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MathWithLarry Math Tutoring
Information, Policies, and Procedures
Note: I am presently unable to take on new students while I devote my attention to the upcoming books in my Math Made a Bit Easier series. I am also in the process of restructuring my tutoring materials, methods, and policies so that they are fully aligned with my books. This will allow me to most effectively serve my clients.
In the mean time, all my books are available for free reading online, and are designed for self-study. Click the Book Info link above for more info, and feel free to e-mail me any and all math questions about the material.
WELCOME: Thank you for your interest in MathWithLarry Math Tutoring, owned and operated by Laurence "Larry in Cary" Zafran. This document explains my policies and procedures. Please read it carefully and make sure that you fully understand it. These policies are subject to change. The latest version will always be posted on the website.
STUDENT AGE RANGE: I offer private tutoring to students who are in or above the 3rd grade, as well as adults. Adults who are interested in tutoring are encouraged to work with me, whether it be for yourself, or because you want to be able to help your children with math. We should be able to cover material quickly even if you are not "a math person," and I will certainly communicate with you on an adult level.
I conduct all tutoring at my home in
METHOD OF PRESENTATION:
METHOD OF PRESENTATION:For presenting material, I use multicolored markers on a dry-erase board and/or graph paper flipchart while standing. This ensures that the student won't feel as though someone is "breathing down their neck," and also that the student does not have to look at a piece of paper at an angle while I write. The tutoring space in my home is bright, clean, private, spacious, and quiet.
LENGTH OF SESSION: I offer 90-minute tutoring sessions. My experience has been that this is the optimal length of time for a session. Even younger students should be able to stay focused for this amount of time, and certainly many schools have transitioned to double math periods of that length. If we're ever not finished with something during the tutoring session, we can either extend the session for free if I don't have a client immediately after you, or we can finish by phone or e-mail for free. My only goal is to help you with your math by whatever means necessary.
SESSION / CANCELATIONS: My current rate is $40 for a 90-minute session. Tutoring is “pay
as you go,” one session at a time.
You are not tied into any packages, contracts, or gimmicks.
Sessions must be cancelled or rescheduled with at least 6
hours notice, or payment will be expected. Lateness will cut
into your session time. Students who cancel without
notice and without payment will be dropped from my schedule, as will
students who cancel with notice very frequently. Students who would like to schedule regular weekly
or semi-weekly sessions will be
given priority over students who only want to schedule occasional
sessions. I accept cash, checks, and PayPal (credit
cards, e-checks, balance transfer).
time. Students who cancel without notice and without payment will be dropped from my schedule, as will students who cancel with notice very frequently. Students who would like to schedule regular weekly or semi-weekly sessions will be given priority over students who only want to schedule occasional sessions. I accept cash, checks, and PayPal
(credit cards, e-checks, balance transfer).
If a client refers another client to me, and that client takes
at least 3 paid sessions, the referring client will receive a free
session. This applies to all clients referred.
If a client refers another client to me, and that client takes at least 3 paid sessions, the referring client will receive a free session. This applies to all clients referred.
SCOPE OF MATERIAL: I
offer tutoring for standard curriculum material from grades 3 to 10,
working toward preparedness for EOG exams, as well as the State high
school math exit exam. I also offer tutoring for standardized
exams such as the (P)SAT, ACT, GED, GMAT, GRE, college entrance
exams, career-based exams, and similar exams. Note that
graduate exams such as the GMAT and GRE are only based on 10th grade
and earlier material. However, the
SCOPE OF MATERIAL: I offer tutoring for standard curriculum material from grades 3 to 10, working toward preparedness for EOG exams, as well as the State high school math exit exam. I also offer tutoring for standardized exams such as the (P)SAT, ACT, GED, GMAT, GRE, college entrance exams, career-based exams, and similar exams. Note that graduate exams such as the GMAT and GRE are only based on 10th grade and earlier material. However, thetests require that the student be completely fluent in the material, and be able to apply his/her knowledge quickly, and in extremely challenging ways. The same is true to a somewhat lesser extent for exams like the SAT.
