Sustaining Success: A Guide to Goal Setting and Motivation in Children

Goal Setting

Parents want their children to grow up and maximize their potential. However, it can be difficult for children to set goals and find the motivation to achieve them.

To help your child move toward their goals independently, your top priority is to help them establish practical goals and motivate them throughout the process. Determining defined goals is the difference between success and failure.

Keep reading if you are ready to help your child reach their potential. This article outlines the foundational skills your child needs to pursue their own goals, the power of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals, and actionable strategies to create an encouraging environment for your child.

Table of Contents

Identifying Aspirations

Before considering your children’s goals, you must consider their aspirations first. What interests does your child have? Are there any areas where they have shown aptitude or taken up challenges of their own volition?

Identifying your child’s aspirations or areas of interest is the first step in helping them create goals. If your child has not shared their opinions or struggles, there are several strategies you can employ.

Active listening is one of the best ways to identify your child’s aspirations. Active listening is when you engage with and show you are listening through your follow-up questions, behavior, and eye contact. This technique validates your child’s perspectives and shows you value their opinions and views.

You can also introduce your child to people who have succeeded in an area of your child’s interests. This person can build a relationship with your child, serve as a mentor, or demonstrate what is possible if they pursue their goals.

Ability-Appropriate Goals

Many people focus on big dreams, but it’s important to be realistic. When helping your child set goals, it’s critical to consider their ability level.

Setting big-picture goals of becoming a professional athlete or musician is great, but this goal may be out of reach based on their ability level. The disconnect between current ability and desired outcome causes many young people to give up.

Instead of dismissing the large goal, you can brainstorm with your child to establish an ability-appropriate goal to help them achieve the larger goal.

For example, if your child wants to become a professional musician, setting an age-appropriate goal, like learning a new piece of music or joining a band or musical group, would be wise. Any age-appropriate goal should align with the larger goal.

Ability Appropriate Goals

Co-Creating SMART Goals

If your child is ready to set goals, using the SMART goals framework is a highly effective way to create an actionable plan to turn even the biggest dream into specific, tangible objectives.

The five-step approach to setting SMART goals is as follows:

1. Specific: Define Clear Objectives

The first step of creating a SMART goal is to help your child identify clear and specific goals. Such goals should pinpoint the exact objective they aim to achieve. Examples of specific goals include making the high school sports team, learning to play an instrument, or winning a relevant competition.

In addition to setting a specific goal, ask your child why they want to achieve it. This knowledge makes meeting the goal more concrete and real and helps develop their why.

2. Measurable: Track Progress Effectively

To effectively pursue a goal, your child’s SMART goal must be trackable. Your child should think of the following questions:

  • What does success look like?
  • How will I know I have reached my goal?
  • What are the actions that will get me there?

Examples of measurable goals are practicing 30 minutes daily, reading one book weekly, or turning in all their homework. These measurable goals allow you to celebrate your kid’s victories.

These measurable and trackable goals should be behavior-based rather than outcome-focused. Your child only has control over the actions, not the outcome. Focusing on the behavior will prevent them from getting disheartened when they face obstacles or setbacks.

3. Achievable: Set Realistic Targets

Many kids often set unattainable or idealistic goals, and after some time, they become demotivated because of repeated failures. To avoid this common pitfall, it is critical to help your child establish achievable goals.

Achievable does not mean easy. The goal can still be challenging or rigorous, but it should be based on their age or ability level. This part of a SMART goal is one of the hardest to navigate because you must balance setting reasonable goals without undercutting your child’s aspirations.

The key is to choose goals that balance challenge and ambition in a reasonable time frame. Focus on goals that your child can achieve in 3-4 months. This time frame encourages achievable goals so they can navigate challenges without losing motivation.

4. Relevant: Ensure Alignment With Interests and Values

The next step involves ensuring your child’s goals align with their genuine interest and values. You can engage in open conversations with them and check whether their aims resonate with their values. If your child is passionate about their chosen goal, there will be higher chances of success.

5. Time-Bound: Establish Timelines for Particular Goals

Finally, help your kids set a deadline for particular objectives. Time is a powerful motivator and can help teach prioritization and time management. It also encourages consistent effort.

Teaching Resilience & Celebrating Hard Work

During the journey of reaching their SMART goals, children may get disheartened. Apathy and a lack of motivation are common problems many children face. You can avoid this trap by teaching resilience and celebrating your child’s hard work.

Celebrating their hard work can further motivate them to reach the final target. You can use verbal praise, special treats, or fun activities they enjoy as a reward when they demonstrate hard work and perseverance. Praising effort is the most important thing you can do to encourage resilience.

By focusing on effort instead of outcome, you can empower your child. This approach will give your child a sense of control and agency, help them develop a growth mindset, and improve resilience and confidence.

Creating an Environment That Encourages Goal-Setting

Letting your child spread their wings and pursue their goals independently is critical if you want them to succeed. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to support them. Crafting an environment that encourages and supports goal-setting is an effective way to help your child.

Here are a few tips to create one in your home:

  • Lead by Example — Show them goal-setting through your actions.
  • Encourage Curiosity — Foster their interests and passions to inspire goal formation.
  • Establish Safe Space — Create an open environment at home for sharing ideas and dreams.
  • Ask Questions — Asking questions can help your child process their challenges and encourage reflection.
  • Set Realistic Expectations — Guide them in setting challenging yet achievable goals.
  • Provide Support — Offer resources and mentorship for their chosen aspirations.
  • Foster Independence — Allow them to take charge of their goals and decisions.

Additional Assistance

Encouraging goal-setting in children and motivating them throughout the process is foundational for their future development. However, if you are struggling to encourage goal-setting in your children, Emergent Education can provide valuable assistance.

Emergent Education has a team of professional educators to help your child identify their aspirations, develop goals, and improve their resilience and motivation.

Contact us today to get your child the support they need to reach for the stars and move toward their goals independently.

Understanding Geometric Proofs: A Comprehensive Guide

Geometric Proofs

Geometry is a fascinating branch of mathematics that deals with the shapes, sizes, and properties of figures and spaces. One of the key aspects of studying geometry is understanding geometric proofs. 

Unlike other areas of mathematics, geometry often requires you to work backward: you’re given a conclusion, and your task is to justify it. This is where geometric proofs come in.

In this guide, we’ll start with the basics and work our way up to applications of proofs beyond the world of geometry. Read it straight through for a comprehensive overview, or jump around to find the piece of insight you need. 

Regardless of where you are at in your learning journey, this guide has a little something for everyone.

Table of Contents

Core Foundations of Geometry

1. The Power of Deductive Reasoning

Before we dive in it’s important to understand the power of deductive reasoning in geometry.

Deductive reasoning is the process of reaching a logically certain conclusion from given premises. In geometry, we use deductive reasoning to derive conclusions from definitions, postulates, and previously proven theorems. 

This is the foundation of geometric proofs.

2. The Role of Definitions, Postulates, and Theorems

In geometric proofs, we often rely on…

  • Definitions (precise descriptions of geometric concepts),
  • Postulates (accepted truths without proof), and
  • Theorems (statements proven based on definitions, postulates, and previously proven theorems)

Understanding these elements and how they interact is crucial for constructing geometric proofs.

For example, the definition of a right angle (an angle measuring 90 degrees), the postulate that the angles in a triangle add up to 180 degrees, and the theorem that the base angles of an isosceles triangle are congruent are all essential tools for geometric proofs.

Four Styles of Geometric Proofs

At its core, a geometric proof is simply deductive reasoning that leads us to a concrete conclusion. But how do we show our reasoning? It turns out that we have some options. 

In geometry, there are four main styles of proofs…

  • Two Column Proofs
  • Paragraph Proofs
  • Flowchart Proofs
  • Visual Proofs

These four are stylistically different but functionally the same, taking us from point A to point B with a series of logical steps.

