Need some opinions about Sylvan Learning Centers for helping 12 year old with math

My 12 year old son really does not “get” algebra. He’s OK conceptually in his other courses but algebraic math throws him for a loop. The public school system where I live is among the bottom of the barrel performance wise for the State of Maryland (and I am highly unimpressed to date by their attentiveness to his difficulties) , so I am considering supplemental help via using a local Sylvan Learning Center.

My concern with Sylvan is effectiveness. The course is fairly expensive. After an initial 175.00 skills assessment the student spends 2 hours each week (1 hour per day for 2 days per week) at the center at 40 dollars per hour to share a tutor with 1-2 other kids. It amounts to 320. per month for 8 hours of shared instruction. I don’t mind spending the money if Sylvan is effective, but I might as well get some high school or college kid for 15.00 - 20.00 per hour if Sylvan is just basic tutoring. The risk there is that a math whiz might not really be the best teacher for a struggling 12 year old with respect to being able to relate basic concepts.

If these 40.00 hours are pure gold I will probably go with Sylvan, but I want to hear about any dopers experiences with Sylvan before I take the plunge.

I had the exact same problem at the same age. My parents sent me to Sylvan, and it was a waste of money. I followed the program dilligently, and passed all of the quizzes, but once in school, was lost. My husband has also known a few kids who went to Sylvan, and says he never saw one who was actually helped by the program.

I suggest you find a high-school student that’s interested in tutoring your son. Even if he is a “math whiz” he’ll be better able to relate to your son, and might be able to communicate better with him. Either that, or contact your local college for students who are learning to be teachers. I’m sure they’ll be able to put you in touch with someone who can practice teaching while helping your son.

Your kid is in seventh grade? Provided that your child hasn’t had a problem with math in the past, I STRONGLY suggest that you move your kid from algebra to regular math for last few weeks of school and give it another shot next year: no tutor, no stress, don’t even worry about it.

Algebra isn’t just more math than arithmatic: it is jumping up by an order of magnitude in abstract thought, and the your kid’s brain may not have made the jump. This isn’t a big deal, it has nothing to do with any underlying level of intelligence: just as some of the seventh graders have had their vocies change and some haven’t, some are starting to be able to do complex abstract thought and some can’t. It’s no more signifigant than the timing of a voice change. It’ll all even out in a year or two.

The worst thing you can do is freak your son out over this or teach him that math is particularly hard for him. If it wasn’t a few years ago, it won’t be next year (or possibly the year after). Put him in regular math so tha the can regain his confidence (he’ll be like ,damn, this is easy!") and next year he can start algebra all over again. The things that he just couldn’t understand, no matter how hard he worked at them lst fall will be obvious next fall. Tell him it’s no big deal.

And it isn’t a big deal: the year he’s “losing” doesn’t matter: he’s still on track to take calculus as a senoir if he wants too, and even that dosen’t really matter: no one’s career ever skidded to a halt because they took calculus their first year in college.

Thank you Manda Jo!!! Wish someone said that when I was taking algebra :slight_smile:

I was always a great student until I hit algebra in grade 8. It just would not click no matter how many extra problems I tried or how many hours I spent after school or how much screaming and lecturing my parents gave me about being lazy and stupid.

When I was in college taking a psychology class the professor explained the complex change in our structure of thinking that was needed to grasp a complex so abstract! It was then that I realized why I had such a hard time and why the next year I was able to pick it up so easily.

Your son is probably just not at that stage in development… If so sending him to sylvan is not going to teach him algebra but it will make him more frustrated with his inability to grasp it.

I struggled with algebra I (taken as a 9th grader) and dreaded algebra II, taken 2 years later.

BUT, the summer before 11th grade, my mother sent me to an algebra I summer course at a local private school. That made a world of difference - concepts were explained in different ways that just made them easier for me to grasp. Enough so that I got an A in algebra II and another in Trig/Pre-cal in 12th grade.

I don’t know much about Sylvan, but an alternative might be to look into summer courses at local private schools or with an outside tutor.

Manda Jo’s suggestions are excellent as well. 7th grade seems early to be dealing with the abstract concepts of algebra - it won’t hurt him to step back into regular math if that’s possible, and try it again later. If math confidence gets shaken (mine was in 7th grade when we started doing pre-algebra), it’s tough to get back.

I think Manda’s advice is very good, particularly about avoiding any suggestion that your son is bad at math. I’ve seen far too many people give up on math without even trying because of that kind of attitude. If you can find some way to go about it that won’t get him a failing grade in his current class, it would be a good thing. Failing could sour his attitude toward the class, and make next year harder than it should be. Switching him to a different class might help, if the school will allow it.

I don’t have any personal experience with Sylvan, but their commercials give me the creeps.

I’ll echo Balance here, the commercials are downright spooky.

I also think that MandaJO is on the right track. Algebra: 9th grade (US). Algebra II/Trig: 10th. Analytics/Calc: 11th. Calc II/Physics I and/or II: 12th.

Our experience was a bit younger. KidSthrnAccent was in fourth grade and he was struggling with language arts type skills. We had him do Sylvan for one semester and he found it extremely helpful. He’s an honors student now and counts Sylvan as one of three reasons he was able to turn school from a disheartenly struggle to an honors student.

Perhaps you ought to look into seeing if there is a Score! center near you. I happen to work at a branch in San Jose, and I have seen firsthand the benefits it has. The style of tutoring is very unique, and the tutors themselves are high school/college kids (like me). At the center I work at, 99% of people who try it join for at least a year.

One of the reasons I mention this is because we have a lot of members who were dissatisfied with Sylvan join us. If you’re hesitant about Sylvan, Score! might be right up your alley.