Traditional, Catholic, Montessori, Common Core, etc. There are many different ideas and methods for teaching. But do students really know how to learn? Do they understand their own learning abilities?
The answer is no. Most students just absorb passively what they are taught and which methods are applied to them, without them knowing what works best and what does not work for them.
Wilt Chamberlain, Karim Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, and Stephen Curry are all prolific scorers in their sport. If they can all score at will, then why are they so different? The answer is simple: each one's unique difference is their strength that makes them so great!
At Hillview Prep, we enable our students to take control of their abilities. You have your unique way of learning and your academic advantage. Are you visual or auditory, kinesthetic or tactile, fast or slow reader, abstract or literal thinker? We discover your strengths, and use them as a tool to conquer your weaknesses.
Whether enrolled in a Traditional, Catholic, Montessori, Common Core school, students are primarily learning passively, without taking control of their abilities. We help students discover how they learn best. While schools are focused on development, we focus on the discovery of natural abilities couple with practical tools to help you to succeed in mastering any academic challenge.
When I was a freshman in high school, I used to meet with my guidance counselor. Each meeting would be for about 30 minutes during lunch, after school, or whenever there was some free time for the both of us. Looking back, I'm not really sure why I sought out the meetings. On the one hand, I think it was something expected of me. After all, you have to figure out your whole life plan in high school, right? At the time I had some high ambitions to become a doctor and I needed all the help I could get. On the other hand, my counselor gave me practical step-by-step advice to achieving my goals. Interestingly, he told me the same thing over and over again: get an internship.
During the spring of my sophomore year, I decided to follow my counselor's internship mantra and do some searching. Not really knowing where to look, I turned to Google. I typed in searches for “medical high school internships” and “high school internships in the Bay Area.” I wouldn't say I was obsessive, as it was something I would just spend a few hours doing every day. Eventually, I stumbled upon a few pages showcasing some amazing opportunities. Stem cell research at UCSF? Cancer research at Stanford? Can high schoolers really do something that cool? The simple answer: yes.
In summer 2010, I participated in the Stanford Institute for Medical Research (SIMR) summer internship held at the Stanford School of Medicine. My hope was to see if I would one day want to pursue a MD/Ph.D as a physician and lab researcher. Of the various fields, I was able to work in my first choice within cancer biology research. Each day I spent about eight hours working with a Stanford graduate student on my own project that supplemented the research lab. Over the course of ten weeks, I learned various lab techniques and important safety measures. Weekly I attended mini-lecturers and discussed with peer interns during “research paper club.” My experience culminated with a final research presentation, which I had to give in front of prominent Stanford medical research faculty. Throughout my summer, I made some friends - some of which I still am close with to this day. The most valuable lesson I learned from my internship, however, was this: medical research was not my life's calling.
Despite my finding, I am so glad for my summer internship experience. Firstly, I gained some valuable insight into the medical research profession including lab skills. Secondly, I learned a bit more about myself - what I enjoy doing, what I did not enjoy, etc. Thirdly, the experience connected me to a network with some impressively talented people (and friends). Lastly, I was able to use the internship, as a prestigious opportunity at Stanford, to build my resumé and college application. Without it, I sometimes wonder if I would be where I am today - an Ivy League university graduate.
So my advice to you is to take the risk! Go ahead and pursue as many internship opportunities as you can before you graduate high school. Colleges also like seeing internships as extracurriculars supplementing your education in which you pursue your passions. When you're ready, the Hillview Prep staff are ready to help you search for these experiences in helping you become an ideal college candidate. Together let's get searching! Many opportunities are waiting for you!
Whenever I see someone’s frustration in learning math, the first complaint I usually hear is , “When will I ever need to use this later on in life?” Though there are many answers to this question, I found the best answer in a math book that I recently used called Meaningful Math.
What makes this text book so unique is its use of common math concepts to solve relevant real world situations. The reality is, understanding the mathematical foundation behind important, everyday functions and questions such as financial feasibility, allows us to develop skills that we can apply in almost every facet of our lives.
A stark comparison.
Last year, I had a student who needed help with linear inequalities. He was having a difficult time understanding the purpose of the inequality. He was using a standard textbook and taught under common core standards. I was teaching him to pass the his tests, but in reality, nothing really had any meaning to him, so he would learn and then just as easily forget.
In comes Meaningful Math.