With some exceptions, I
begin sessions at 10AM, 2PM, 4PM, and 6PM
With some exceptions, I begin sessions at 10AM, 2PM, 4PM, and 6PMeach day except Tuesdays and Sundays. I will always do my best to accommodate your schedule.
INITIAL CONSULTATION: The initial consultation session is free, informal, and can be as long or as short as you would like. Parents who wish to first speak with me privately about their child's progress and needs may schedule an additional free consultation session for this purpose. We won't do any formal tutoring during the consultation, but students can show me what they're working on in class, and we can discuss what aspects of the material the student is finding difficult.
For students who are very far behind in math, or who are struggling tremendously, it may be more advantageous for us to work through material sequentially, from earlier to later grade material, in order to fill in all the gaps. Although this won't immediately help with the material that you are currently working on, you will catch up, which is far more important overall than continuing to struggle with daily assignments. We can discuss what is best.
FREQUENCY OF LESSONS:
It is difficult to suggest how often a student should have a
tutoring session, since I have to be sensitive to the family's
FREQUENCY OF LESSONS: It is difficult to suggest how often a student should have a tutoring session, since I have to be sensitive to the family's budget,and to the fact that a more frequent recommendation comes across as though I am trying to make more money. With that said, I recommend that students take between 2 and 8 sessions per month, depending on how much they are struggling with math, and how far behind they are in grade level. Of course, the choice of frequency is yours. You are not tied into any package deals, but I must give priority in my schedule to students who wish to schedule regular weekly sessions.
INITIAL ASSESSMENT: There may be valid reasons why commercial tutoring services administer assessment tests to new students, but any skilled private tutor does not need to do this. A private tutor can tell very quickly what level a student is at, and how to best proceed. Assessment tests usually only serve to cause stress and embarrassment for students, so I don't utilize them.
LAST-MINUTE CRASH TUTORING (a.k.a, "Help! I'm in Trouble!"): It is very important that you prepare for important exams such as course finals or the SAT far in advance, and expect to take ongoing sessions. It is possible that you can learn how to drive in relatively few lessons, but math just doesn't work that way. If you have left your studying to the last minute, we can have an honest discussion about what is possible.
COMMUNICATION WITH TEACHER: If desired, I am happy to write a letter to the student's teacher, explaining that I am working with the student, and inviting the teacher to communicate with me about the student's progress and needs, as well as describing to me what is being taught in class. Of course I can't guarantee the extent to which the teacher will participate in any dialog. If nothing else, it will show the teacher that the student and his/her family are making an effort to learn math, which the teacher will likely find impressive.
GUARDIAN ACCOMPANIMENT: For students who are under 18 years old, I initially require that an adult guardian remain with the student while being tutored. This requirement can be altered once I get to know the student and his/her family. We can discuss the matter at your initial consultation session, and decide what is best. Parents who remain with their children are welcome to sit and read at a nearby desk in the tutoring room, and may bring a laptop if they would like to connect to my wireless network.
GROUP SESSIONS: Although one-on-one tutoring is best, I can work with groups of up to four students, provided that the students and their families all know one another (e.g., a homeschooling group, or students who attend the same school, house of worship, etc.) The cost per student decreases significantly with each additional student in the session. It is very important that the students in the group all be on about the same math level and ability, and that they are capable of working well together, and being supportive of one another.
HOMESCHOOLERS: If you are interested in ongoing, regularly scheduled lessons, I can work within your schedule and budget. To be effective, a minimum of two sessions per week is necessary, unless the parent has a background in math education and only requires minimal support from me. I can teach from your curriculum if it is standard, and you have an extra copy for me to work from, or I can use my own. If you study and work hard, we can cover material much quicker than that of a regular public school class. Please note that I will only work with homeschooled students whose parents are willing and able to provide a tremendous amount of educational support at home, and who fully understand and agree with my tutoring methods and philosophy.
