High Schoolacademics

We found 65 articles

A language study routine that actually works
So you're studying a new language, and you've been told that you need to make time to review and study vocabulary regularly. That makes sense. You tell yourself you'll do it. You may even make some flashcards and spend time drilling them two or three times early in the semester when you are full of good intentions. But if you're like me, the ...
Reading is hard. But it doesn’t have to be.
There is no denying it. In the age of the attention economy, bright stimulating screens, and exhausting schedules it is very hard to sit down and read with focus. Whether we are talking about a novel for English class, a source for AP U.S. History, or that dense SAT Reading passage from the Federalist Papers, it is hard to truly dig in and read ...
What makes a good descriptor?
Cliche is natural; originality, not so much. Pre-packaged phrases like “bring to the table,” “at the end of the day,” or “read between the lines” are overused and now lack their meaning, becoming a kind of automatic thinking, according to George Orwell. But why? Because triggering automatic thinking in a listener is helpful to a speaker if he or ...
How to balance redox reactions in acidic and basic solutions
Balancing redox reactions is an essential skill for the Chemical and Physical Foundations section of the MCAT, the GRE Chemistry Subject Test, and the AP Chemistry Exam. Today, we will learn how to use the half-cell method for balancing redox reactions in acidic and basic solutions. We will first balance a redox reaction in acidic solution, then ...
How to use root words to learn vocabulary
Retaining new English vocabulary is challenging, whether you’re learning English for the first time or studying for standardized tests like the SAT or GRE. The challenge arises, in part, from the sheer volume of words in English. English’s massive lexicon comes from words in several other languages, and learning some of these words—more often ...
The Intermediate Value Theorem explained by everyday life
Calculus can be tough stuff. Calc AB was the first AP class I ever took in high school, and though I love the subject now, I certainly didn’t love it when I was first struggling with limits or with the chain rule for derivatives.
A beginner’s guide to analyzing historical documents
Most high school and college-level history courses will require that you read, interpret, and analyze a document or set of documents from the past—otherwise known as primary sources. In this post, I will provide five basic questions that you should ask about your document(s) that will kickstart your thinking about the past and serve as a starting ...
Where do Taylor series come from and why do we learn about them?
Taylor series can often seem a bit mysterious the first time that we learn about them. The formula for the Taylor series of a function f(x) around a point x=a is given by
But what is “dx” really? Calculus terms explained
The symbol “dx” comes up everywhere in calculus. For example:
The music of Mandarin: learning the five tones of the language
Learning Chinese is challenging but fun! Even the parts that require repetitive practice can be enjoyable with the right framework and point-of-view.
Homonyms
English is one of the languages in which spelling is a big deal. Spelling bees were created in English, and the concept is not present in other languages in which words are more often pronounced just like they look. In English, we have words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings and spellings (homophones). We also have a lot of ...
Grammar: one to 1
When learning a new language, students almost always begin with the alphabet and numbers. We use letters, of course, to form words, which form sentences that express ideas of varying complexity in a form that people who read this written language can understand. Numbers designate a different kind of language, one that conveys equations and ...
Betwixt and between: difficult grammar rules explained
English is not the easiest language to learn. This may be because of the many exceptions to its rules or because the same combinations of letters can be pronounced in many different ways. English also has one of the largest vocabularies of any recorded language, which means English speakers can say what they mean in a lot of different ways, but ...
Checking your answers in physics
Having worked through a long physics problem, you finally have an answer. How do you know if it’s right and all that work wasn’t for naught? In this post, I will cover a few quick strategies that can help rule out wrong answers.
An application of calculus: finding optimal road networks
Suppose that we have many towns spread across the country and we are trying to connect them with a network of roads. If we would like to do so by laying as little road as possible, how do we do it? In this blog post, we will use Calculus to tackle a special case of this optimization problem.
Understanding elasticity of demand in economics
You may have heard in your econ class about a good’s elasticity of demand, or about “elastic” or “inelastic” goods. Consumers’ elasticity of demand is just a fancy way economists talk about how sensitive people are to changes in a good’s price.
