors. Here are some of the topics we’ll be exploring:

SAT - Verbal: Top Secret Test-Taking Strategies
ACT - Math: Hot Study Tips
SAT vs. ACT: One, the Other, or Both?
Using Technology to Enhance Your Spanish Listening Skills
College Essay Writing: Mining Your Memory for the Best Topic
AP History: Which Course is the Best Fit for You?
Tips for Writing a Great Biology Lab Report

Good luck as you begin the new school year, and be sure to stay tuned to our blog!

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San Diego: A Pretty Cool Field Trip

Friday, August 9, 2013

by Scott C. Wilson
Tutor Tango CEO & Co-Founder

Last week I closed my laptop and traveled westward with my family for a vacation in Southern California. My wife and I took our two sons to visit their cousins in San Diego, and while we were there we did some pretty cool, kid-oriented things.

But as a teacher and tutor, I’m forever cursed: I view almost all of the activities I do with my own children as if they’re on the itinerary of a school field trip. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of fun myself, but I always have more concern that what we’ve planned is educational and stimulating for my boys much more so than for me.

And as I think more about it, it occurs to me that parents and educators who plan trips for their kids have the same goals: to engage them with fun, meaningful activities, to inspire a love of learning, and to encourage them to think critically about the world around them. San Diego, it turns out, is a particularly wonderful destination with plenty of sights and attractions to satisfy such goals.

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Get Ready for 'Test Season' (Mark Your Calendar Now!)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

No, it’s not even August yet, and we’re pretty sure you’re trying hard not to think too much about school, much less tests. But a simple first step towards test-taking success is getting organized and marking your calendar. With that in mind, we’ve decided to post the registration deadlines and testing dates of the major standardized tests that our students may be taking in the upcoming school year. Here they are, so mark your calendars now! We promise, it will only take a few minutes out of your summer R&R time!

ACT - Sep. 21st (Register by: Aug. 23rd); Oct. 26th (Register by: Sep. 27th); Dec. 14th (Register by: Nov. 8th); Apr. 12th (Register by: Mar. 7th); Jun. 14th (Register by: May 9th).

Note that there are late-registration deadlines as well, but you’ll pay a higher fee. To register online, click here.

AP Subject Tests - May 5th - May 16th

To find out about each specific test, click here.

ISEE - On-going

To register online, click here.

PSAT/NMSQT - Oct. 16th & 19th

SAT - Oct. 5th (Register by: Sep. 6th); Nov. 2nd (Register by: Oct. 3rd); Dec. 7th (Register by: Nov. 8th); Jan. 25th (Register by: Dec. 27th); Mar. 8th (Register by: Feb. 7th); May 3rd (Register by: Apr. 4th); Jun. 7th (Register by: May 9th)

Note that there are late registrations deadlines, but you’ll pay a higher fee. To register online, click here.

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Crowdfunder's Remorse

Monday, July 8, 2013

It’s been quite a while since our last blog entry, and that’s because most of our time and energy in June was devoted to fundraising through our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

The good news: we did it! We raised more than our goal of $10,000 thanks to the extremely generous contributions and support of 66 donors.

The bad news: we can’t thank our supporters enough. Seriously. And the title of this entry, “Crowdfunder’s Remorse,” is what we’re calling this feeling. It’s different from buyer’s remorse, when you feel regret after making a purchase. “Crowdfunder’s remorse” is when you feel so grateful for the support and encouragement of your contributors that you can’t possibly do enough to repay them for their kindness.

But, at the very least, we’re going to honor our contributors by putting our new funds where our mouths were, so to speak, when we explained what we intended to do with the money on our campaign page:

1) to fund a strategic advertising & sales campaign to spread the word about our amazing service as we transition to the next school year.

2) to offset the legal and filing fees necessary to establish our social outreach division, Pro Bono Publico, as an official 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

We are already hard at work to achieve both goals. We have identified and made initial contact with potential partners throughout the greater New York area; and as for the latter, we’ve been meeting with lawyers and researching fiscal sponsorship organizations while simultaneously drafting the details of our first year-long pro bono project. We’ll be sure to post updates on this blog for our followers and supporters to check up on.

