Math Tutor Rajni Berenbaum Rao
Featured Professional Series: The second Monday of every month, we feature one of our favorite educational consultants, psychologists, or professionals in a related field. We ask everybody the same five questions, designed to show you why we like them and to help you decide whether they’re a good fit for your needs.G ood luck finding a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (the most celebrated STEM magnet high school in the country) who hates math, majored in religious studies in college, and specializes in helping students fix gaps in their math knowledge. Spoiler alert: Rajni Berenbaum Rao of Brave Math Tutoring is the only one.
How did you get into this field?
I taught 7th and 8th grade math in both Sacramento, CA and here in DC. The most challenging part of being a teacher was balancing the grade-level standards I had to teach and the needs of the kids in front me. A huge number of my students were struggling with material from years before. They were scared of math, and it was affecting their self worth in a big way. I knew that if I had the chance to fix those gaps and fast, there was a chance kids might actually enjoy math class. Starting Brave Math gave me the opportunity to do that with kids in a one-on-one setting.
What do you love about the work?
Watching kids conquer topics they used to fear! In particular – multiplication tables, equations, long division, and of course, fractions.
Why do people hire you?
Parents who know their kid’s needs go beyond grade level math tutoring, and want to catch them up as quickly as possible. They are looking for a long term solution, and want someone who isn’t going to try the same old stuff.
How do you feel about study skills?
It’s the secret sauce! It’s what fuels the kids who write their papers efficiently, don’t miss assignments, don’t have to cram the night before, and have time to do all of the activities they love. Study skills set students up to be self-reliant learners. It becomes the framework for learning and mastering every other skill in life. I can’t think of a better investment as a parent.
What’s your favorite piece of advice to give students?
Many of my older students struggling with those topics experience tremendous amounts of shame. I encourage them to swap out their shame for curiosity or gratitude. Instead of “I knew that” or “I’m so stupid” when they’re wrong, getting them to say “ Thanks, how can I proceed?,” or “Interesting! Can you give me more information?