EP007: The night before a big test: how to calm your mind and optimize your performance

Hear Huzefa's play by play for the night before a big test like the SAT, ACT, LSAT, and so on. He covers everything from what you should eat, what you should do to relax, and what time you should wake up on test day.

EP006: Grammar and writing tools: Alex Munchak of Edge Tutoring shares her recommendations

Alex Munchak, a teacher, private tutor, and education enthusiast joins the show to give parents and teachers alike amazing information on the best online tools and resources to bolster English proficiency in a fun way! Hear Alex dole out helpful tips, provide useful recommendations, and even sing a grammar jingle!

EP005: Video games and mathematics: an interview with the founder of Activision, Howard Marks

Learn how mathematics is intricately connected to video game design and development. Howard Marks, the founder of Activision, joins the show to talk about why math knowledge is so fundamental to building video games. Hear his incredible education related insight along with his remarkable entrepreneurial success story.

Academics and athletics: a confluence of positivity

During primary school and beyond, students often gravitate towards others who share similar passions and interests.  While finding individuals with shared passions is a terrific way to form strong friendships, there seems to be an assumed bifurcation that forms arbitrary lines based on the love of sports. Those with athletic proclivities seem to join together, while academically centered children form their own social circles. It seems so black and white, as if you must choose one or the other. But that is simply not the case. There is no reason why a straight-A student cannot be a dedicated and successful athlete. It is absolutely possible to excel at both sports and academics, and attempting to do so will bring students great balance and mental focus.

The pervasive benefits of athletics

First and foremost, playing sports in school helps students deal with the stresses of the school day. After a long day, it is difficult for a child to immediately jump into homework. As a result, many students will try and relax temporarily by playing video games or watching television. While these mini mental vacations provide some much needed down time, they are not the healthiest options when done on a regular basis. Sports, on the other hand, provide students with positive a way to refresh their minds from the long school day in a manner that is healthy and enjoyable. Physical activity does not only bolster cardiovascular health, but it can drop cortisol levels, reducing feelings of stress and anxiety. Furthermore, students can learn valuable life skills from sports, such as time management, mental fortitude, discipline, dedication, and camaraderie.

Another educational element of sports is learning how to lose. No one can win all the time, no matter how skilled or athletic a person is.  Accordingly, athletes must quickly get used to the fact that losing is part and parcel of the process. When framed the right way, students can recognize that failure is in fact something positive.  For example, if a basketball player ends up turning the ball over a number of times during a game, he knows what he needs to work on in practice: dribbling fundamentals. A game time failure in this area shines light on a deficiency and shows precisely what needs to be remedied.  There is no amount of self-analysis and introspection that can equate the amount of value that can be gleaned from a real-time failure.  

The same type of learning lessons are ripe for the plucking in the academic arena. Whenever a student does poorly on an assignment or test, it is a golden opportunity to grow.  I regularly see students bemoan a poor performance, considering it an indication of their inadequacy.  Instead, it is simply sign showing what needs to be strengthened.  Students can workout their brains and habits the same way an athlete can ameliorate certain athletic abilities through practice.  When a student makes a mistake, he can critique his study habits and try to see what needs improvement.

Sports also teach athletes how to deal with disappointment despite excellent preparation. In swimming, for example, a hundredth of a second can determine whether or not a swimmer qualifies for state level competition. At the regionals meet, there are many swimmers who come extremely close to qualifying, but end up falling short because of tiny fragment of time. These swimmers recognize that they are excellent athletes with amazing track records despite losing a race.  While this type of an outcome may be hard to swallow, it forces students to disconnect a poor performance from their self-concept. Translation: failure at something does not change the way they view themselves.  They learn to appreciate the process of preparation.  Instead of having an outcome based viewpoint, they train their minds to focus on the positive externalities of athletic competition.  As such, most swimmers learn to handle disappointment very well, both in the pool as well as the classroom. Student-athletes realize that a poor grade on an assignment does not reflect who they are as a person.

Finally, one of the best and most obvious learning lessons that regular participation in sports provides is how to balance a packed schedule.  When students have an academically challenging course load and a heavy practice schedule, there is little time that can be wasted. Students must carefully evaluate their daily schedules and find a way to accommodate both athletics and academics. Interestingly enough, it seems students with extremely busy schedules end up studying more and doing better in school than their counterparts.  According to Angela Lumpkin, a professor of health, sport, and exercise sciences at the University of Kansas, “the lessons learned in athletics, combined with the knowledge that they must do well in school to participate, improves students’ persistence and chances for success.”

Is there an optimal sport?

Parents often want to know the best sport to cultivate good habits, social skills, and strong time management abilities so that they can encourage their children accordingly.  To me, however, directing a child towards a preselected sport is the wrong approach.  I believe that sports, like most endeavors in life, should be pursued out of love.  Sport are meant to be fun, and if athletic participation is borne out of obligation, then a child will be unable to develop intrinsic motivation.  This will likely diminish any chances of long-term athletic commitment, making the entire endeavor less fruitful.  Whether a child wants to play golf, tennis, basketball, badminton, or ping pong, I encourage parents to simply be supportive.  As my favorite saying goes, “follow your bliss.”  

EP004: Math anxiety: what it is and how to overcome it

While it may sound bizarre and made up, math anxiety is an actual condition that is quite common amongst students. It is similar to other sorts of anxiety or fear a person might encounter when doing something that is personally terrifying such as public speaking, interacting with strangers, or being around scary animals. Huzefa shares four key strategies to cope with and eventually eradicate math anxiety.

EP003: Succeeding with dyslexia: a student's perspective

Join Huzefa as he chats with Aris, one of his most dedicated pupils from Northern California. Aris candidly discusses his journey as a student with dyslexia, explaining how he eventually overcame his learning difference and developed a sincere love for academics. After making the principal's list and gaining admission into Stanford University's High School Summer College, Aris shares his valuable insights into how he learned to achieve success in school.

EP002: The Importance of Mental Math

Need to carry out some quick arithmetic to figure out how much money you owe your buddy? Pull out your phone and type away. It’s that simple. So why the heck do kids need to memorize the multiplication table? Because it is still crucial to a successful math career and a promising life thereafter. Don’t believe me? Tune in to hear precisely why mental math is still tremendously important and absolutely foundational.

EP001: Meet Huzefa, the founder of Scalar Learning

Huzefa is the founder of Scalar Learning. He is an education specialist, an online curriculum developer, a teacher, and a private tutor.

After high school, he attended the University of Michigan where he majored in computer science and economics. He then worked as a software developer for nearly three years before attending law school at Northwestern University. Because of his software expertise, he went on to become a patent litigator at two of the most prestigious intellectual property law practices in the country.

During his legal career, he worked with a number of fortune 500 companies who needed help protecting their patents. After practicing law for four years, he finally realized that he had to make a change. Patent law wasn't his end all be all. So what was he to do? "If you can’t figure out your purpose, figure out your passion. For your passion will lead you right into your purpose." It was that very sentiment led him back to math education as a full time career.

In this inaugural episode, Huzefa shares his story of personal growth and development, and explains precisely why he left a career in patent law to pursue a labor of love in the field of education.