Thank you for your interest in my tutoring methods. I have read a number of books about brain science, personality types, and decision making. By the end of this page, I hope to have shown what is meant by the right way, the first time.

What is the right way?

Conclusion first: The student, parent, and the tutor come to an arrangement to create a low stress environment in which the student has a degree of control. Why? To understand the answer, I’ll briefly summarize three books.

Your Brain's Mechanics

The scientifically rigorous book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman taught me there are two main systems in the brain: the “old” system, which works effortlessly off of intuition, and the “new” system which requires great effort to use. In order to gain proficiency with any skill, the new brain must teach the old brain.

Unfortunately, using the new brain is so effortful, we are often too uncomfortable to do so. Think about your own shortcomings. Are you afraid of calculus? Can you just not learn languages? There is often a skill each of us avoids developing because we can not overcome the disinterest we have of the topic.

Think now of something you do well, and how you got so good at it. Once you exerted enough effort with your new brain, you knew intuitively what to do in order to succeed. Real learning has happened when you feel a sense of familiarity. 

The effort invested in 'getting it right' should be commensurate with the importance of the decision.

Daniel Kahneman
What is the first time?

Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit uses grotesque examples to prove how often habits are followed, and that habits are never unlearned. When learning an academic topic, therefore, it is critical that a student develop the correct habits at the beginning of their instruction. This is what’s meant by the first time.

It is heartbreaking when a student who truly desires success cannot overcome their bad learned procedure. Let’s avoid that.

The Effects of Cortisol

The Self Driven Child by Ned Johnson and William Stixrud  states that brain development in the presence of cortisol, known as the “stress hormone”, results in numerous mental deficiencies well documented in literature.

Students must develop their brains in a low stress environment at home and at school. At home, parents are expected to love and support their children and not to nag. The student must willingly and voluntarily work with the tutor, who will report regularly to the parents about the student’s level of effort. The tutor can choose to stop working with the student if they feel their performance is lacking, much like how an athlete is coached. These roles are formalized in The Three Party Agreement, the next of the three main sections.

"Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned."

Charles Duhigg
Fall back on those good habits

You have to be trained to fail. The Power of Habit talks about how people almost always compulsively follow their habits, and Thinking Fast and Slow makes the case that this is when the new brain is not active at all; it was too effortful to use. (See the bat and ball problem here) In any case where our intuition has failed us, we can be notified by some redundant procedure — that we have agreed in advance to do — that our answer is not correct. Afterwards, we can investigate the error and answer correctly. We should all have good habits to fall back on for the times where we succumb to laziness — as we all do — and fail to activate our new brain when it would be prudent to do so. The targeted habits for the student will be subject specific.

Deplete your "thinking gas tank"

Kahneman also discusses how the new brain often experiences “decision fatigue.” I like to think of the new brain as having a gas tank. If you run out of thinking juice, you chemically can’t think correctly for the rest of the day. Fortunately, not only does this “gas” replenish after a night’s rest, but if you habitually deplete the gas tank, it will grow in size over time, and you will be able to think for a tiny amount longer each day, changing your brain permanently. Unfortunately, Kahneman also points out that using the new brain is so effortful, that the only variance between people is how much they can avoid using it. Anyone is more prepared to learn when they have a guide. The experience of real partnership between a student and a tutor boosts the frequency and duration of activation of the new part of our brains. Hopefully, the student will learn to deplete their “new brain gas tank” more frequently, netting life changing growth over time.

"A low sense of control is enormously stressful and autonomy is key to developing motivation.”

William Stixrud
Skill Sets Are Finite

The Power Of Habit says as we learn more skills over time, our brain “runs out of space” to record new habits. What you choose to occupy yourself with over time is what will be developed in your brain permanently. Your habits as a student now are going to determine what type of student you’ll be in college and what type of adult you’ll be after that. It may not seem like it to students, but high school is very finite. Students usually get about 36 school weeks in a year. You have both a limited amount of brain space and a limited amount of time to grow yourself as a person. Let’s start today

“A person who has not made peace with his losses is likely to accept gambles that would be unacceptable to him otherwise.”

Daniel Kahneman
Complete Reading List

Many other books have also influenced my instruction, and a complete reading list has been listed below. Some of the books listed are of dubious scientific merit, but I have found some helpful ideas in each of them.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg
The Self Driven Child by William Stixrud, Ph.D., and Ned Johnson
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Why Him, Why Her by Helen Fisher
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


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The Three Party Agreement

A significant departure from conventional tutoring.


My background, personality, rate, and availability.

The Three Party Agreement

A significant departure from conventional tutoring.


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