What physics equation sheets can do for you, and what they  can’t
In your time taking physics courses, you will likely run into one that deals with equation sheets. These can be note cards or an entire sheet of paper, and anything that can fit on it is fair game and can be brought into a test. The natural reaction might be to try to cram and squeeze an entire textbook on those sheets using really, really tiny ...
5 tips to improve your writing
I was recently helping someone with a comparative essay they had to write for school. This person did not like writing—a common enough state of affairs. They felt that they had no talent for it. The process frustrated them. I could see that they were struggling in part because they were trying to do everything at once (come up with ideas, write ...
The key to mastering mathematics? Quit memorizing.
There are many misconceptions when it comes to the subject of mathematics.  One of the most common myths I encounter is related to the way one approaches learning math. 
What is a thesis statement?
Every paper you write in college should have it. Sometimes professors call this a “thesis statement,” sometimes a “claim,” and sometimes they don’t really specify what it is. But it’s essential — and sometime elusive. But it shouldn’t be! 
A guide to limiting reactant problems... using sandwiches
An everyday limiting reactant problem You’re expecting company and totally forgot to go grocery shopping. What on earth will you feed your guests? Sandwiches! You have some ingredients to whip up some sandwiches. So, let’s assume you are going to go through with making these sandwiches. You need 2 slices of bread, 3 slices of meat (can’t be ...
Electron configurations: a must know hack
Imagine this...you’re taking your general chemistry midterm and you’ve decided to shuffle through the exam and complete all the hard things first. You’ve totally underestimated how much time those problems were going to take you and now you have three minutes left to write the electron configuration of 10 elements. Untimed, this would be easy to ...
Formal charge: what they didn’t tell you in your chemistry class
Formal charge is the charge that a bonded atom would have if its bonding electrons were shared equally. Note:
Tips for writing an exam essay in 80 minutes
We've all been there.  The teacher is at the front of the classroom with a pile of blue books.  She begins handing them out.  You scrawl the name and date on the front and wait for her to start the timer.  As you open the first page, an overwhelming white page stares back at you.  And you panic. Luckily, there are ways to prepare for essay exams ...
An introduction to supply and demand
What is supply and demand? In economics, supply and demand is the relationship between the quantity of a commodity that producers wish to sell at various prices and the quantity that consumers wish to buy.  Though it is a seemingly straightforward relationship, in practical application it can become quite complicated.  In this blog, we will use an ...
Introduction to physics: the language of the universe
 In elementary and middle school, we learn mathematics for the sake of mathematics, we are never told what mathematics can ultimately be used for or why mathematics is useful other than the fact that it can help us make change and do our taxes one day. What they should be telling you is that the laws of the universe are written in a language that ...
How to write a killer essay in 3 easy steps
We’ve all been there: staring at a blank document, practically able to feel the creeping imminence of our paper’s deadline. For so many of us, it’s really hard to sit down and actually channel our thoughts into a coherent form, let alone one that’s structured and based on an argument worthy of praise.
Solving the “I’m not good at math” problem
You’ve heard it before. Or you’ve said it. I’m not good at math. I hear it from seventh graders struggling with fractions, high school students preparing to take the SAT, friends at a restaurant when splitting a check, and even from parents assuring me that their child’s own difficulties are in fact genetic. And while I’ve heard it countless ...
The top 3 reasons you should study Latin
There comes a moment in the careers of most middle- and high-schoolers learning Latin, and also among some college students considering it as a possibility when picking classes; a moment when they ask themselves (or their parents, or their teachers), “Why do I need to study this?”  After all, Latin is a dead language; unless you plan to become a ...
How to solve kinematics problems: a guide to vectors
This article is the third chapter in a series on how to understand and approach kinematics problems. The first chapter covered position, velocity, and acceleration. The second chapter covered solving kinematics in one dimension Now we are going to take a quick detour into vectorland so that we’re ready to approach kinematics in two (and even ...
What is the phospholipid bilayer and what determines its fluidity?
All cells are surrounded by a cell membrane that forms a barrier between the cell and its surroundings. This membrane is often referred to as the phospholipid bilayer. As you can probably tell from the name, a phospholipid bilayer is made up of two layers of lipids. The fluidity of this membrane must be maintained within a certain range for the ...
