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Afterschooling, Tutoring and Mentoring


Q. What are some ways to supplement a child's math education outside of the regular classroom?


Three ways: afterschooling, tutoring and mentoring.


Afterschooling. That's a parent-led, informal, spontaneous form of outside enrichment that can make a real difference for those kids who are out ahead, or lagging behind. It's probably best to keep your child's teacher and school out of it: the idea is a fresh, new approach, supplementation, and enrichment.


Summer is a great time to start because your child's schedule is likely to be more relaxed.


Tutoring is the most obvious form of afterschooling, though it costs money and can be very hard to work into a child's schedule if sports and extracurricular activities are also on the docket and important to your child. Big after-school helpers include,,,, and You can ask around, perhaps at a private school known to have excellent students, because teachers there are often looking for moonlighting income. The Yellow Pages are always a good source, too.


There are online services available, many free of charge. Students in need of remedial help and practice could try or Japanese Math Challenge on the very fun and worthwhile David Goodman website,


You could find an online tutor from or download online tutorials from


Besides these parent-driven forms of afterschooling, there is also the formal afterschool. In it, you can expect the systematic supplementation of public school curriculum in a top-quality private school that operates independently and after school hours.


If by some miracle you live in the Boston area, you have access to Ground Zero for afterschooling in mathematics - the Russian School of Mathematics. That private, after-school math center now enrolls more than 700 students from K-12, including a lot of middle schoolers from some of the ritziest neighborhoods in the Boston area. It has also spread to other communities and is well worth emulating everywhere.


Here's how it got started: mom who was fed up with mediocre math instruction in the public schools began the school out of her home several years ago with her two children and a few of their friends, and reportedly is turning students away now, her school is so popular.


After the need for the service became so apparent, she went to district officials and proposed that the district pay the kids' tuition and let them test out of the regular math class in school, if they choose to attend her school because it meets their academic needs better. But the school district would have none of that. And so parents have been paying double for their kids to learn math - once, through their taxes, to the public schools, and again, through private tuition, to the afterschool, which is what parents say is doing the better job.


Reportedly, the problem with many public school math curricula is that they are tied to the benchmarks of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Those in turn are reflected in most statewide math assessments, but mathematicians and others who are conservative about math education don't like them because they don't emphasize the basics.


Mentoring is another approach. Ask at the middle school or high school, whichever is one level up, or a local college, for a personable, good student looking to make a little extra cash. The mentor could meet with your child once or twice a week and help with math homework, talk about math in everyday life, maybe shoot hoops and share dreams a little . . . just be a friend and encourager.


But most of all and best of all, as you live life with your child, talk about math and "do math" together. Measure your vegetable garden. Compute gas mileage. Double a recipe. Figure a batting average. Comparison shop. Figure price per ounce.


Your goal: teach your child how math and life are intertwined. That'll make it really . . . add up.


Homework: Saxon Math offers afterschooling and homeschooling curricula. You can find out more and order a placement test from


By Susan Darst Williams Math 12 2008



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