A year later, the same student, who was retaking algebra I as a freshman, comes back for more math assistance for linear inequalities. My first though was, “Ok, this will be the same type of material.” I was considering how to refine this session so I wouldn't be teaching him how to simply pass a test. This is where “Meaningful Math” made all the difference. The textbook was able to relate the same concepts from last year, the lines, equations, and graphs into a real life situation. In this case, it was a bakery deciding how many cookies to bake and how many different variations.
This was great! I could now teach these math concepts in a format that my student can visualize, remember, and apply to similar situations. So now, instead of seeing the linear equation as a line with specific rules to memorize, we now visualize it as a constraint for something that we want to accomplish.
Learning math goes way beyond math.
How many chocolate chip cookies and pastries can Sarah bake for her son's birthday party given the cost of each material, oven/machine time, cost of human resources? If I need to swim across the river, which direction gives me the shortest path? Math can be taken to a whole new level when taught and learned in a meaningful way!
Life is all about constraints.
Clearly, each decision that we make in life has its constraints. No matter the real world situation, each constraint can be mathematically calculated, whether it be algebraic or geometric etc. How does each constraint affect how efficient we are? If we face a constraint and understand the mathematical structure of it, is there any way that we can change the mathematical integrity of it to allow that constraint to be more flexible for us?
The more we understand our constraints, the more efficient and effective we are in our decision making process. Lets face it, the best decision makers are our societies leaders.
So yes, math matters!
By: Sean Massa
During spring 2014 while studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, I came across a vivid mural in the Bo Kaap neighborhood reading in big bold letters “EDUCATION TAKES YOU PLACES.” This statement is probably something most of us have heard over and over from both parents and teachers alike, an overstated cliché. Yet at that moment some truth struck me: that education really does open opportunities for you to direct your future.
How in the world does one end up at the very southern end of the African continent? During my sophomore year of college while researching potential majors to choose, I encountered a study abroad program called the “International Honors Program in Health and Community.” Reading over the description, I found myself shifting in my seat from the excitement: a four month comparative health program that covers urban and rural communities in Vietnam, South Africa, and Brazil. This was it. My chance to see the world. I made the decision that semester to become a Health and Societies major, beginning my current journey into international affairs and development.
Looking back on my experiences, I find that luck is not the only thing that has shaped my life. Without the coupling of passion and hard work, I do not think I would have been able to have a number of invaluable life-shaping opportunities. To make the most of their education, I give students these recommendations:
At Hillview Prep over the last few years, we help our students learn to be more active. After acing academics, we aid our students to begin to truly engage their passions through resources for extracurricular opportunities relevant to their educational pursuits. Maybe the old mantra should be revised to something along the lines of “you use your education to take you places” or simply “you take you places.” So go ahead, jump into the driver’s seat of your education. You will be surprised at how much more you will enjoy every class, lab, and assignment you may have. If you make the change, I can assure you won’t regret it. Who knows? You may even end up across the world.
Sean Tristan Massa
June 5, 2016
With the math, English, and science classes filling up a student's school schedules, it's easy to overlook the most important skill needed for each of these subjects: critical thinking.
What is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking requires a student to approach an issue both literally and figuratively, subjectively and objectively, to reason dispassionately, demanding claims to be backed up by evidence, and to infer conclusions available from facts and problem solving.
Whether it be math, English, or even Spanish class, critical reading is one of the most important elements for classifying and problem solving.
Why is Critical Thinking So Important?
Attending school and scoring well in classes will not guarantee that a student will graduate with the effective critical thinking skills needed to be successful in college and beyond. Students need strong critical thinking skills to be strong academically, especially when preparing for standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. Strong critical thinking skills enables a student to be a more versatile performer.
SAT/ACT, the last piece to a successful academic career.
I've had students who were very high performers in school: taking multiple AP classes, high GPA, and phenomenal resumes, but their SAT and ACT scores are not competitive. One specific student I had was stuck scoring a 28 on the ACT. She was able to increase her score to a 32 just by learning how to switch between literal and abstract thinking in order to use proper and effective deductive reasoning.
Although altering her approach helped her, finding her natural approach and adapting to it is what took time. For a student to be an effective critical thinker, what first must be understood is the type of learner he or she is. Any student can memorize and learn a concept, but applying that concept in any situation requires critical thinking.
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