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We Need Your Help! Support Tutor Tango’s Crowdfunding Campaign on Indiegogo.com

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Since our launch in September of 2012, we’ve had two simple goals:

(1) to provide kids of all backgrounds and income levels with high quality academic tutoring.

(2) to pay our teacher-tutors a fair wage commensurate with their experience and credentials.

We’ve worked hard to realize these goals and we have a great service to show for it–and we want everyone to know about it! And that’s where you come in...

Over on Indiegogo.com, we’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign. What is crowdfunding, you say? As the name implies, it's a relatively new and popular way for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and artists of all stripes to raise funds for projects by asking for small donations from a crowd of supporters (like you) in return for perks--small gifts of gratitude (more on that below).

Your donations will help us in three ways:

(1) to fund a strategic advertising & sales campaign to spread the word about our amazing service as we transition to the next school year.

(2) to offset the legal and filing fees necessary to establish our social outreach division, Pro Bono Publico, as an official 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

(3) if you donate at the sponsorship level, you'll directly provide a pro bono student with two months of free tutoring.

Your contribution – no matter how big or small – will help us grow, and will help us help more students achieve their academic goals.

To thank you for your support, we’re offering some pretty cool perks. Here’s an overview:

For $25: a shout out on our Facebook page and a cleverly punny, custom-designed button.

For $50: a copy of Scholastic’s Checking Your Grammar, signed by author Marvin Terban (a.k.a Professor Grammar) himself. With over a million copies sold, it’s a fun, easy way to brush up on grammar basics.

For $100: an awesome, original tote bag made exclusively for our valued supporters.

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Why We Love Teachers

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Yesterday marked the beginning of Teacher Appreciation Week, and today, May 7th, is, in fact, National Teacher Day. The folks over at the National Education Association have invited all of us to mark the occasion by changing our Facebook status to “thank a teacher who made a difference” in our lives. To find out how you can change your profile status and/or picture in honor of the teachers who’ve made a difference in your life, click here.

While we at Tutor Tango are certainly appreciative that there’s a week designated to celebrate teachers, we firmly believe that EVERY WEEK should be Teacher Appreciation Week. Does that sound cheesy? Okay, maybe a little. But we pride ourselves on the fact that we hire only experienced teachers to be our tutors. So in honor of our team of exceptional teachers, we present our list of the top five reasons why we love teachers. Here they are:

5. Teachers work hard. Most of the educators we know know get to work early and stay late to get the job done. The idea of “punching a clock” doesn’t apply to most teachers; they put in the extra hours to do whatever it takes to help their students succeed. And, by the way, the idea that teachers just kick back and relax all summer is a bit of a myth; many teachers engage in professional development workshops, take classes, or work other jobs during the summer.

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We Got Out of the Building!

Friday, April 19, 2013

If you’ve been following our blog lately, you may have noticed that we like to draw parallels between entrepreneurship and education. Here we go again...

About two months ago, we joined Tomer Sharon, a UX (user-experience) expert and author of It’s Our Research, for an online interview. Sharon presented a series of questions about our own experiences as a tech startup, and one in particular caught us off guard: “What does the expression, ‘Getting out of the Building,’ mean to you?” We scratched our collective heads, because the expression meant nothing to us. We hadn’t done our homework; if these words were metaphorical, their meaning escaped us. So, as teachers, we naturally responded that “getting out of the building” is simply something we do at the end of the school day or--on occasion--during lunch or a fire drill.

Ha.

Like any good, resilient student, we looked up the expression as soon as we could (read: immediately after the interview). As it turns out, “Getting out of the Building” was coined by Steve Blank, a founder of the Lean Startup movement and author of several books on entrepreneurship, including The Startup Owner’s Manual. Basically, the expression has to do with getting out of your office (in our case, logging-off of our website) and engaging your customers to find out what they think about your product or service. “Getting out of the Building” is important because, as Forbes contributor Todd Warren put it in a recent article, “it’s too easy for [startup] teams to become stuck in the echo chamber of their own thoughts and biases.”

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Teaching Kids How to Pivot

Friday, April 5, 2013

The best laid schemes of mice and men,
Often go awry...