Let’s start by exploring a single proof, showing that diagonals of a parallelogram bisect each other, using the first three styles.

Proving That Diagonals Of A Parallelogram Bisect Each Other


1. The Two Column Proof



ABCD is a parallelogram


AD ≅ BC and AB ≅ DC

Opposite sides of a parallelogram are congruent


Side-Side-Side (SSS) Congruence Postulate

AD bisects BC and BC bisects AD

Corresponding parts of congruent triangles are congruent (CPCTC)

2. The Paragraph Proof

Given that ABCD is a parallelogram, we know that AD ≅ BC and AB ≅ DC because the opposite sides of a parallelogram are congruent. By the Side-Side-Side (SSS) Congruence Postulate, we can conclude that ∆ADB ≅ ∆BCA. Therefore, by the Corresponding Parts of Congruent Triangles are Congruent (CPCTC) theorem, AD bisects BC and BC bisects AD.

3. The Flowchart Proof

flow chart

Proving the Pythagorean Theorem

Arguably the most famous theorem in geometry is the Pythagorean theorem. It states that in a right-angled triangle, the square of the length of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides. In other words, a2 + b2 = c2

This theorem is a cornerstone of geometry and has a multitude of applications, from architecture to astronomy. It is also a product of the humble geometric proof.

In fact, there are several different geometric proofs for the pythagorean theorem, all using different deductive reasoning to arrive at the same conclusion. Let’s look one of the simplest and most elegant proofs of the bunch.

4. The Visual Proof

visual proof
Refresh this page to see the animation repeat, or click here to see it on Wikipedia.

This visual proof of the pythagorean theorem shows how we can rearrange 4 identical right triangles within a square to leave us with either or c2 or a2 + b2.

Because the area of the square and the 4 right triangles is the same in both variations, the left over area represented by the white space must also be the same. Therefore, a2 + b2 must be equal to c2.

Direct vs. Indirect Proofs

The above examples take us from Point A to Point B using a series of direct logical steps. But it is also possible to prove some things indirectly. In an indirect proof, instead of proving a statement directly, you assume that the statement is false and then show that this assumption leads to a contradiction. This proves that the original statement must be true.

Let’s consider an example. Suppose we want to prove that if a line is drawn from the center of a circle to the midpoint of a chord, then the line is perpendicular to the chord.

indirect proof

In an indirect proof, we would start by assuming the opposite: that the line is not perpendicular to the chord. This means that there is another line from the center of the circle to the chord that forms a right angle. But this leads to a contradiction, because it would mean that there are two different lines from the center of the circle to the midpoint of the chord, which is impossible. Therefore, our original statement must be true.

Indirect proofs can be a bit trickier to understand than direct proofs, but they’re a powerful tool for solving problems that might be difficult to approach directly.

Taking Proofs Beyond the Geometry Classroom

While geometric proofs are a fundamental part of studying geometry, they’re also a fundamental aspect of mathematics as a whole. They provide a rigorous way to establish the truth and build upon existing knowledge. By constructing a proof, you’re not just showing that a statement is true—you’re showing why. This deepens your understanding and allows you to apply the same principles to other problems.

Whether you’re studying algebra, calculus, or number theory, the ability to construct a rigorous proof is a crucial skill. It allows you to establish truth, build on existing knowledge, and develop a deep understanding of mathematical principles. 

Real-World Applications of Geometric Proofs

Furthermore, geometric proofs have many real-world applications. Engineers use geometric proofs to design and optimize structures. Computer scientists use them in graphics and algorithms. Physicists use them to understand the nature of the universe.

For example, consider the task of designing a bridge. Engineers need to ensure that the bridge is strong enough to support a certain weight. They might use geometric proofs to show that the forces on the bridge are distributed in a way that prevents it from collapsing.

Or consider the field of computer graphics. When rendering a 3D scene, a computer needs to calculate how light interacts with different surfaces. Geometric proofs can be used to show that the calculations are correct and that the rendered image accurately represents the scene.

These are just a few examples of how geometric proofs are used in the real world. They’re not just abstract exercises—they’re a way of ensuring that our buildings, our technology, and our understanding of the universe are sound.

Multnoma Falls

The Beauty of Geometry

Geometry is not just about numbers and shapes. It’s a way of seeing the world. From the symmetry of a snowflake to the layout of a city, geometric principles are everywhere if you know where to look. Understanding geometric proofs allows you to appreciate this beauty on a deeper level.

How Emergent Education Can Help You Master the Geometric Proof

Mastering geometric proofs is a journey, but it’s a rewarding one. With each proof you construct, you’re not just solving a problem—you’re honing your logical reasoning skills, deepening your understanding of geometry, and participating in the grand tradition of mathematical proof.

At Emergent Education, we’re here to support you every step of the way. Whether you’re just starting with geometric proofs or looking to tackle more complex problems, our experienced tutors are ready to help.

Emergent Education offers K-12 Portland Tutoring. We offer in-person tutoring locally and online tutoring to students across the U.S.

Schedule a free consultation to see if our tutoring services are a good fit for your needs.

How Much Is Tutoring In Portland, OR?

How Much Is Tutoring In Portland, OR?

Whether you’re meeting in-person or online, tutoring tends to be more effective when the tutor is based in the same area. 

Beyond the obvious upsides of proximity, local tutors are bound to be more familiar with local school districts, curriculum, schedules, etc. 

With that in mind, this post provides an overview of one-on-one tutoring options in Portland, OR, the types of services they offer, and the cost per hour.

If you’re based in Portland, OR and looking to hire a local tutor, start here!

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math calculation

National Tutoring Franchises

There are several national tutoring franchises with offices located in or near Portland, OR. 

Franchises typically operate out of a tutoring center, but not always. They typically have local ownership and higher local tutors. However, because they are a part of a national brand, their resources and services tend to be more standardized vs personalized. 

Regarding cost, franchises are typically more affordable than local tutoring companies. But their tutors tend to be less experienced with higher turnover.

Huntington Learning Center

Huntington Learning Center offers K-12 subject tutoring in Math, Science, Reading & Writing as well as SAT / ACT Test prep. They offer in-person tutoring on-site as well as online tutoring. 

Important Note: Students are not matched with one tutor. Instead, they work with whatever tutor is available during their scheduled session.

Estimated Costs:

  • Enrollment Fee: $150 – $200
  • K-12 Subject Tutoring: $45 – $75 per hour
  • SAT / ACT Test Prep: $85 – $90 per hour


TutorDoctor offers K-12 subject tutoring in Math, Science, Reading & Writing as well as SAT / ACT Test prep. They offer in-home tutoring as well as online tutoring. 

Important Note: Prepayment is required. Minimum purchase is 8 sessions.

Estimated Costs:

  • Enrollment Fee: N/A
  • All Tutoring Services: $55 – $80 per hour


ClubZ offers K-12 subject tutoring in Math, Science, Reading & Writing as well as SAT / ACT Test prep. They offer in-home tutoring as well as online tutoring. 

Important Note: Prepayment is required. Minimum purchase is 4 sessions.

Estimated Costs:

  • Enrollment Fee: N/A
  • K-12 Subject Tutoring: $45 – $60 per hour
  • SAT / ACT Test Prep: $80 – $100 per hour


Mathnasium offers K-12 Math tutoring. They provide their own curriculum and offer in-person tutoring on-site as well as online tutoring.

Important Note: Families pay monthly and do not have a set schedule. Students are encouraged to come in 2-3 times per week.

Estimated Costs:

  • Enrollment Fee: $100 – $150
  • K-12 Math Tutoring: $30 – $75 per hour
Portland Tutoring

Local Tutoring Companies

There are dozens of local tutoring companies based out of Portland, OR. 

