I was always a curious kid, chasing after books and documentaries about dinosaurs, ancient Egypt, robots, and spaceships. Basically, if it sounded cool, I wanted to know about it.
However, this penchant for curiosity didn’t go untested, and part way through my fourth grade year, my family moved from Minsk, Belarus, to California. I not only had to get used to a new language and new education system, but also had to relearn most of my trivia. The experience of adjusting taught me not to rely only on the fancies of curiosity, but also to make use of practice and dedication. These learned traits saw me through the competitive world of Bay Area academia and earned me entry into UC Davis, where I pursued a degree in mathematical analytics and operations research.
In my academic journey, there were many instances where I felt confused by or lost in the material, but I would always fall back on asking questions. Even though the refrain of “there are no stupid questions” may sound cliche, it is true: it is always better to ask for clarification than to try and tough it out alone.
One of my earliest experiences of consciously learning anything was through a novelty children’s book of math and physics puzzles. I didn’t understand much at the outset and frequently went to my teacher for help. She would explain the concepts to me, but before she sent me off, she would have me try and teach her what I had just learned. This proved to be an incredibly effective tool, and whenever I ran across a concept I didn’t understand, I would learn as much as I could about it and then seek to teach it to someone else.
My passion for learning meant that I frequently found myself helping friends and classmates with homework or working with them to find easier explanations for concepts which confused us. In high school, I started working privately as a math tutor in my neighborhood, and I was later formally employed as a tutor for microeconomics in college.
My goal in tutoring mathematics is to help students develop the tools to find answers on their own terms. As I learned for myself, the trick with mathematics isn’t to simply memorize—it’s far too broad of a subject for that to work. Instead, students need to learn strategies for exploring and applying concepts and to develop their comfort with asking questions.
If I’m not tutoring, then I’m most likely hiking, playing board games with friends, or reading a sci-fi novel.