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Ask The Expert - Mathnasium® of Marlboro
05/03/2012

Ask The Expert - Mathnasium® of Marlboro


Steve Paul
Mathnasium® of Marlboro
460 Country Road 520
Marlboro NJ, 07746
(732) 490-5725
www.mathnasium.com/marlboro

Mathnasium® is a learning center where students go to boost their math skills. They are highly specialized; they teach only math. Developed over 30 years of hands-on experience with thousands of children around the world, the Mathnasium educational model is designed for children of all ages and skill levels. Their goal is to significantly increase children’s math skills, understanding of math concepts and overall school performance.



How would you advise our readers/parents to select a supplemental education provider?


The first thing parents need to do is educate themselves on the different types of providers and the primary focus each of them has. The three most widely used supplemental education providers are tutors or tutoring services, curriculum based methods, and learning centers.

Tutors and tutoring services typically help students for a specific period of time with specific subject matter for a specific school-related purpose. For example, some parents hire tutors to help their child get through this week’s homework or to study for Friday’s test.

In contrast, curriculum-based services employ the use of worksheets or workbooks designed to help students improve their skills through self-learning. They’re primarily concerned with how quickly and accurately a child can progress through their material.

Learning centers have more of a strategic role. That is, they want to know the reasons why a child is struggling with her homework or why she needs help preparing for a test. A learning center typically begins this process with an initial assessment to determine the student’s specific skill gaps. Then they create a program of instruction tailored to fill those gaps and provide the curriculum, specially-trained instructors and an environment to help the student work to fill those gaps. Some learning centers include homework and test help as part of their service as well. The breadth of a student’s program is determined by the number of skill gaps that are identified and can be quite lengthy.  Therefore, parents should understand that a learning center should not be expected to provide a quick fix solution to their child’s needs.



What should parents take into account when choosing a certain type of provider?


Tutors, curriculum-based methods and learning centers tend to provide different services, so parents must determine what they want the provider to accomplish. For example, tutors and tutoring services appeal to parents who are looking for a provider to help their child with a particular short-term issue. Curriculum-based methods, on the other hand, tend to appeal to parents who believe rigorous practice helps students build focus and discipline, and nurtures an innate understanding of the subject matter.

Another important consideration, particularly when a parent is considering either a tutor or a learning center, is the background and qualifications of the instructors. Everyday tutors range from the student’s peers or other paraprofessionals with subject knowledge but little teaching experience, to expert tutors with significant pedagogical expertise. Information technology, specifically in the area of artificial intelligence, has also made it possible for computers to act as tutors.

Learning center instructors, on the other hand, typically do not come from the student’s peer group and are usually required to have a degree or specialized training in the subject area they’ll be teaching. Some learning centers go as far as requiring that their instructors have subject area degrees and state teaching certification as well.

Other items parents should consider in the decision-making process include:
• The days and times of availability and flexibility of scheduling changes
• The length and number of sessions to be provided
• The student to instructor ratio • The atmosphere of the learning environment>
• The cost of the services to be provided Parents should also try to find out about other people’s experiences with a particular provider. Some can provide testimonials from students, teachers and other parents. And a select few can provide independent verification of the effectiveness of their services.


What about parents who are looking for enrichment in addition to or instead of remediation? Can each of these providers meet their needs?

Not necessarily. Depending on the qualifications of the individual, a tutor may or may not have the knowledge required to enrich a child’s understanding of a particular subject. And those who do may not have materials readily available. And in a curriculum-based model, enrichment is typically only available to those students who are already operating above their current grade level.

Parents who are interested in enrichment as well as remediation would be best served by a learning center. Learning centers typically have both the flexibility and the curriculum needed to include remediation for particular areas and enrichment for others together in a student’s learning plan.



How much time can parents expect to pass before they can see results for their child?

Parents can expect to see almost immediate results with a tutor or a tutoring service because their services tend to be measured by test scores and /or class grades.

Curriculum-based methods, on the other hand, allow students to work at their own pace, and provide limited instructor interaction. As a result, progress will vary from child to  child.

The timing of a learning center’s results can vary as well. A student’s gap in knowledge tends to develop over time and can only be filled after the student puts in the  appropriate amount of work. As a result, some learning centers are only prepared to provide progress reports after the student has completed his or her entire learning plan  and has taken a post-assessment. However, most learning centers should be able to provide a detailed written progress report after a few months and more informal verbal  updates on a weekly basis at a parent’s request.




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