An introduction to blood types: genotype, phenotype, inheritance, transfusion, and more!
What determines blood type? Contained within their cell membranes, some red blood cells have special glycolipids called A and B glycolipids. People with blood type A have the A glycolipid in their cell membranes, people with blood type B have the B glycolipid in their cell membranes, and people with blood type AB, have both glycolipids in their ...
Why does English borrow so many words from other languages?
The Canadian blogger and free-lance reviewer James Nicoll created the following epigram on the English language: "English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over and goes through their pockets for loose grammar."
How to sketch any graph by eye
Equations in math are useful but they’re also kind of inefficient – for each x value, you have to do a separate calculation to figure out what y is. Graphs take that equation and turn it into a visual, something you can look at and immediately see what happens at different values of x, how the function changes, and more!
What is moment and how do you calculate it?
When I tutor my physics students, I want them to understand the fundamentals of the concept, not just how to plug in numbers into an equation. I wished when I was learning physics, my teachers drew upon real life applications more, things we already understand about the world to help us really get it.
5 key differences between American and British spelling conventions
Before America became a nation, the colonists who arrived to establish the country spoke English. From England. As there was not yet an authoritative source for how to spell words correctly in English, the colonists spoke English they were used to back home and wrote much the same way, using the way language was written in English literature as a ...
How to write an excellent history paper
I love the film Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and I've seen it more times than I can count. It is about two teenagers on the brink of failing high school, unless they ace their final history exam. The Hollywood twist? The protagonists acquire a time machine that allows them to travel through different eras of history. Throughout the film, ...
Four mathematicians you should know
Math has changed a lot over the years. When most people think of math, they likely think of someone sitting quietly at a desk with a book or some paper. It’s an unmoving image. When we think of people who are good at math, we conjure up people who blaze through problems quickly and alone. They follow the rules in math and in life. But this is a ...
How to solve kinematics problems, part 2
This article is the second chapter in a series on how to understand and approach kinematics problems. The first chapter covered position, velocity, and acceleration. Now that we understand these quantities, we are going to use them to solve problems in one dimension. 
Don't actually 'break a leg': common English idioms explained
One of the recent lessons I gave to my English Language Learners involved English idioms and their origins. An idiom is a saying that does not mean what the words literally express, but rather it has some representative meaning behind the words. Often, the reasons for the meanings of idioms are obscure; in this post, I will try to bring to light a ...
Breaking down nephron functioning into six easy steps!
The nephron is the kidney’s smallest functional unit. It works to ensure that the urine you excrete leaves your body in the correct volume and concentration. This is a complicated process, but once you master it, it is exciting to understand this important function of the human body!
What is kinematics? Physics answers made simple
How to use this guide This blog post is the first in a series on how to understand and approach kinematics problems. It is meant to supplement your class and textbook. I will focus on practical applications, how to solve problems, and common mistakes that students make. If you want to learn the basics of kinematics, I recommend a textbook, but if ...
Tips and mnemonics for memorizing amino acid structures
Learning amino acid structures is a challenging part of biology and biochemistry coursework. Many students feel totally overwhelmed by the task. The best way to master this skill is lots of repetition (here is a link to a Sporcle quiz that may help you with the repetition part) but it can be helpful to have tricks and mnemonics to get you started. ...
Revolving curves to make solids
Have you ever wondered where the formulas for volumes that you studied way back in geometry come from?
What is the subjunctive tense in English?
One grammar category that seems to be widely untaught is the names and functions of various verb tenses. For those who have studied a foreign language, the existence of these constructions is not so foreign, but native English speakers rarely learn what the subjunctive – in English – even is, let alone how to use it correctly. The same goes for ...
A list of common homophones and their differences
What is a Homophone? There are many more words in the English language than one might expect, given how similar their pronunciation and spelling can be. They're usually nouns and adjectives, except for those that function as conjunctions or contractions. Once you accept that English contains many pairs or groups of deceptively similar words with ...
4 tricks for solving any physics problem
Physics can be intimidating—all those pulleys and protons and projectile motion. If you approach it with the right mindset, however, even the hardest problems are usually easier than you think. When you come up against a tough question, don’t panic. Instead, start with these short, easy tricks to help you work through the problem. 