Most of them are just owner-operator private tutors working under an assumed business name. Private tutors tend to be limited in their subject proficiency and rates can vary quite a bit depending on their niche. 

With that in mind, this list only includes local companies that employ a team of tutors and offer comprehensive tutoring services.

Tutor Portland

Tutor Portland offers K-12 subject tutoring in Math, Science, Reading & Writing as well as SAT / ACT Test prep. They offer in-home tutoring as well as online tutoring. 

Important Note: Families pay monthly for 1-3 sessions per week. All services are offered at the same rates.

Estimated Costs:

  • Enrollment Fee: N/A
  • All Tutoring Services: $99 – $105 per hour

Emergent Education

Emergent Education offers K-12 subject tutoring in Math, Science, Reading & Writing as well as SAT / ACT Test Prep and College Admissions Coaching. They offer in-home tutoring as well as online tutoring. 

Important Note: Emergent Education offers no contract tutoring services with pay-as-you-go pricing and discounted rates for online tutoring.

Estimated Costs:

  • Enrollment Fee: N/A
  • K-12 Subject Tutoring: $65 – $90 per hour
  • IB / AP Tutoring: $85 – $110 per hour
  • SAT / ACT & College Admissions: $105 – $130 per hour

Stumptown Test Prep

Stumptown Test Prep offers highschool subject tutoring, SAT / ACT Test Prep, and LSAT, GRE & GMAT Test Prep. They offer in-person tutoring on-site.

Important Note: All services are offered at the same rates. There is no option to meet online.

Estimated Costs:

  • Enrollment Fee: N/A
  • All Tutoring Services: $175 – $200 per hour

North Avenue Education

North Avenue Education offers highschool subject tutoring, SAT / ACT Test Prep, and LSAT, GRE & GMAT Test Prep. They offer in-person tutoring on-site as well as online tutoring.

Estimated Costs:

  • Enrollment Fee: $95
  • Highschool Subject Tutoring: $150 – $165 per hour
  • SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT: $180 – $220 per hour
academic coaching services in portland

Other Tutoring Options in Portland, OR

Beyond the tutoring options listed above, there are dozens if not hundreds of other individual tutors and tutoring programs offering services in Portland, OR. 

For the most part, these other options can be categorized as either peer tutors or marketplace tutors.

Peer tutors are current students who provide academic support in subjects that they’ve recently learned. Peer tutoring is the most affordable type of tutoring, with rates typically varying from $15 – $25 per hour (your actual cost could be even lower through a subsidized school program.)

Marketplace tutors are private tutors that connect with students through online marketplaces such as Wyzant,, Thumbtack, etc. They tend to be more experienced than peer tutors (though not always), with rates ranging from $20 – $75 per hour.

Emergent Education offers K-12 Portland Tutoring. We offer in-person tutoring locally and online tutoring to students across the U.S.

Schedule a free consultation to see if our tutoring services are a good fit for your needs.

What Age Is Best To Get A Tutor?

face in a book

Students can benefit from tutoring at any age. It really depends on each student’s individual circumstances. 

Some students will benefit from starting tutoring in elementary school, getting hands-on support in math, reading and/or writing. Other students may only need tutoring once they hit high school as subjects become more complex and expectations rise. Others may never need tutoring, doing well enough with just teacher, parent and peer support.

That being said, in general, many students will benefit from getting a tutor sometime in middle school. 

In this post, we’ll look at why middle school is such a pivotal time in a student’s academic journey, and how middle school tutoring can help lay the foundations for long term success.

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young in age

Why Middle School is a Pivotal Time

Middle school is a pivotal period, both academically and socially. It’s where students are building many of their foundational academic and social skills. It’s also where negative attitudes about school tend to crop up and take root. 

A graduating middle school student with strong foundations and a positive, growth mindset will be set up well for long term success. 

Unfortunately, many students exit middle school with gaps in their foundations and a bit of a chip on their shoulder. Those gaps can hold them back in high school, reinforcing their negative attitude, which in turn keeps them disengaged and underperforming. 

It’s a vicious cycle.

Understanding Algebra’s Outsized Importance

This cycle of negativity and poor performance is incredibly common with math.

Most elementary school students have neutral or positive feelings about math. Most high school students have negative feelings about math. The culprit is middle school math, A.K.A. Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1.

Algebra represents a paradigm shift in the world of math. It requires new modes of thinking, new big ideas, and new notation. Collectively, these form the bulk of a student’s math foundation alongside the basic arithmetic and number sense taught in elementary school. 

In short, you need Algebra to succeed in high school math and beyond, but internalizing all the new and challenging concepts is a big ask. Many student’s get derailed, and as hard as it is to stay on track, it’s even harder to get back on once you’re off.

have a tutor

The Shift to Self Accountability

Beyond the challenges of Algebra, middle school also coincides with big shifts in school format and student expectation. 

In particular, middle school students are starting to move between teachers for each subject. This naturally means less contact time with each individual teacher. It also means that their teachers now have hundreds of students to keep track of instead of just a few dozen.

This shift requires middle school students to be more self accountable with things like note taking, organization, time management, and planning. Essentially, they need to make significant strides in their executive functions.

The thing is, executive functions aren’t formally taught in most schools. Individual teachers may emphasize them, but nobody takes a class on executive functions.

Instead, most students develop their executive functions by modeling their thinking, behavior, and decision making off of what’s around them. Bad habits can rub off just as easily as good ones.

How Middle School Tutoring Can Help

A middle school tutor won’t make the challenges of middle school disappear. But a tutor can help to identify the challenges as they arise and provide tools to overcome them. 

Crucially, a middle school tutor is there to help nip academic struggles in the bud, before bad habits can form and before negativity can take root. This can save a lot of heartache down the road.

The Benefits of Middle School Algebra Tutoring

Take math, for example. 

Most students take Geometry during 9th or 10th grade, right after Algebra 1 and before taking Algebra 2. Geometry uses some Algebra, but it’s still common for students to experience learning loss. They might not notice it right away, but once they start Algebra 2, the learning loss will be apparent.

Tutors are familiar with this trajectory and are well positioned to help head it off. A middle school tutor can help solidify the algebra foundations taught in Pre-Algebra and Algebra 1. Moving forward, they can also emphasize those foundations within Geometry and Algebra 2, keeping the learning loss at bay. 

Not only does this help a student stay successful in math, it keeps their confidence up, which plays a huge part in student performance and outlook.

math calculation

The Benefits of Middle School Academic Coaching

Outside of math tutoring, middle school students can also really benefit from academic coaching. 

As mentioned above, middle schoolers face increasing expectations around self accountability and executive function. But these skills aren’t formally taught. Instead, students pick them up indirectly by modeling their behavior off teachers, parents, and peers. 

Academic coaching takes a more direct approach, identifying areas of growth and assigning weekly tasks designed to help build better habits. For example:

  • If a student is disorganized, an academic coach can help them set up systems of organization. Then, they can check in each week to make sure the systems are used and maintained.
  • Or, if a student is struggling with getting assignments turned in on time, an academic coach can help identify and resolve the underlying issues (e.g. low motivation, poor communication, minimal note taking, no use of planner, etc.)

Academic coaching can happen at any age, but so many bad habits can form in middle school that become much more difficult to correct down the road.

Don’t Wait for Academic Struggles and Negativity to Take Root

If you’re considering tutoring for your kid, the best age to start is probably whatever age they are currently at. 

Tutoring works best in support of ongoing student success. While it can certainly help dig students out of a hole, it’s best to avoid the hole in the first place. 

In other words, don’t wait for academic struggles and negativity to take root. Get started with a tutor today!

Emergent Education offers K-12 tutoring in Portland Oregon. We offer in-person tutoring locally and online tutoring to students across the U.S.

Schedule a free consultation to see if our tutoring services are a good fit for your needs.

