Attending to the entire person, not just
Focusing exclusively on intellectual understanding,
while ignoring how the learner feels in connection
with themselves and the process, is not
just a sub-optimal teaching strategy,
it is a violation of the edict Primum non nocere "First, do no harm."
I have been a Harvard Extension School part-time teaching
tutor for over 30 years, covering algebra through calculus. The
sidebar includes several quotes and endorsements in connection
with that work and from other contexts.
Additionally, and related:
For a similar length of time, I have been building dancing artworks and educational interactive
STEM / STEAM / STREAM exhibits for science museums worldwide, created within the
context of my physics-art design workshop
You may find of interest a
of a presentation I gave
at the 2013 Innovators to Educators conference. (You can find the talk's slide deck, less additional
Am I the right person for you / your child?
My Perspective, Who I am, and What I Offer
Several teaching perspectives are to me
self-evident, yet, in aggregate, seem surprisingly rarely put into regular practice. My approach is based on the following beliefs:
To achieve deep understanding, long term success, and
fulfillment generally, how one feels during the learning
process typically matters at least as much, and usually more,
than one's immediate intellectual grasp of a
specific concept or topic
Given that the Internet currently provides excellent
explanations of virtually every subject under the sun, a key role of a
tutor is to listen deeply and:
Reflect the student back to themselves — help them
understand who they are, how they think, what they like
and care about, which ideas are clear and which are murky.
Help the student begin to notice their self talk — particularly if it's negative: "I'm bad at math", "girls have
a harder time with science than boys", "I don't want to seem like a nerd".
Be sure the student has an a priori expectation that actually understanding, not just memorizing,
is both reasonable and possible (for them) — and if that is not the case, work with them to develop
These are elements that the Internet cannot readily provide and that I offer.
It is as important to understand why incorrect answers are incorrect, as it is to
understand why correct answers are correct.
I believe that providing the student tools for thinking generally is as, or more,
important than teaching subject-matter-specific elements. I offer such conceptual frameworks
whenever and wherever possible.
I am someone who virtually never thinks anything is "obvious" , and I thus do not have to "work" to remember that fact when interacting with someone for whom the material is new.
I believe it is the student's job to clearly articulate what they do not understand. To go from
"I have no idea what they are talking about or what to do." to (for example) "I do not
understand the meaning of ...", "I am confused about how ... relates to ...", "I
am unsure if technique ... applies here because ....". I will help the student develop that
I feel that the student-teacher relationship is as important for
learning as the quality of the technical explanations themselves.
I am significantly more engaged personally by art, dance, beauty, and connection, than either
games or competition. I use my understanding of math, science, and engineering to
that end. Should the learner have the same orientation, and thus perhaps not be overly engaged
in the ubiquitous robot "wars/games" or the like, I may provide useful role model and mentorship
Focus on the memorization of formulas and "Teach
to the test", grilling and prepping in a manner narrowly targeted for
SAT, AP, or similar examinations.
Conceptually separate the "intellect" of the learner from vast
rest of him/her, and then attend almost exclusively to the
Simply provide solutions to problems, but rather,
guide the student to discovering the solution for themselves.
What you can expect for you / your child
Clear technical explanations, presented in as many different ways as possible, and as needed for deep
Empathy and support — both interpreted in the
Meta explanations: In other words, providing not only an explanation of the topic itself, but also an
explanation of why I am teaching about it in the manner I am.
Humor and fun analogies.
If resources allow, I am also delighted to make custom illustrations, videos, physical demos, and
more, to assist in the learning process.
In summary, if I can feel what you / your child feels during the learning process there can be
magic. If not, I can still be, and am happy to be, simply a
technically competent "conventional" tutor.
Logistics and Free Evaluation
A 15-60 minute discussion and evaluation session is offered free of charge.
In general, as of this writing (it may change in the future), assume tutoring sessions are conducted
via a combination of Zoom, email, and phone.
Should you wish to discuss group vs. individual sessions, please contact
Individual rates are $40-$80 hour, depending on such factors as frequency and duration of meeting,
complexity of subject, and ability to pay. Preparatory time, if/as applicable, is billed at, at most, 1/2 the live-session rate.
David Durlach, July, 2021
Harvard Extension School Math Department
Ted Tsomides MD, PhD, Harvard Extension School Pre-Calculus Instructor with whom I worked for many years.
I wish to highlight David Durlach's unique skill set as it relates to teaching mathematics.
... David truly distinguished himself by combining unequivocal mastery of the technical knowledge with earnest concern for students' well-being and emotional experience. Every day he proved that it was not "one at the expense of the other." As an inventor he understood the math completely and could explain any of our concepts from a variety of angles.
... When teaching trigonometry applications, he brought an oscilloscope with microphone to class in order to breathe life into potentially arcane mathematical concepts: students saw and heard and touched and manipulated cosine waves for themselves.
... I know of no other math instructor more dedicated to the "whole person" while engaged in teaching. ... It is a great honor to recommend him unequivocally.
Arthur, Pre-Calculus adult ed student
"I would like to commend [David Durlach] ... for his expert
teaching of a difficult subject. ... he clearly presented
mathematical concepts in a manner that made them easier to
understand. ... It is commendable that Harvard Extension
School employs teachers of such high caliber. Such excellence
deserves comment, and it is my hope that you will pass on my
appreciation for [David's] brilliant instruction and
Calculus 2 with Series and Differential Equations
"Thank you for all your help this semester! I really learned a
lot from you and I appreciate your patience and excellent
explaining! The final went very well and your help sessions
had a lot to do with that. I feel prepared to take (and I am
looking forward to taking) multivariable calculus when I
return to my college in fall. Thanks again for all your
Hands On!, Inc. Below are excerpts from an exhibit company support letter related to my work at
TechnoFrolics and indicative "in spirit" to how I approach tutoring as well.
... David's remarkable sense of the interactive potential between science and
art is a perfect match with the atmosphere of discovery and inspiration that we try to convey to the
... What impresses us most about his work is the "social" nature of the
experiences. While they are technologically and scientifically advanced, they express that
sophistication with an almost childlike wonder that captivates all who encounter them.
... David Durlach is, by far, one of the most dedicated and inventive people
with whom we have had the pleasure of working. His devotion to reaching people of all ages, genders and
cultures through the integration of science, art and personal experience is rare and welcome