There's the rub: If we insist on just those online math tutoring sites or any other math tutoring services that avoid traditional ways of teaching math, that avoid show and tell, that avoid simply telling students what to do to solve a particular problem, then we will find very few options-- if we can even find anything.
SmarThinking seems to be the best option I have seen so far that avoids this approach to tutoring mathematics. I have an account that allows me to enter as a student to check out their tutoring, and I should do that soon. The information on their approach to tutoring I had gotten from a webinar sometime ago that had discussed the services provided by SmarThinking. So I should go there sometime to see how well they stick with their philosophy of Socratic approach to tutoring.
I should also check their prices. Florida Tech students get some free hours, but they can have their free hours increased under the recommendation of one of their professors.
Here is another rub: Even if we can find math tutoring services that avoid these traditional approaches to math education, how many students are willing to give that tutoring a shot? The classes I have been teaching lately are the kinds of classes at these schools where few students try tutoring. In fact, I had worked in several tutoring centers at several universities, and I work in one now, and my experience tells me that few remedial math students visit their university's tutoring centers. I can't say with much certainty about other outside tutoring services since many students may use them without you being aware of it. Most students thus far who have told me that they were using outside help had referred to a friend or a co-worker or a relative for tutoring.
Many tutoring services use the traditional ways of tutoring math either because that is the way that most tutors are familiar with or because the tutoring services serve enough students that tutors lack the time to tutor using non-traditional approaches that may be more beneficial to most students than the traditional ways. And many of the students are also in a hurry and so do not have the time to be tutored in these alternate ways. Others tutor in these traditional ways because they believe that this what students expect and even want from their tutoring. No doubt that some (perhaps many) students resist any approach to teaching mathematics that is not traditional because they think they must learn basic skills first before learning to think or because they believe the traditional ways-- which is often all that students have seen--are the ways to do it because "everyone else does it that way" or simply because it is familar to them. In fact, multiple students of mine have mentioned their kids learning math more along the lines of reformists' views of math education than traditionalists' views of math education, and they had mentioned that this teaching seems very weird to them. Still others believe that their failures to learn mathematics under traditional ways of teaching are not because of faulty teaching but because they believe they are not intelligent enough to learn mathematics--that is, they believe the problem is with themselves, not with their previous math classes.
Here is a third rub: As Alain says--and I agree with him--offering tutoring or any other resources that use these non-traditional approaches to learning mathematics in a badly designed course with the textbook and assignments and exams still being very much in line with commerical textbooks does not offer much help to students. Such courses will need to completely restructed to offer any real benefit to the vast majority of students who struggle greatly with math.
Despite the problems with referring students to online or other tutoring services that use non-traditional approaches to math tutoring, I would still be interested in getting some information about these.
In short, all I feel I can do at this time is to do the best with what the students and I have to work with. So maybe I could also ask about tutoring services that others have seen students speak about positively--as long as the tutors are not the kinds of people who do the homework and other assignments for students.
On 11/21/2010 at 11:53 pm, Alain Schremmer wrote:
> On Nov 21, 2010, at 8:53 PM, Jonathan Groves wrote: > > > And what information I have so far on their > tutoring tells me that > > their tutoring is not helpful to most math > students. > > How could it be otherwise? > > Puzzled regards > --schremmer