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Tutor profile: Samantha W.

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Samantha W.
Certified high school math teacher, 15 years of experience teaching/tutoring
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Questions

Subject: Spanish

TutorMe
Question:

How can I decide if I should use an indirect or a direct object pronoun?

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Samantha W.
Answer:

Object pronouns in Spanish can be extremely confusing, and are one of the few grammar topics that I recommend native English speakers use English and not Spanish to untangle. As suggested by their names, a direct object receives an action directly, while an indirect object receives it indirectly. But what does that mean? Let's look at a few examples. We can use both direct and indirect object pronouns with the verb "tirar," or "to throw." Since objects are always nouns, in this case, the ball and the person are the two objects (I am the subject of the verb). Before she can catch the ball, I have to throw it, which means the ball receives an action first. You can literally map out the sequence in your mind: I throw (subject, verb) the ball (first object, it's flying through the air, it's flying flying flying...) at her (then she catches it). However, not every verb interacts with direct and indirect objects in the same way. Tirar in particular must have a direct object, but the indirect object is optional. Consider the following examples; which sound weird in English? The weird ones don't work in Spanish, either! I throw (tiro)--throw what? Throw a ball? Throw up? Doesn't work. I throw at her (le tiro)--again, throw what? Doesn't work. I throw the ball (tiro la bola; la tiro)--sounds fine, right? I throw the ball at her (se la tiro a ella)--sounds even better with an indirect object, right? Now consider the verb "sonreir," or "to smile." In English: I smile (sonrío)--no objects, sounds fine I smile at her (le sonrío)--no direct object, only an indirect object, still good I smile her (sonrío ella; la sonrío)--direct object but no indirect object, makes no sense! This should help you determine which object pronouns to use when taking a test, but if you're out shopping and need to use your Spanish, try not to worry too much! Mistakes are a part of language acquisition that even the smartest of us cannot avoid. Keep using this strategy whenever you have the opportunity, and eventually it will become a habit that you don't even think about consciously. Practice, practice, practice!

Subject: Writing

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Question:

How can I create a powerful thesis statement that sums up my whole essay in only one sentence?

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Samantha W.
Answer:

This is one of the most difficult parts of essay-writing, and as a thesis is meant to summarize the argument of an entire paper that contains a lot of facts and/or opinions, I always recommend that students write the body of their essay first and the introduction and conclusions last. It's often hard to write a thesis because it's hard to squish all of our thoughts into one tiny sentence, and you will never be more eloquent about your position than when you have just finished passionately writing several paragraphs about it. Saving the introduction and conclusion, which are largely summative, for last can save you a heck of a headache. Another good tip is to examine the main ideas of each of the smaller sections in your essay. Each paragraph probably makes a new point in favor of your argument; what are those points? Write them down as succinctly as you can, say them aloud, then consider the pattern. Write your thoughts down in several sentences if you have to, then put it aside for 24 hours (or however long you can manage). Come back with fresh eyes, and try to edit those few sentences down into once. If you still can't, grab a friend or a family member, explain your argument to them aloud, then ask them to tell you the main idea in their own words. This might help you consider your argument in a different way. If you can't find a friend or a family member though, you can always ask a writing tutor online! ;-)

Subject: Algebra

TutorMe
Question:

How does the method of completing the square differ from factoring? What are the limitations of factoring?

Inactive
Samantha W.
Answer:

In fact, they are not so different. Each method solves for quadratic equations using the idea that quadratics in standard form, ax² + bx + c = 0, follow the pattern x² + (m + n)x + mn = (x + m)(x +n), where c is equal to the product of m and n, and b is equal to their sum. When factoring, we usually list the factors of c until we find two that add up to b, in a sense working backwards. But this can get complicated fast if c is a very large number or not a whole number. For example, what if c were equal to 3/4? I certainly don't want to find and list all those factors! That is where the method of completing the square comes in. Instead of working backwards from c, we isolate c on the other side of the equation and use b to help us solve the equation. Therefore, if you have a quadratic equation, and you just can't figure out how to factor it, stop trying and start completing the square instead!

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