How Many Times A Week Should You Tutor?

looking at a computer

A good rule of thumb is to start out meeting with a tutor once a week. Sometimes more frequency is needed, but it’s easy enough to make that adjustment. Better to start on the low side, give it a few weeks, and see where things are at. 

Once a week may seem insufficient considering that most K-12 students receive new assignments every day. But keep in mind, tutoring is not meant for walking a student through every task and every concept. 

Instead, tutoring is meant to provide targeted support in the areas where students most need it.

In this post, we’ll take a close look at how to dial in the meeting frequency and make the most of your weekly tutor time.

For the full picture, be sure to check out our other post on how long tutoring sessions should last.

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weekly planner

For Most Students, Once a Week Tutoring is Ideal

Tutoring once a week is like our Goldilocks zone. For most students, it’s just right. 

Less than once a week is just too inconsistent, and consistency is key! More than once a week is sometimes necessary, but we really want to avoid doing too much. 


Well for starters, tutoring is fairly expensive. But even if cost isn’t a concern, too much weekly tutor time can really work against our goals, either by overwhelming the student or by making them overly reliant on the support. 

In short, tutoring works best when it’s not too little and not too much, but just right.

A Common Exception to the Once a Week Rule

Of course, parents often sign up for tutoring during a moment of crisis. 

  • Maybe there is a huge backlog of assignments that needs to be completed before an upcoming deadline. 
  • Maybe there is a looming final exam that their kid feels totally unprepared for.

In a crisis, we might want to throw a lot of tutor time into the equation. In the short term, this is okay. But as we exit the crisis it’s important to step back down, finding a weekly meeting frequency that supports a student’s ongoing success without overdoing it.

Most importantly, successful tutoring is all about what happens in-between the weekly tutoring sessions. An increase in the amount of weekly tutor time should always involve an increase in the amount of student effort outside of tutoring. 

Keep in mind, tutoring is a supplemental resource, not a replacement, for classroom teaching and student effort. In order to take full advantage of the tutor time, students need to put in the work.

tutoring from home

How to Make the Most out of Once a Week Tutoring

Once a week tutoring is usually just one hour per week. We can accomplish a lot in that time, but it’s rarely enough to do all the things that need to be done. Instead, the expectation is that students put in time outside of tutoring as well.

What they need to do varies depending on the tutoring plan, but we can generalize it into two camps: Preparation and practice.

Preparing for the Weekly Tutoring Session

Preparation is all about making the time spent in a tutoring session as efficient and productive as possible. 

Let’s say a student needs support in their math class and the tutoring plan is focused on homework help. Most likely, they have some grasp of the material. If they attempt all their homework first, they can come into the weekly tutoring session with nothing but the stuff they need help on. That makes the session much more efficient. 

Even if a student is far behind in the class and isn’t able to solve any problems on their own, preparation is still important. Just the act of trying to solve a math problem will prime a student to more quickly and easily understand the explanation. 

Preparation is also a way for the student to maintain a sense of responsibility. At the end of the day, a tutor is just a resource to help a student achieve their goals. But the student is responsible for actually achieving those goals.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice is all about taking the skills learned in tutoring and applying them. It helps with retention as well as building better habits.

Let’s say a student needs support in organization. Their tutor might help them set up systems for staying organized, but the student needs to actually use and maintain the systems to see any benefit. 

Or let’s say a student needs support in writing an essay. Their tutor might provide feedback on a draft, but the student needs to actually take that feedback and revise.

Usually, tutors in Portland will set goals for the week or assign specific tasks to help clarify where students should focus their effort. But ultimately, if a student doesn’t practice, they won’t improve.

home tutor

When You Should Consider Tutoring More Than Once a Week

Once a week tutoring is the general recommendation, but every student is different. 

Some will need more hands-on support to get through a particularly difficult class or to successfully build better academic habits. Or if a student tends to slack on their responsibilities, a second weekly session can provide more accountability.

Tutoring frequency also needs to align well with the tutoring goals. If a student needs support across multiple classes, it may be necessary to have a weekly tutoring session for each subject.

Tutoring Frequency Vs. Session Length

It’s also important to consider the session length. Tutoring sessions typically run for an hour, but they can be shorter or longer depending on student and tutor preference. 

With online tutoring, we could split once a week tutoring for an hour into twice weekly tutoring for 30 minutes each. Same amount of tutor time, but a different distribution. 

On the flip side, we could consider increasing the length of our once a week tutoring session to 90 minutes or even 2 hours instead of meeting more frequently.

Different tutoring arrangements work better for different students, and you won’t really know what works best until you get started. Ideally, there should be some flexibility with your tutor to make adjustments as needed. But once a week tutoring for an hour works best for most students. Unless you have a strong inclination to do something different, start there.

Weekly Tutoring with Emergent Education

At Emergent Education, we encourage students and parents to commit to a weekly tutoring schedule, but there is no contract locking you in. Consistency is valuable, but so is flexibility. You can learn more by checking out our pricing page.

If you want more specific guidance on tutoring frequency for your student, schedule a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!

How Long Should Tutoring Last?

hand holding a clock

A typical tutoring session lasts for 60 minutes. But more or less time might be better depending on factors such as:

  • The age of the student,
  • The focus / goals of tutoring,
  • The location: online or in-person,
  • And, the meeting frequency.

Session duration and meeting frequency are especially intertwined. A change in one may necessitate a change in the other. But more importantly, session duration and meeting frequency are the two aspects of tutoring you can most easily change.

If you’re new to tutoring or still trying to refine your tutoring plan, this post will help you dial in the ideal session duration. 

For the full picture, be sure to check out our other post on how often you should tutor each week.

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How Student Age Affects Optimal Session Duration

A 60 minute tutoring session is not ideal for every student. In many cases, it is just a reasonable compromise between student attention, tutoring cost and tutor convenience. 

Student attention is the real limiting factor, but as students get older, they tend to develop longer attention spans. Older students are also learning more challenging concepts that take longer to meaningfully explore. Taken together, a high school student in a challenging class may benefit from a longer tutoring session: 90 – 120 minutes. 

The inverse is true as well. If you’re considering tutoring for an elementary school student, a 60 minute session may be too long for them to sit still and focus. For elementary students, 45 minute tutoring sessions are more common. Even 30 minute sessions can work well as long as there is an efficient routine. 

But be careful about making the session too short, especially if you’re only tutoring once a week. Students need time to internalize and retain new information. If attention is an issue, you can try taking brain breaks throughout the tutoring session. Or you can split a weekly 60 minute session into twice weekly 30-45 minute sessions.

math tutor

More Tutoring Goals = More Tutoring Time

Tutoring is often focused on a single subject. But students don’t succeed or fail in a vacuum. Struggles in one subject are often related to struggles in another. And underneath individual class performance sit the same set of foundational academic skills. Skills which may need strengthening before anything else can be accomplished.

If you’re looking for multi-subject tutoring, you may need to dedicate a weekly tutoring session to each subject. But assuming you have one tutor who can cover all your tutoring needs, another option is to simply increase the session duration.

Let’s say you need math and physics tutoring. Doing one long combined session instead of two shorter separate ones definitely won’t work for everyone, but it has its advantages. 

Primarily, a longer combined session gives you more flexibility to modulate the time spent on each subject, adapting to the changing needs week-to-week. In a 90 minute tutoring session, you could spend 60 minutes on physics and 30 minutes on math, or vice versa. You can also just play it by ear, working through your list of priorities across both subjects with the tutoring time available. 

In this example, Physics and Math are also closely related. Doing both in one tutoring session offers more opportunities for synthesis.

In-Person VS Online Tutoring

As mentioned above, the 60 minute tutoring session is a default compromise between student attention, tutoring cost, and tutor convenience. 

Students generally prefer shorter tutoring sessions because it’s easier to maintain focus. But Portland tutors generally prefer longer sessions simply for the schedule convenience. 