Many teachers and tutors make thorough, meticulous lesson plans that map out what’s in store for days or even weeks ahead. A basic overview of these plans often takes shape in the form of a course syllabus or calendar, and both the teacher and student have a shared expectation for what’s coming next. But then, inevitably, the unexpected happens: the teacher gets sick; in the middle of a critical lesson there’s a fire drill; a hurricane rolls through town and classes are canceled for a whole week (sound familiar?); the school’s network crashes two minutes before that visit to the computer lab...

As teachers, we’re expected to be flexible in situations like these, and in this respect, we aren’t all that different from entrepreneurs, who are accustomed to “pivot” when business plan A doesn’t work out. In his book The Lean Startup (generally considered essential reading for folks in the business world these days), author Eric Ries extols the successful pivot of Groupon thus:

...when the company first started, it was an online activism platform called The Point. After receiving almost no traction, the founders opened a WordPress blog and launched their first coupon promotion for a pizzeria located in their building lobby. Although they only received 20 redemptions, the founders realized that their idea was significant, and had successfully empowered people to coordinate group action.Three years later, Groupon would grow into a billion dollar business.

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Take Time to Take Time Off

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Last week, we did something rather unorthodox in the edtech world: we took a break. We threw caution to the wind and sacrificed a few SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ranking points. No new blog posts, no new Tweets, no new Facebook posts. One of our staff members took a trip to visit family; two others led a group of high school students abroad on a trip to Italy; another simply stopped coding and enjoyed his morning coffee free from the stress-inducing review of the to-do list du jour. As a company, we logged-off, so to speak, and we all feel pretty good about it.

As educators, we recognize the great importance of taking a break from time to time. We know what a challenge it is to battle against student fatigue and apathy before a holiday or spring vacation; and, to the contrary, we know what a delight it is to work with students who’ve returned from a break and are refreshed and ready to learn. But we’re not alone in our endorsement of putting learning on hold once in awhile.

A recent Adobe Captivate blog entry champions the idea of the Zeigarnik Effect, first published by the eponymous scientist in 1927, which suggests that students who take a short break during a study session will remember material better than students who did not take a break. A more recent study conducted by neuroscientists at MIT in 2006 reported that after learning a task, “rats took a break and their brains played back repeatedly what they had just learned.” In addition,

they played it back 10 times faster than the actual task took them to learn it. This gives the rest of the brain more of an opportunity to take in all the new information and store it for long term memory.

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Can an Online Business Be a Local Business?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Salve! I’m Scott Wilson, the founder and chief executive manager of Tutor Tango. By day, I’m a Latin teacher at a Manhattan private school (hence the greeting). But when the final bell rings, if I don’t have any tutoring appointments, I take the subway back to my home neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where we run the site.

The way I see it, I marry two worlds every day: the real, physical classroom that I teach in, and the online educational space that Tutor Tango calls home. Our site itself was born of the same desire to join together two worlds: the virtual address where students work together with our talented teachers, and the schools and communities where many of those same tutors and students learn and live.

But how do we go about this?

We’ve started by establishing a presence in our own community not only as a tech startup, but also as a local business with a Main Street mentality. Here are four things we’ve done to that end:

1. We rely on local personnel. All managing members of our startup staff are based in the neighborhood. Several members of our advisory board are teachers and tutors based in New York City. And many of our tutors are based in New York and the greater New York area.

2. We’re establishing partnerships with local businesses and community organizations to find meaningful ways to give back to our local community.

3. We’ve engaged the services of other local professionals. Our bookkeeper, attorney, accountant, and PR consultant are all based in Brooklyn. We take pride in helping other professionals in our neck of the woods thrive and prosper.

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Why Increasing Student Confidence May Be a Hollow Victory

Sunday, February 24, 2013

If we ask a simple question, “Can tutoring increase a student’s confidence?” most people would probably answer yes. If we then asked, “Should increasing a student’s confidence be one of the primary goals in a tutor-student relationship?” most people would again say, yes!

Well, not so fast.

According to Candice Shoemaker, a professor of Horticultural Sciences at Kansas State University, whose recent study charted the relationship between confidence and self-efficacy in the classroom, the answer is a little more complicated than that.

It turns out that when we say confidence with regards to academic performance, what we really mean is self-efficacy. Ms. Shoemaker defines self-efficacy as a belief in one’s capabilities to learn, while she defines confidence as a measure of one’s belief in one’s own abilities.