TUTORING METHOD: My tutoring method is probably different than what you are used to, and what is offered by commercial tutoring services. If you tell me that you are having trouble with a topic, I won’t just present you with a summary sheet, “show” you how to do a sample problem, and have you do dozens of the same exercises. That is simply not the way to learn, although it may seem like it is. We will get down to the bottom of what your difficultly really is. It may be just a slight confusion about something, or, it may be that you are many grades below level in math, and have some catching up to do.
In any case, the
tutoring session is always personalized for you.
Every student has a different math background and different
needs. The goal is to break the cycle of feeling
frustrated and unsuccessful with math. It is possible that you
will never love math, but I will help you get to the point where you
no longer struggle with it.
The goal is to break the cycle of feeling frustrated and unsuccessful with math. It is possible that you will never love math, but I will help you get to the point where you no longer struggle with it.
If you are several grades below level in math, which is extremely common among high school students, I must first bring you up to grade level, or close, before we can tackle problems on grade level. This will go very quickly if you are willing to work hard, but it is certainly not something that can be accomplished within one or two sessions. Math is learned step-by-step. Almost all of the trouble that students have with math is due to the fact that they do not fully understand all of the previous topics upon which the current topic is based, and they are either unwilling, or do not have the time to go back and fill in the gaps.
My tutoring will always be geared so that you will understand how to solve problems and all of their variants on your own. This is because on an exam you are on your own, and do not have access to any hints or guidance. It is also likely that the problems on an exam will not be exactly the same as the type that you had in your homework. In fact, the current trend in math is to have students solve problems that involve many different topics simultaneously. This requires lots of independent and creative thinking, and a full understanding of the material.
The point of the tutoring session is not just to “show” you how to do a particular problem so that you’ll forget the moment you walk out the door. The point is to get you to fully understand the problem and the thought process behind it, so that if you see something related to it on an exam, you will immediately know what to do. As the saying goes, I won't just give you a fish, I will teach you how to fish for yourself.
Sometimes students are frustrated by this because they just want a quick answer. Math just doesn’t work that way, and this is the main reason why students have so much trouble with math. Of course tutoring always begins with some type of "showing," but then it must quickly transition into "exploring," so that the material is internalized. This will lead to success and confidence in class and on exams.
I tutor by asking students lots of questions, and forcing them to think. This is how to learn and retain the information. I "elicit" the answers from the student, rather than just "telling" them to the student. I might ask something like, “Why did I put the x over here, and not over here?”, or, “What do you think we would do differently if the seven had been negative instead of positive?” This forces the student to think, and to be actively involved in learning, and not just a passive “listener.” A lecture might be a suitable teaching mechanism for a college class, but until then, all learning must be interactive, and highly student-centric.
“TONE” OF SESSION: The tone of my tutoring sessions is a relaxed one. I am kind and compassionate, and very patient. Students have always told me that they feel comfortable with me. I will never embarrass a student, nor “put them on the spot.” I do ask lots of questions, as described above, but this just done to engage the student in the learning process. It’s not done to quiz or test the student. If a student is unsure of something, we "explore" it. I am very skilled in putting myself in the mind of the student, to determine why they are struggling with a particular problem. I then go about resolving the matter.
TUTOR-ASSIGNED HOMEWORK: The more math a student practices, the better. With that said, I realize that students may not have the time to take on more additional work than what their teacher is already assigning them. I will discuss the matter with the student's parents to decide what is in the best interest of the student. It's important to maintain a balance between having the student work as hard as possible, but not making the student so miserable that s/he just completely gives up.
PREPARATION FOR SESSION: If you let me know in advance via e-mail what topics you would like to work on during the next session, I can prepare material such as summary sheets, study guides, and practice exercises for the topic. If you let me know in advance what aspects of the topic you are finding most confusing, I can use that information to prepare material that will help to clarify matters. This will save time during the session which we can use to work on the topic. It is helpful if the session has a predetermined focus.
INTERSESSION HELP: If you have a question in between tutoring sessions, you are welcome to e-mail me, and I will answer it for free, just like I do for students who are not my clients. If I think of additional practice exercises during the week that will help you, or anything that was left out during the session, I will e-mail you at no extra charge.