This is especially true for in-person tutoring where the tutor travels to the students home. When you factor in travel time to and from tutoring sessions, shorter sessions are simply less efficient and more costly.

But with online tutoring, travel time considerations are irrelevant and shorter sessions are much easier to schedule. At Emergent Education we have a 60 minute minimum for in-person tutoring, but only a 30 minute minimum for online tutoring. 

Beyond the flexibility to schedule shorter sessions, online tutoring can be scheduled even when the student or tutor is out of town (allowing for greater consistency), and it is easier to schedule as needed (allowing for greater adaptability).

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Session Length VS Tutoring Frequency

Session length and tutoring frequency combine to give us our total weekly tutor time.

Depending on the student and their goals, we’re typically shooting for 60 – 180 minutes of weekly tutor time. Less time is generally not enough for internalizing and retaining new information. But more time can be counterproductive to our goals, either by overwhelming the student or by becoming too much of a crutch.

If 120 minutes a week feels right, the question becomes how do we break up and schedule that time? 

A single 120 minute session is likely too long. Two 60 minute sessions is probably ideal. But you could also consider three 45 minute sessions, or even four 30 minute sessions.

If a student has the attention span for it, longer tutoring sessions tend to be more efficient. But there are a lot of advantages to increasing the tutoring frequency instead.

How to Refine Your Tutoring Plan with Emergent Education

At Emergent Education, we offer no-contract, no-commitment tutoring. We value consistency, but we also understand the importance of refining the tutoring plan and adapting to changes in student need. 

If you’re not sure how much tutoring time you need, we recommend starting with a 60 minute tutoring session once a week. After a few weeks, your tutor may recommend making some adjustments, either to the session length or meeting frequency, or both. 

If you want more specific guidance on how much tutor time your student will need to achieve their goals, schedule a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!

Is Paying For A Tutor Worth It?

Is Paying For A Tutor Worth It?

Beyond the immediate benefit of a good grade, tutoring can foster all sorts of positive downstream effects. A semester of math tutoring can build a sense of confidence that spills over into other parts of life, changing the shape of a student’s future in more ways than one. 

In other words, tutoring can be very worth it. 

But tutoring is also just one of many different resources available to students. Sometimes there is a less expensive resource that is just as helpful, if not more-so. 

As a parent considering tutoring for their kid, you want to feel confident that it will be a good investment. It’s worth asking a few key questions before making the leap.

Ultimately, you won’t know the value of tutoring until you give it a try, but these questions help put things into perspective.

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Is Your Kid Interested in Giving Tutoring a Try? (Or at least Willing?)

It’s hard to overstate how much this question matters. In almost every case, if you answer no to this question, I would advise you against tutoring.

We make our kids do all sorts of things they don’t want to do. Often, it’s for the best. Why not tutoring? I don’t have an easy answer, but I know from experience that tutoring only works well with student buy-in.

Fight Negativity. Don't Feed It

No matter the subject, when a student is struggling academically they tend to develop negative feelings that become part of the problem. 

  • Maybe they blame the subject, calling it stupid or boring, which gives them cover to disconnect and disengage.
  • Maybe they lose confidence in themselves and adopt a narrative that they simply can’t succeed.

Before we can address subject specific goals, we need to turn these kinds of negative feelings around. But a student who resents being forced into a tutoring session is much more likely to sink deeper into negativity. 

The flip side is that a student who wants tutoring is almost guaranteed to improve once they start. If they believe in their tutor, and their tutor believes in them, the cycle of negativity is easily broken, opening the door to a change in the narrative.

Mixed Feelings About Tutoring are Okay

Of course, many students are going to be in the gray about tutoring, half interested, half not. They might want the help but be self conscious about the vulnerability of seeking it out. But mixed feelings are okay. Once some trust and rapport are established, those kinds of doubts tend to fall away. 

It’s not necessary that a kid feels 100% on board with getting a tutor, but some part of them needs to be open to the idea in order for tutoring to be effective.

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What are Your Goals? What are Your Kid’s Goals?

The most common goal of tutoring is grade repair, for obvious reasons. It’s also one of the easiest goals to achieve with tutoring.

Let's be Real. Grades Matter

A tutor goes beyond just teaching class content, helping with things like test taking strategies, time management, executive function, etc. Things that are related to academic success but aren’t taught directly in school. And rather than generalizing, a tutor is there to help you apply relevant academic skills to a specific class or upcoming test. 

Essentially, tutors can be incredibly specific and targeted in their support. 

Any goal that has to do with improving on a particular assessment, whether it’s a class grade or an SAT score, is a great fit for tutoring.

Regardless of the Tutoring Goals, You and Your Kid Need to be on the Same Page

But grades aren’t everything. 

  • Maybe your goal is more about building confidence or improving organization.
  • Maybe it’s about enrichment beyond class content.
  • Maybe it’s about catching up or doing review so that your kid is better prepared moving forward.

Goals can be quite specific and measurable, but they are often more general. Either is fine. The important thing is to have a goal of some kind to give tutoring some direction.

It’s also important to check in with your kid to see if they are on the same page. If not, then you should try to find common ground.

As mentioned above, tutoring can only be successful with student buy-in. That includes with regards to the stated goals. Whether it’s grade repair or something else, as long as the parent and student share the same goal, hiring a tutor will help make that goal a reality.

Be Realistic About the Time it Will Take to Achieve Your Goals

With any goal, it helps to give yourself more time than you think you need. Progress is often non-linear, and the pressure to improve quickly can backfire, causing stress, overwhelm, and disengagement. 

Ask yourself and your kid what you expect in terms of timeline. Ask yourself how patient you can be if things move more slowly. Be honest.

If the cost of tutoring is a concern and you’re banking on things moving quickly to minimize the total expense, you may be in for disappointment. Conversely, if you give yourself (and your Portland tutor) some breathing room with the timeline, you may be pleasantly surprised by how quickly things change.


Besides Tutoring, What Other Resources are Available to Support Your Kid?

When your kid needs extra support, tutoring may be one of the first things you consider. But tutoring works best in conjunction with other resources, and it may not even be necessary depending on the other available resources.

What More can be Done in Class?

Let’s start with the class itself.

  • Is your kid taking advantage of all the support offered in class?
  • Maybe the teacher has a flex period where your kid can drop in and ask questions.
  • Maybe there are other students in the class who can help.

What More can be Done in School?

If the class resources aren’t enough, there may be options at the school or district level.

  • Does the school have any after school peer tutoring programs?
  • Could your kid enroll in a study hall period to give themselves more time in the day to complete assignments.
  • Or could they enroll in a college readiness course such as AVID to improve their academic skills / habits?

Maybe there are counselors and other on campus support staff that your kid can work with. Or maybe they would benefit from having an IEP.

What More can be Done at Home?

Beyond the school resources, there is of course whatever might be available at home.

As a parent, you may not have the bandwidth or skills to provide subject specific support.  But maybe you can help them with accountability and time management. Maybe they need a better computer or a different calculator.

The More Resources, the Better

Ultimately, you should strive for a multi-pronged approach. Tutoring on its own is never as good as tutoring alongside some of the other resources mentioned above. And if a student relies too much on tutoring, they may lose confidence in themselves without it, which is the exact opposite of what we want.

Utilizing multiple resources helps stave that off, ensuring that a student feels confident, capable and well supported throughout their academic career.

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So, Is Investing In A Tutor Worth It?

Tutoring is not a silver bullet, but it can be an incredibly valuable resource when it is approached with care and consideration. 

The questions in this post are meant to do just that. Ask them to yourself and to your kid. Be thoughtful, communicative and open. Encourage your kid to do the same. From there, tutoring is much more likely to be an effective and worthwhile investment.

Emergent Education is a K-12 tutoring company based in Portland, OR. We offer in-person tutoring locally and online tutoring to students across the U.S.

