Bruce Silton, Math Educator
By Sharon Hillestad
Excellent math tutors are rare. It’s my guess that for every 25 reading tutors such as myself, there is one math tutor who knows his subject and doesn’t have to totally rely on the math curriculum. The ratio may even be higher than that. It is even more rare to have a professional artist who is also a professional math tutor.
Bruce Silton is such a person, tutoring students in all subjects for the past twenty years at Clearwater Academy International in Clearwater, Florida. Bruce learns while he teaches his students because he is always thinking, “How can this lesson be simplified so that the student will really understand and use the concept?”
For example, when tutoring math, Bruce asks himself, “How accomplished in mathematics does this individual student have to be?”
His answer is: “How much math will he need to reach his personal mountaintop?”
Bruce defines math literacy in the following way: “The minimum level of ‘math literacy’ consists in the individual’s ability to comprehend, read, write, and apply mathematics competently in his handling of our present culture (and the ever-approaching future) to a degree at least equal to the goals he has set for his lifetime.”
He has discovered new and effective ways to teach math while delivering over 22,000 tutoring sessions, at least 16,000 of which were devoted to helping students having trouble with math. Fortunately, he is enthusiastic about sharing his “tricks of the trade” with other tutors and classroom teachers. To do this, he has written the following papers and books: The Other Side of Math, The Fraction Solution, Fraction Fundamentals, Number Fundamentals, The Future of Numbers, and Literacy, Mathematics, And Creativity.
I took notes while I studied his math materials. Here is a valuable tip for tutors called “The Theory of Problem Creation”. Problem Creation is done this way:
Each time a student masters (not squeaks by, but masters!) a new topic in arithmetic, pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, or calculus, and before he continues on to the next topic in his textbook, tell him to:
1) Invent or make up math problems of his very own directly on the topic just mastered.
2) Then have him solve his just-created problems using the exact same solution procedure learned from his textbook.
3) Finally. the student must check his answers for accuracy.
4) Have him continue to create, solve and check his own problems on that topic until he can do so easily and without referring back to his textbook.
A student who follows this procedure will increase his ability to use that topic far above the limits of his textbook. He will have taken the first necessary steps to move up and out of the box defined by his textbook and rise into a new realm: math creativity. (Note: Bruce Silton’s “Theory of Problem Creation” is the first step of six-step program, the Other Side of Math, designed to elevate the entire field of mathematics and produce math geniuses in quantity.)