Chicago Student Improves Calculus Score After 6 Weeks

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Executive Summary

This case study tells the story of a first year engineering student at Oakton Community College, taking Statics & Calculus in Des Plaines, IL.  After 6 weeks of intensive work with a MyGuru tutor, the student had no further need of tutoring and had improved his calculus score from ~30% to ~70%.

Introduction: Why We Develop Case Studies

MyGuru students seek private tutoring for a variety of reasons. 

Some are already scoring above the 90th percentile on a standardized test, but realize that getting into an Ivy League university or one of the top graduate, MBA, Law, or Medical schools is only getting more intense, and thus seek private tutoring to squeeze out a few extra points on the test.  But, others are truly struggling, scoring well below average.

For some students, the key issues are knowledge-based –meaning the students don’t know certain facts or understand certain concepts that they need to master to perform better.  But, in more cases than many people might realize, the issue is more emotional or psychological – the student just needs a private tutor to help them build confidence, relax, and perform.

The benefit of customized, private tutoring is that the particular situation, strengths, and weaknesses of the student can be understood and addressed by the tutor, thus improving performance.  The purpose of MyGuru’s Case Studies is to illustrate how a particular student benefited from private tutoring.  Of course, your or your child’s particular situation is unique – but if you can draw some comparisons and identify some similarities, you might be able to envision how private tutoring would benefit you.

Student Situation

As a freshman student at Oakton Community College studying Statics & Calculus, he was still adjusting to college classes and workload.  The male student had a grasp of the mechanics of integration and differentiation but he needed assistance with their physical interpretation and application to statics.  He also needed to increase his knowledge of vectors.  Although the student was motivated to do well, he was behind on homework and apprehensive about upcoming midterms.  The student needed a confidence boost in his abilities to work with statics and calculus, being slightly discouraged about his progress in the class thus far.

The Tutor

The MyGuru tutor this student was paired with was Mo, who holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from UC Berkeley with two graduate degrees from Northwestern University, an MS Chemical Engineering and a PhD Chemical Engineering.  He maintained impressive scores on standardized tests: SAT: Math 800, verbal ~76, GRE: Math 800, Analytical 800, English ~780.  Previously, Mo had tutored student athletes at Northwestern University in math, science, and engineering courses and, recently, tutored high school students preparing for the SAT and ACT.

Tutoring Approach

Mo was able to meet with the student a few times before his first statics exam.  The tutor focused on improving his confidence in reducing a physical problem to a system of equations.  The student knew how to do most problems when guided and had the necessary knowledge; he only needed a method of using the information and equations.  Mo was able to build on the student’s physical intuition, guaranteeing that equations and solutions made sense.

Mo focused on having the student process his work clearly and systematically instead of skipping steps or relying on memory to complete operations.  This practice allowed him to lessen the number of small mathematical errors that were lowering the student’s confidence and tripping him up on multi-part problems.  Through focused and thorough examination of the equations, the student was able to develop an organized way of working through complicated problems.

Results Achieved

On his first statics exam, the student scored at the top of the class and improved his calculus score by 40% between the first and second tests.  His confidence in solving problems grew until he had no further need of tutoring.  The student was diligent in his tutoring studies over the course of 6 weeks. Therefore, he was able to improve to the point where he was no longer intimidated when faced with difficult problems and able to learn new material efficiently and accurately.

The feedback Mo received from the student was short, but very positive –

“Mo was excellent."


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