Schedule a free consultation to see if our tutoring services are a good fit for your needs.


What Do Most Tutors Charge Per Hour?

What Do Most Tutors Charge Per Hour?

Tutoring rates vary dramatically depending on a number of different factors:

  • How experienced is the tutor?
  • What is the subject or focus of tutoring?
  • Is it a private tutor or a tutor working for a large company?
  • Is it online or in-person tutoring?
  • Where is the tutor or tutoring company located?

With so many factors affecting the rate, a one hour tutoring session could cost you anywhere from $15 – $450. That’s a huge range, so let’s break it down into some common categories: Peer Tutors, Marketplace Tutors, Tutoring Companies, and Specialists.


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In person algebra tutoring services portland

Peer Tutors

Peer tutors are current students who provide academic support in subjects that they’ve recently learned. Peer tutoring is the most common and most affordable type of tutoring, with rates typically varying from $15 – $25 per hour (your actual cost could be even lower through a subsidized school program.)

Most colleges have a student learning center staffed by peer tutors, and it’s common for high schools and middle schools to offer some sort of peer tutoring program. Peer tutors also work privately, getting students through referrals or through online marketplaces such as Wyzant and

While peer tutors tend to be less experienced in the subjects they tutor and less experienced with pedagogy, they can still be quite effective. Fresh off the learning experience themselves, peer tutors are uniquely positioned to explain concepts in a way that resonates. That might be all that a student needs.


Marketplace Tutors

Marketplace tutors are private tutors that connect with students through online marketplaces such as Wyzant,, Thumbtack, etc. Most marketplace tutors are online only, but some are available to meet in-person. They tend to be more experienced than peer tutors (though not always), with rates ranging from $20 – $75 per hour.

Depending on the marketplace, there may be some sort of vetting process. At the very least, there is usually an identity verification and sometimes a background check. But you don’t necessarily need a lot of experience or credentials to get started. In other words, tutor quality is a bit of a mixed bag.

While more experienced tutors tend to charge higher rates, there are great tutors that undercharge and not so great tutors that overcharge. It pays to do your research—make sure to read through different tutor profiles and take a close look at their reviews before making a selection. 


Tutoring Companies

Tutoring companies run the gamut. There are large national brands such as Mathnasium and Kaplan that tend to be more standardized, as well as local tutoring organizations that tend to be more personalized. 

While different tutoring companies excel in different areas, you can be more certain about tutor quality when hiring a tutor company vs. when hiring a private tutor. They vet and hire tutors themselves, taking the guesswork out of tutor selection. But you pay for the convenience, with rates typically varying from $40 – $150 per hour.

Tutor companies also provide some extras that you don’t typically get with private tutors. Depending on the company, they may provide their own curriculum, or offer small group tutoring. They may work with uncommon subjects or be specialized in supporting students with learning differences. 

If taking a chance on a private tutor doesn’t suit you, tutoring companies are a good alternative for consistently good results.


test prep tutoring near me


Most tutors will fall under one of the three categories listed above. However, there are some private tutors who build personal brands and operate mostly outside marketplaces. Rates vary dramatically, with some tutors charging as much as $450 per hour! However, most charge between $60 – $175 per hour.

Specialists that work off referrals succeed because of their reputation. While finding a quality tutor through a marketplace can be difficult, you can be more certain about a private tutor who has built their own personal brand. 

But specialists also tend to go where the money is, working primarily in high value areas related to college admissions, or in high demand subjects such as math. As their reputation grows, so does their rate.


Other Considerations

As with anything else, the cost of tutoring is location dependent, tracking along with the cost of living. Online tutoring rates are generally lower than in-person rates, especially if you search for tutors located in less expensive areas. STEM subjects are generally more expensive, as are high value areas like college admissions and SAT test prep. 

While most students still prefer in-person tutoring, there are more online tutoring options now than ever before. But even with online tutoring, you’re often better off finding a local tutor who is familiar with the local school system. With that in mind, location, subject and preferred modality are often fixed. 

From there, cost will vary mostly depending on whether you choose a peer tutor, marketplace tutor, tutoring company, or specialist.


Emergent Education is a K-12 Portland tutoring company. We offer in-person tutoring locally and online tutoring to students across the U.S. You can check out our rates on our pricing page.

How To Help Kids With ADHD Succeed In School?

how to help kids with ADHD succeed in school guide

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurological disorder linked with difficulty regulating attention, trouble physically and mentally organizing things, and trouble with impulsive behaviors. ADHD can also affect one’s working memory and executive functioning (ability to learn, process info, and prioritize tasks).

Students with ADHD often need extra support in school. It can be tempting to focus on subject proficiency or executive functioning, but the best way to help kids with ADHD succeed in school is by managing energy, focus, and sensory input. 

In this post, we’ll highlight effective tips and techniques for body/mind regulation. These methods can help anyone achieve better focus and mental energy, but they are especially important for students with ADHD.

college application essay faq

Understanding The ADHD Brain In a Classroom Setting

There are two main categories of ADHD; Hyperactive and Inattentive (often referred to as ADD). Kids in the hyperactive camp are easily identified by their inability to sit still or stop talking (think energizer bunny). Kids in the inattentive camp often go unnoticed or are misunderstood as spacey daydreamers. Kids with either subtype need additional support to regulate their bodies and minds.

ADHD has been correlated with lower levels of dopamine. Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter essential for motor skills, focus, and the brain’s reward system. Using things that are inherently fun and enjoyable to help boost your student’s dopamine can increase their focus and reinforce good habits around school. The ADHD brain is very interest-driven.

Ultimately, the classroom environment is not created for students with ADHD. Sitting still while being attentive and engaged are baseline classroom expectations. Energy and focus are taken for granted. But this is where students with ADHD struggle and where they need the most support.

How to Improve Energy and Focus in Students with ADHD

Finding the perfect balance of novelty and structure is essential for individuals with ADHD. Routine and healthy habits are essential for a happy healthy brain. However, monotony can cause boredom, agitation, and resistance in individuals with ADHD. Having just enough variety to keep curiosity and interest alive is essential. Creating space for autonomy and choices will help to keep your child engaged in their learning and routines.

Use Movement to Boost Dopamine

Asking a student with ADHD to sit still is a bit counterintuitive as they often need an excessive amount of movement and exercise to regulate. This is partly due to the fact that exercise and movement boost vital dopamine levels that kids with ADHD are naturally low in. 

Some alternatives to asking a student to sit still at a desk:

  • Using an exercise ball as a chair so they can bounce, wiggle, and work their core as they study.
  • Creating a standing desk so they can keep their full body engaged and move their legs as needed. This can be achieved with a regular table or desk and a stack of books, especially for younger and shorter students.
  • Sitting on the floor for rolling around, wiggling, and stretching freely. This can also be a nice time for parents and caretakers to sit down with their kids (if accessible) and take a moment to stretch, unwind, and move a bit with their child after a long day. 

Use Timers to Make Transitions Smooth and Clear

People of all ages with ADHD can often struggle with transitioning between tasks and environments. Getting from point A to point B efficiently is difficult for people with ADHD. It’s like having a Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes. You can get going pretty quickly, but it can be extremely difficult to slow down and change directions. Because of this, it is essential to provide kids with ADHD extra time and structure as they transition between activities and environments. 

It’s important to take extra time and create mindful routines for transitions such as dinner time to bedtime, or between school and homework to decompress after the day. A lot of friction can occur when you attempt to force your young ADHDer to stop and switch tasks immediately. Their brain needs time to shift gears from whatever they’ve been doing into what they’re about to do. Also, effective transitions can help prepare your child for their next activity so they feel more confident and equipped to tackle what’s next. 