The most common English prefixes and their meanings
The English language comprises a plethora of words that can change meanings with the addition of a prefix or a suffix. For example, the prefix re signifies that the base word to which it attaches is happening again, as in "do" and "redo". In theory, one could add re an infinite number of times to the front of a word, and the effect would continue ...
Three essential things to remember when citing parenthetically
For a lot of students, parenthetical citations may seem like the bane of their existence. You've just written a ten-page essay, you're happy with your argument and the conclusion you thought of in the middle of the night before it was due to submit, but you still have to check all the quotes. Especially in today's digital age, in which reading and ...
Physics: learn, don’t memorize!
Intro to Physics Blues    As a high school student, I took physics my junior year and struggled to stay afloat in the class. While I was interested in understanding and applying the theories I learned, it was difficult to make sense of them in my head. As a result, I began my first collegiate physics course with a lot of excitement, yet some ...
How to use logarithms to simplify Arrhenius temperature dependence
  Learning about logarithms is one of those times in math class where you wonder if this will ever be useful in any way. I see lots of students struggle with topics like logs, since they can seem abstract and they aren’t obviously useful. But I’m here to explain why they are actually incredibly important and describe so much of the world we live ...
How to study for AP Biology
When I was in high school, it was actually my AP Calculus teacher who gave me this AP Bio study tip. I used it with great success that year in AP Bio, and it continued to serve me well throughout college as I majored in molecular biology.
Choosing between AP and IB: an in-depth guide
I went to the International Academy (IA), which, for two years, was ranked the number one public high school in America by USA Today. As a metric, they used the number of IB or AP tests each student took.  My high school was an all IB school, one of the first in the country, and as an IB school, it required every student to take 6 IBs.
Converting Polar to Cartesian Equations in Five Easy Steps
If polar equations have you second-guessing your future as a nuclear physicist, fret not!  Almost every pre-calculus student I have tutored has struggled here, and it isn’t surprising at all.  Remember the first time you saw an equation and were introduced to these strange x and y variables?  It may seem like second nature now, but you were ...
The ambiguous case of the law of sines explained
Trigonometry should be simple—you’re just using the given information to solve for only one answer, right? Well, with the Law of Sines, sometimes there is more than one right answer. This situation is also known as the Ambiguous Case.  Before we dive into the Ambiguous Case, let’s review the Law of Sines and Congruence.
Inertia experiments and rolling motion part II
Last time on our physics tutoring blog, we conducted an experiment to investigate the influence of the moment of inertia on rolling motion. We started with two objects that had the same shape, but very different size and mass. Starting from rest, we then set them both rolling down a ramp, to see which one would reach the bottom first. The objects ...
What are heuristics? Representative vs. availability heuristics
One topic that many of my psychology tutoring students get confused about is the topic of heuristics, which comes up when they study judgment and decision-making.
How do I write a good thesis?
Writing a good thesis is simple: pick a position, then defend it like crazy. Your English teacher likes to talk about writing a thesis. You've learned about this every year, it seems, and yet somehow, when you get your paper back, your teacher has always marked all over it, and said that your thesis is "not an argument" or "not specific enough" or ...
3 anecdotes from the lives of great mathematicians
It’s a shame that so many people can go through college as math majors and minors without ever learning the history of mathematics. Who were Euler and Gauss? Newton and Leibnitz? Euclid? We all know their theorems and mathematical contributions, but rarely do most of us think of the people —with their messy lives, quirks, and stories— behind these ...
3 tricks for physics standardized tests
Learning to take standardized physics exams, like the AP Physics exam or the SAT Physics Subject Test, is not unlike trying to become fluent in a foreign language. Both follow highly idiosyncratic logic and are best learned through practice. (And believe it or not, standardized physics exams have less to do with physics than physics aficionados ...
How to read and interpret economic graphs
Learning to think like an economist can be a daunting task for beginners. Introductory economics courses often begin with a jargon-loaded discussion of opportunity costs and marginal benefits versus marginal costs—in other words, what is the benefit of continuing to read the rest of this post, and what else could you be doing with your time?  In ...