LEARNING DISABILITIES: Please be advised that I do not have any formal training in working with students who have special learning disabilities or difficulties, including conditions such as AD(H)D, although I do have experience working with such students. I am patient and compassionate, and I will certainly do my very best for any student that has a learning disability, but this just serves as a general disclaimer on the matter.
NON-DISCRIMINATION: I do not discriminate in any manner at all. All are welcome.
ETHICS POLICY: I will never humor you so that you'll feel as though I have helped you more than I have, nor will I ever instill doubt in you so that you feel as though you need additional tutoring sessions when, in fact, you do not. I will always be honest with you about your progress and what I feel is best, and then the decision is yours as to how to proceed.
UNUSUAL CURRICULA: A growing number of schools in the U.S. have adopted highly non-standard, and in some cases "experimental" curricula to teach math. Like most educators, I am greatly opposed to these methods for a slew of reasons that one fill a book with. If you are using such a curriculum, we can use your free consultation session to discuss the matter.
BUILDING STUDYING AND TEST-TAKING SKILLS: As part of each session, we may take a few minutes to discuss and practice studying and test-taking techniques, including how to go about memorizing formulas and procedures, and what to do on an exam if you forget them. Most students, including those in college, have absolutely no idea how to study and take tests effectively. I had to teach myself these things.
One reason for this is that the schools don't teach it. The night before an exam, the teacher will simply say, "Don't forget to study for your test tomorrow," and that will be the evening's homework assignment. The student then goes home, stares blankly at his/her notes and says, "Yeah, I know all this stuff," and then does poorly on the test, unsure of what went wrong. I help my students end this pattern.
Another thing we'll work on is putting each topic into context. This is something that most teachers don't do, in some cases because they don't know themselves, and in some cases because there is simply no time. It's difficult to learn a topic if you don't know why it's important, or how it relates to past or future topics that will be studied. As we go over topics, we'll talk about what they relate to, and which ones are more important than others.
MATH PHOBIA/ANXIETY: Many students have what could be described as "math phobia," which results in poor grades on exams, and unnecessary stress. If desired, and with parents' permission, we can spend a few minutes after the session practicing some very basic meditation and breathing techniques that may help. There is nothing magical, mystical, or religious about this. It's just a matter of learning what to do when you're feeling overwhelmed on an exam, and all of the numbers on the page start to look like a giant blur.
CONFIDENCE BUILDING: Don't be surprised if after working with me, you feel as though what I did for you was what the Wizard of Oz did for Dorothy and her companions. Most students know much more math than they think they do, and have much more innate mathematical aptitude than they realize, or have been told, and only need to be shown that they really had those skills all along. The job of a skilled math tutor is to fill in the gaps where needed, and to clarify misconceptions which the student may have been holding onto for a very long time. You'll probably find yourself saying, "Wow! Now I finally get it!"
REFUND POLICY: If you ever feel that a tutoring session was not of benefit, you do not have to pay for it. In this case, I will ask that you sign a form which states that you are requesting that the session fee be waived due to your dissatisfaction. Of course, I would then no longer be able to offer my tutoring services to you, but I could try to help you find a tutor or tutoring service that is a better fit for you.
“GUARANTEE” / LIABILITY: My tutoring services come with absolutely no guarantees whatsoever, as far as performance on exams, improvement in grade level, or anything of the kind. The reason for this is because only you can guarantee how much effort you are willing to put in. This effort is not just the physical act of completing practice exercises, but the mental effort to think about the material, and practice it on a daily basis.
The extent of any liability on my part is limited to the cost of the most recent tutoring session, as described above. My job is to help explain concepts to you, and to answer your questions. All of the effort has to come from you. I am just a learning guide, or what is often referred to by educators as a “facilitator.” Unless you practice math every day, and think about what you are doing with each problem, as opposed to just mechanically doing it, you will not learn anything from me or from anyone else, no matter what fancy guarantees they may entice you with.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: For additional information, please explore my website. You can read about my background, and read my education editorials which paint a picture of my philosophy of math education. Of course you can contact me if you have any questions, or if you would like to schedule your free consultation.