Here’s a scenario in which confidence-building does not tell the whole story. Say a tutor works with a student on a term paper and the student receives an A. The student then feels confident because he or she received a good grade. But did the tutor just help the student get a good grade (confidence), or did she empower the student to write a good term paper on his own (self-efficacy)? There’s a big difference between the two.

It’s easy for a tutor to help a student get a good grade, and a much harder task to impart the skills necessary for a student to learn on his or her own. But getting that good grade, although confidence-building, can be a hollow victory of sorts. What tutors and students really need to work toward is building self-efficacy, which pays out long-term academic benefits for the student.

Good tutors may not think of it this way, but what they’re really doing is empowering kids to no longer need them. And that’s exactly as it should be.

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Cool New Features "Below-the-Fold"

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Last week we unveiled many exciting new features on TutorTango.com. Each section of our homepage has been redesigned to include new information “below-the-fold”--that is, under the orange bar in the middle of each page. Here's a brief overview.

Our Hello page now includes feedback from recent customers and links to press.

The Our Tutors page now features an interactive map above the fold, with pins marking the prestigious universities and colleges attended by our tutors. When scrolled over, these pins burst into pop-ups with information about each tutor and they link to even more information below-the-fold, including tutor photos.

The We Care section now contains more information about the name of our social mission, Pro Bono Publico.

In the How it Works section, we’ve added a video that shows how learning happens on our amazing, state-of-the-art interface.

Check out the site and let us know what you think: feedback@tutortango.com. We appreciate your input!

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National Grammar Day Repost: 5 Grammar Feeds to Follow on Twitter

Monday, March 4, 2013

Twitter is a great place to find quick and simple tips on grammar. Lately, we’ve been tracking a number of great grammar feeds, and we think these five are most worth following. Gosh, we hope our descriptions of them are grammatically correct...

5.) @MGrammar: The “M” stands for “Motivated,” which is an appropriate descriptor of the man behind the tweets, Gabe Doyle, a doctoral candidate in linguistics at UC-San Diego. Mr. Doyle’s motto, “Prescriptivism must die” sounds intimidating, but don’t be alarmed. As he explains it, “Grammar should not be articles of faith handed down to us from those on high who never split infinitives but always split hairs. Grammar should be rules that allow us to communicate more efficiently, clearly, and understandably.” @MGrammar’s feed has a decent following (over 4,800), privy to tweets like this:

4.) @GrammarSnark: The Grammar Snark folks delight their 3,300+ followers by spotting bad grammar and tweeting about it. “We look for bad grammar and proofreading in professional writing,” they say. “And then we laugh about it.” One recent funny tweet: “Can’t stop giggling about the transformer that was supposed to be delivered to a ‘Navel Site.’” And from last August, this one:

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Verbal Enrichment Tweet Series: Tips and Week 1 Summary

Friday, January 25, 2013

Last week, @TutorTango launched our Verbal Enrichment Tweet Series. Since then, we’ve tweeted 17 PSAT words that occurred in articles in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and on BBC.com. In case you missed the first week of tweeted words, here they are again, in alphabetical order:

appropriate
benign
confirm
cynical
depict
derivative
exploit
dissent
feasible
generate
indifference
obscure
optimist
perpetual
superficial
sustain
thwart

Why are we doing this? Because we agree with most teachers that reading is the best way to expand vocabulary and, therefore, prepare for the verbal sections of standardized tests. But we recognize that many busy students these days don’t have enough time to read. So we’re making it easy for them by suggesting one article per day that contains 2-3 words from Barron’s High Frequency PSAT World List.

Students, if you haven’t caught on yet, here’s what to do:

1. Take a look at the PSAT words spelled out in our daily tweet, then follow the short link to the article in which they occur.

2. As you read, locate each PSAT word. Note that the form of the word may be slightly different from the form of the word as tweeted (for example, an adverb might appear in adjective form in the article).

3. Try to learn the word from context. Read and re-read the sentence in which each word occurs until you have a sense of the word’s general meaning.

4. If you still don’t understand the word, look it up. Cut-and-paste the word into Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary or try OneLook.com.

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Mastering Vocabulary, One Article at a Time...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Most of the English teachers we know, including those who tutor for us, would agree that reading is one of the best ways to expand your vocabulary. The idea is simple: you encounter unfamiliar words when you read, and seeing them in context helps you learn their meanings organically.