A key component of transitions for kids with ADHD is timers, time warnings, and countdowns. If your child is playing video games and needs to do homework in 20 minutes, letting them know when they have 15 mins, 10 mins, or 5 mins left can help them mentally and emotionally prepare for the switch. This is additionally helpful as people with ADHD often experience time blindness (loss of all sense of time).

Use Brain Breaks for Sustained Focus without Hyperfixation

There’s a funny analogy used to describe information load and comprehension. It’s referred to as penguins on the iceberg. Essentially, you can only fit a finite number of penguins (information) on an iceberg ( your mind) before a new penguin sliding on causes another penguin to slide off. Don’t overload the icebergs of our young learners! Also, the iceberg tips every 15 minutes, causing all penguins (focus and ideas) to fall into the water. 

Being mindful that children across the continuum of neurodiversity need a mental break every 15-20 minutes is essential to learning. This is especially vital for children with ADHD. Taking a pause from homework roughly every 15 mins to reset and refocus can make an immense difference. Consider having your student take a 2-5 minute break after each 15-minute bout of studying so that they can wiggle, stretch, go to the bathroom, drink water, snack, get fresh air, etc in order to reset their focus. 

There are two very common states that children with ADHD can get into, especially if they present with Inattentive type ADHD. 


  1. Paralysis: they feel confused, exhausted, stuck, and unable to focus or move forward on tasks. 
  2. Hyperfixation: They finally have locked onto something and have tunnel vision and can’t step away from it. Hyperfixation happens most with recreational activities like video games, TV shows, and art projects, but can happen at school and still have detrimental effects. On one hand, you’re excited that your child is finally focused and engaged with their school work. On the other hand, they may spend 2 hours on a single question or element of an assignment if they don’t break out of the fixation. 

Use Small Tasks to Build Momentum

It may seem counterintuitive, but tackling small tasks can help the ADHD brain gain traction, focus, and momentum. Often when we create a list of priorities, we logically decide that our biggest, most pressing task should be completed first to simply “get it out of the way”. This mindset can be absolutely paralyzing to the ADHD brain. 

Instead, completing and checking off several smaller, easier tasks first can create a sense of accomplishment and help snowball your student’s motivation and focus toward bigger tasks. 

You can also combine brain breaks with to-do list items and a timer. Say your kid needs a wiggle break; you can ask them to help you unload the dishwasher, take out the trash, or put away some messes in their room. 

In terms of assignments, see if they can start with short ones or work that’s already 50% or more complete. There’s no sense in having low or missing grades on short assignments that take 30 minutes or less, however, this is a common pitfall for students with ADHD.

helping kids with ADHD

The Importance of Sensory Management for Students with ADHD

Individuals with ADHD have a strong need for stimulation, but can also be sensitive and prone to overstimulation. They need a lot of input from their environment. Being either overstimulated or under-stimulated can lead to a lack of attention, disengagement, or even mood swings.

Finding the right amount and types of sensory input for your student to feel comfortable, focused, and regulated is essential to their academic success and wellbeing. Being connected to our 5 senses can help people of all ages and brains stay connected to their physical bodies and the present moment. 

Below are some tips to create a sensory-friendly study space for your child, organized by each of the 5 senses:

1. Sight:

Consider the brightness of lighting, colors present, clutter, and any visual distractions in your child’s study space. A study area near a window that receives plenty of natural light and outlooks a greenspace can be very calming. If your student studies in the evening, consider a clean and open clutter-free space with bright but warm lighting. Light that is too bright, harsh, or cold can be overstimulating and even disrupt sleep cycles. Additionally, having a tidy open surface for homework can help to eliminate distractions.

2. Sound:

Find a space that’s mostly free from sporadic noise and environmental distractions (TV, conversations, street noise). Constant calming noise such as lyric-free music or natural sounds like rain can boost dopamine levels and help your student enter a state of focus and flow.

3. Smell:

Elements such as candles, diffusers, or fresh herbs can be very stimulating and help with focus. Smell is also a powerful catalyst and trigger for memory. Studying with something scented and then taking that item or scent to school for a test can be a wonderful hack for learning, memory, and overcoming test-based anxiety.

4. Taste:

Flavor is similar to smell and can also be used for memory and study hacks (ex: chewing mint gum while studying and again while testing). Jaw movement and various food textures can also be fun and stimulating and help students stay focused. Bright flavors and crunchy textures in snacks such as popcorn, chips, nuts, fruits, and veggies can be wonderful for studying. There are endless nutritious options for stim snacks to help regulate your student’s blood sugar, and focus, and even sneak in some extra vitamins and nutrients into their day.

5. Touch:

Being comfortable during school and work can make a huge difference for many of us. Changing into cozy clothes made of soft stretchy fabrics can be helpful for homework time. Removing itchy tags from clothes can also eliminate an extra distraction from your student’s day. 

Stuffed animals and fidget toys with comforting and intriguing textures can also be helpful tools for focus and regulation. The fun and enjoyment of these tools can help boost dopamine, resulting in elevated focus and mood. One boundary I set with my tutoring students is that stuffies and fidgets are always welcome so long as they are helpful for learning.

ADHD brain

Reframing ADHD as a Strength, Not a Deficiency

There is emerging research that ADHD is actually a positive evolutionary adaptation. In the wild, the ability to pick up on new and changing stimuli in one’s environment is essential to survival. 

ADHD in our modern world is defined by deficits– what a child lacks and what behaviors are dysfunctional. It can be more beneficial for parents and educators to view ADHD from the lens of a child’s strengths and what each child needs to actualize their strengths to succeed. 

Is your child creative? Do they come up with new and innovative solutions to problems? Does their non-stop talking lead them to make a lot of friends and have an excellent sense of humor? 

Do not let fear for your child’s future success scare you out of seeing the incredibly vibrant and unique kid right in front of you. Help them to know their strengths, show them you are on their team and have their back. This will teach them that it’s safe to ask for help, and in turn, they will likely trust both you and themselves more. 

How Emergent Education Can Help Students with ADHD

Traditional academic tutoring isn’t set up well to support students with ADHD. It suffers many of the same pitfalls as the traditional classroom setting, being too heavily focused on academic output instead of body/mind regulation. 

At Emergent Education, we take a holistic approach to academic tutoring, building trust and rapport with our students so that we can support them across a wide spectrum of needs. We know that every student is unique and so we try to get to know them well, getting down to the root of their struggles and building up from where it counts. 

This philosophy allows us to support students with ADHD in a way that traditional academic tutoring falls short. In fact, most of our new students have ADHD or some other type of neurodivergence.

If you have a student with ADHD and you’re curious about tutoring, schedule a free consultation with us to learn more about how we can help. 

What It Means if You Struggle Doing Math In Your Head and How To Improve Mental Math Skills

why can't i do math in my head

You’re trying to do what seems like it should be simple mental math. You can’t quite get there. You find yourself wondering, ‘why can’t I do math in my head?”. 

For starters, most likely you can do math in your head. Most likely you already do, even if you don’t realize it.

Can you recognize symmetry? Can you tell the difference between biggest and smallest? Can you spot logical fallacies in an argument? 

Math is a whole universe of abstract ideas, held together by the gravity of logic. The interaction of logical rules and relationships can become quite complex! But our brains are up to the challenge. If they can filter and process a constant flood of sensory information into our seamless experience of reality, they can figure out 54 – 29 = 25.  

Instead of asking why you can’t do math in your head, you should ask yourself how you can. The answer to that question is…it depends on your brain. 

Read on as we discuss what it means to do mental math, why it matters, and how you can build your mental math skills!

The Neurodiversity of Mental Math – There May Be a Reason You Are Struggling To Do Mental Math in Your Head

Neurodiversity means that ‘mental math’ is itself a kind of spectrum. 

One person might answer a word problem in their head by visualizing themselves writing it down.  Another might consider the logic inherent in the relationships between variables, arriving at a clear solution without a clear set of steps to get there.

