Q. Can you tell me about Mathnasium of Cherry Creek in Denver? Is it legit? My 8-year-old has a need for extra help in math. – Sharon of Colorado Springs

A. During the school year there are often homework clubs or times during the day that a student can go for help. In addition, there are often teachers who are willing to work as tutors before or after school. This option makes it easier for families.

However, if you are looking for something outside of school or during the summer, you have to go with the private tutoring centers or individual tutors. Depending on a tutor’s experience, the rate increases.

Teachers in training make good tutors

One place I’ve found decent tutors who don’t charge exorbitant rates are local schools of education at a local university. Pre-service teachers are often looking for contact hours with students and achieve this by tutoring. Many times they can work with a student on campus or at a local library or community center.

Parents can contact their child’s school for a list of recommended tutors, or consult the yellow pages or the Internet. If you can supplement these with third party recommendations it may be more informative, but I’d encourage parents/families to spend time at any facility they sign up for or sit with the tutor during the initial tutoring session to make sure the experience is what they are hoping for.

More about Mathnasium

Mathnasium in Cherry CreekMathnasium is a math only tutoring center that focuses on remediation and new topics of learning.  It is a chain. However, each center is independently owned and operated. While Mathnasium is nice because its focus is only on mathematics, it is a prescribed curriculum and not a one-to-one tutoring scenario. According to the owner, though, the ratio of elementary age students to instructors is 3-1.

When a student arrives or enrolls at Mathnasium they are given a placement test. This test has a written and verbal component.  Based on the results of this assessment – as well as parent and child input – goals are created for the students.  Once these goals have been determined, the coach starts working with a student to progress through modules that meet those goals.  These modules consist of tasks and worksheets that the students work through to provide practice and understanding around a topic.

While it seems that the work is skill-driven at times, there is also some one-on-one coaching.  The size and focus of the small group work is dependent on whether or not there is a group of students who are working on the same areas/goals. These small groups do allow for discussion and not just skill and drill activities.

Rates for an 8-year-old range from $20 to $50 per hour – averaging $25 per hour, according to Mathnasium staff.

I believe Mathnasium has potential as a place to support students’ mathematical learning and understanding. However, there are a lot of variables that will affect your child’s situation, as is the case with many tutoring centers.

In the end, it depends upon your individual student’s needs as well as his or her compatibility with the needs of the other students enrolled in the program.

Editor’s note: The information below comes from the Mathnasium website.

Sample of math learning at Mathnasium

The curriculum samples shown here represent critical topics Mathnasium addresses at each grade level. An asterisk (*) indicates program elements covered at Mathnasium that are not typically covered in most school programs.

4th grade

Rounding off

  • Round off any whole number to any place up to millions.
  • * “Is 1 5/8 closer to 1 or to 2?” for appropriate numbers
  • * “Is 2.07 closer to 2 or to 3?” for appropriate numbers

Find the missing numbers… (seeing patterns)

  • 1, 2, 4, 7, 11, ___, ___, ___
  • * 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, ___, ___, ___
  • * 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, ___, ___, ___

Problem solving

  • * State and understand that:
    • “The whole is equal to the sum of its parts.”
    • “Any part equals the whole minus the other parts.”
  • Solve two- and three- step word problems using two or more operations.
  • Use various techniques in problem solving:
    • Break down the problem into simpler parts.
    • Apply the “easier number” method.
    • Draw a picture.
    • Use mental math.
  • Check answer for reasonableness.