If you’re a good student, you might take this one step further by maintaining a list of new vocabulary words as you spot them in assigned reading. But if you’re a great student, you’ll go even further and look up these words, jot down their definitions, and rotate them into your own speech and writing.

These kinds of vocab-building habits will not only strengthen your command of English and make you the most eloquent kid in the cafeteria; they’ll improve your scores on the verbal sections of standardized tests, such as the PSAT, SAT and ACT. With this in mind, tomorrow we’ll be launching our Tutor Tango Verbal Enrichment Tweet Series, in which we’ll link to online news articles that include words on the high frequency word list in Barron’s PSAT Guide (16th Edition) on a regular basis (every day or every other day). There are 300 words, so we'll be at it for a while!

Follow us on Twitter @TutorTango and--when the mood catches you--reply with your own original sentence to show off just how well you understand the latest word or words!

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National Mentoring Month

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tutor Tango is proud to endorse January 2013 as National Mentoring Month. Harvard University’s School of Public Health established this annual call-to-action in 2001 in an effort to help young people connect with volunteer adult mentors.

If you’re interested in finding ways to get involved this month, nationalmentoringmonth.org has a list of 10 simple suggestions. Mentoring.org, Harvard’s fellow sponsor of National Mentoring Month, also has many helpful resources, including overviews on how to find a mentor, or how to become one.

While many successful mentoring relationships take place through in-person meetings, online mentoring, or “e-mentoring” has a nearly 20-year tradition that dates back to the early days of the World Wide Web. One reputable organization that helps mentors and mentees partner up through the internet is called Brightside. Brightside matches 14-19 year old students with college undergraduates or professionals to “help [the students] explore options for higher education.”

Tutor Tango’s field of nearly 40 talented tutors is also available for e-mentoring. Because we hire only experienced educators to be our tutors, many of them have years of valuable real world experience and wisdom to share with their students. Tim H., for example, not only tutors economics and test prep; he holds a law degree from Indiana University and has lived and worked in China. Elizabeth L., another one of our talented tutors, has worked for almost a decade as a professor at DePaul University. Rachel F. and Tolly M. are published authors. Jayk G., Kate H., and Bess G. have all worked in film and television. We think you get the idea...

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What's the Role of a Tutor?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tutors can be more than just academic teachers. They can be "a source of general life support."

Take a look at yesterday's article in the NYTimes' Fashion & Style section, "Some Tutors Are Shouldering a Wider Load".

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Press Release: New Socially Conscious Online Tutoring Service Wins Prestigious Merit Award:

Monday, December 10, 2012

PowerUP! Brooklyn Picks Education Start Up

Brooklyn, NY, December 10, 2012 - Tutor Tango, a new high-end online tutoring service for students in grades 7-12, received a Merit Award at the 10th Annual Brooklyn Public Library’s PowerUP! Start-up Business Plan Competition. Conceived by BPL’s Business Library Success Council, and underwritten by the Citi Foundation, the competition was designed to provide Brooklyn entrepreneurs with pivotal funding and resources to turn their ideas into successful businesses. Since its inception in 2003, the competition has awarded over $287,000 in start-up funds to local entrepreneurs. Tutor Tango is the only tech start-up among this year’s winners.

Company founder and manager, Scott Wilson, decided to launch the company when he recognized the need for a high-end, “white-glove” service that focuses exclusively on delivering tutoring in an online format. Tutor Tango pairs students with top-of-the-line teachers and they meet and study virtually on a state-of-the-art learning interface. The tutoring service prides itself on the fact that it’s founded and run by teachers and tutors who know the NYC private school market.

Wilson himself has worked as a teacher and tutor (Latin, English, history, and test prep) in Manhattan for the past eight years, and his partners, investors and consultants have helped him put together a sleek, seamless tutoring interface that has video, audio, file and document sharing, instant messaging, and a fun and multi-faceted interactive whiteboard. “We only contract experienced teachers who we feel will work well with New York’s private school students on our special interface,” says Wilson. “As of now, we have about 40 teachers available to help students in just about any subject, from ACT or SAT prep to Mandarin and everything in between.”

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