Maybe you have Aphantasia, which makes visualization more difficult. Or maybe you have Dyscalculia, which affects number sense. These conditions will change what ‘mental math’ looks and feels like, but they don’t make it impossible.

You may also just feel like mental math isn’t your thing, but I’m here to tell you it’s everyone’s thing!

Think of it this way…

In a city, some paths are made for cars, while some are made for pedestrians. Many are made for both, or neither! But no matter your mode of transportation, there are always multiple valid paths to take to get to any particular destination.

In a math problem, there are also multiple valid paths to take to get to your answer. Depending on the path you take, you may need to write some things down or use a calculator. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it in your head. That’s just the reality of the path. Want to do it in your head? Try a different path.

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Exploring Different Paths to a Simple Arithmetic Problem

Let’s start with some simple arithmetic. If I asked five different people how to do 54 – 29 in their head, they might give me five different explanations.

Person 1: Distribution & Order of Operations

  • First, break the numbers into their components, 50 + 4 and 20 + 9
  • Second, subtract the corresponding numbers, 50 – 20 = 30 and 4 – 9 = -5
  • FInally, combine the results, 30 + (-5) = 25

Person 2: Balanced Equation Model 1

  • First, increase the subtraction term from 29 to 30
  • Second, do the subtraction, 54 – 30 = 24
  • Finally, increase the result from 24 to 25 to balance the increase in your subtraction term

Person 3: Balanced Equation Model 2

  • First, increase both terms by 1, giving us 55 – 30
  • Then, do the subtraction, 55 – 30 = 25

Person 4: Decomposing and Counting Down

  • First, break up 29 into 20 + 5 + 4
  • Second, subtract 4 from 54, giving us 50
  • Third, subtract 20 from 50, giving us 30
  • Finally, subtract 5 from 30, giving us 25

Person 5: Decomposing and Counting Up

  • First, count up from 29 to 30, giving us 1
  • Second, count up from 30 to 50, giving us 20
  • Third, count up from 50 to 54, giving us 4
  • Finally, combine results, 1 + 20 + 4  = 25

To a certain extent, these different pathways to the solution are quite similar. They all involve decomposing numbers into simpler components, making them easier to work with in our heads. But there is plenty of nuance here to explore.

Breaking Down the Underlying Math Concepts

Let’s nerd out for a bit!

Person 1 uses the distributive property to their advantage, paying close attention to order of operations. If I were to write it out as an expression, it might look something like this…


It looks pretty crazy when you write it out. But remember, doing math in your head often means taking a different path than if you were doing it on paper. 

Person 2 and 3 both use the balanced equation model from algebra. The main difference here is how they keep the equation balanced. Person 2 subtracts one from both sides of the equation, then adds one to both sides. Person 3 adds and subtracts 1 from the same side of the equation. In either case, they manipulate the terms to their advantage.

If I were to write them out as equations, they might look something like this…

Person 2:


Person 3:


Person 4 and 5 both use number decomposition with counting. Person 4 counts down (a.k.a subtracts) while Person 5 counts up (a.k.a. adds). It’s a subtraction problem, but most of us have an easier time doing addition in our heads. Person 5 takes advantage of that fact by rearranging the terms using the balanced equation model. Let’s take a closer look…


In algebra, we’re all about isolating variables. Here, we seem to be going backwards. But again, the path we take in our heads might need to look very different from the path we take on paper.

How To Improve Mental Math Skills Using Logic Problems and Examples

If you look up the definition of math, you’ll see variations on the same theme. Math is, essentially, the science of numbers. But numbers are themselves just an abstract concept whose meaning is entirely dependent on logic. 

5 is bigger than 3. 8 is bigger than 5. Therefore, 8 is bigger than 3. Logical reasoning makes the world of math go round.

This means that building up our logic skills will absolutely build up our mental math skills, and vice versa. Fun Fact: Math majors consistently get the highest average score on the LSAT (a logic test used to get into Law School) compared with all other undergrad majors.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some logic problems.

Example 1: The Logic of Fractions

Problem: What is a number greater than 9/10 but smaller than 10/11?

We could approach this in a number of different ways. The point here is not to show you ‘the right way’ to think about this. The point is to use logic, however we can, to get to a solution that we know is correct. Ultimately, the practice of finding your own path is how you get better. But let’s explore one of the many.

First, I’m going to write this as an inequality


I know that increasing the numerator increases the fraction, while increasing the denominator decreases the fraction. They work against each other, but not in a linear fashion. The best way to compare fractions is to get the denominators to be the same, but I’m going to try and logic my way to a solution without doing that.

Currently, I know that 10/11 is greater than 9/10. It is a given of the problem. 

Knowing that, I can deduce that an equal value increase in the numerator and denominator results in a net increase in the value of the fraction.

Therefore, if I add 0.5 to both the numerator and denominator of 9/10, I should have a number that is greater than 9/10 while still being smaller than 10/11

In other words, a solution that satisfies the inequality is…


Mixing decimals and fractions is a big no no in the math world, so to clean this up, I’ll move the decimals over 1 place to the right (a.k.a. Multiply numerator and denominator by 10).


This is a weird way to solve this problem. But it also involves basically no computation, making it pretty easy to do in your head. 

Example 2: The Logic of Exponents

Let’s dial up the difficulty a bit.

Problem: Arrange the following numbers from smallest to biggest.


If we had a calculator handy we could evaluate each number with ease. With pen and paper, it would be tedious doing all the multiplication, but it would be doable. How about multiplying 2 by itself 31 times in your head? Not ideal.

But I don’t have to evaluate each number to arrange them smallest to biggest. I just need to determine their positions relative to each other.

Let’s begin!

First, I know that I can rewrite exponential terms using exponent properties…


By expressing these two exponents in similar ways, they become easier to compare. Now I can clearly see… 


I can’t quite get the other terms into a comparable form, but I’ve got a pretty good hunch that the following is true…


Just doing a few multiples of the exponential terms will prove that 321 is the smallest. Exponential terms get big quickly! But we need to be sure that 21^3 isn’t greater than our other exponential terms.

Let’s try this. I know the following is true.


Now let’s manipulate 64^3 in the same way I did with the other exponential terms.












Putting it all together…


It’s a lot of logic steps! Not for the faint of heart. And it requires a high level of comfort with manipulating exponents using exponential properties (a.k.a the logic of exponents). But it’s super minimal on the computational steps / difficulty. 

Why Mental Math Still Matters

Humans evolved to use number sense and logical reasoning to their advantage long before the study of mathematics was created. Of course, math has come a long way since then. But the roots haven’t changed.

Maybe you’re not going to solve complex algebra problems just by thinking real hard. But even as you write them out or plug them into the calculator, it’s worthwhile to think them through in your head. 

Maybe you can do some of the simple arithmetic, either to save time or as a check step. Maybe you can make an estimate to compare with your final answer. Maybe you can visualize the path a few steps ahead, helping to guide yourself to a solution.

Beyond being an aid in mathematical problem solving, practicing mental math builds up ancillary skills such as critical thinking, logical reasoning, visualization, number sense, etc. 

These skills are what you carry with you beyond math class and into the real world. Depending on who you ask, these skills are the point of K-12 math!

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How To Improve Mental Math Skills With Emergent Education Tutoring Services

At Emergent Education, we take a holistic approach to math tutoring. It’s never just about getting through the homework or prepping for a test. There is always something deeper to gain.

Personally, I love to get my students into the habit of doing math in their heads. It may seem contrary to the typical expectations around ‘showing your work.’ But mental math and writing things down are not mutually exclusive. Really, you want to develop good habits around both.

Whatever your needs, goals, interests, etc. Emergent Education math tutors can help you succeed in math while growing more thoughtful along the way.

Interested in improving your math skills?

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