In the last year or so, Eric Friedman witnessed the ways remote learning impacted his daughter. Despite being Zoom-bound, Friedman said his young daughter was able to stay engaged while online, keep up with assignments and maintain her grades, but she has gotten some extra help along the way.
Long before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Friedman often worked with his daughter on her math and reading skills. Using a free app called Khan Academy, they would watch instructional videos together, practice math problems and often venture into other subjects too.
“I’m a nerd,” said Friedman, 43, of Oak Park. Friedman has a math degree and is an investment consultant by trade, but “I forgot how to teach addition and subtraction,” which is why the app came in handy, because it gave him and his daughter the chance to learn together.
But Friedman knew leaning on the app wasn’t enough, especially when the pandemic came and brought in-person learning to a screeching halt. He started to worry about the long-term effects of online learning and feared that his daughter may fall behind. He thought about the lessons and skills his daughter should have by now and may have potentially missed because of the pandemic’s abrupt change. So, he and his wife decided to hire a private tutor.
“It’s something we’re fortunate to do,” Friedman said about hiring a tutor. “I wish it was more financially accessible to more people.”
That’s when he came up with an idea to launch SMART, an affordable tutoring service for Oak Park and River Forest elementary students. SMART, which stands for Supplemental Math Advancing Results through Tutoring, looks to work with incoming fourth graders on their math skills. Friedman said he wanted to focus on this age group so his daughter can also participate.
SMART is founded on a “pay what you want” model, so that the service is open to families of all financial backgrounds, said Friedman. A suggested price for one session is $10. Each session will be held over Zoom and include a group of students. Friedman hopes to start the sessions by the week of June 13.
“Tutoring, itself, isn’t new,” Friedman said. “Anybody can find a tutor and hire a tutor if they have the money. What’s new about this is making it financially accessible and making it logistically accessible.”
The average cost for a private tutor can vary because of experience, according to care.com, a site dedicated to helping people find care for seniors, children, pets and more. The site shared that high school students who tutor may charge $10 to $40 per hour for one session, while teachers may price their services at $100 or more per hour. Tutoring centers are just as expensive with sessions costing between $50 and $80 per hour.
Friedman said some parents don’t have the time to drive their children to tutoring centers and his program is another option. With sessions held on Zoom, SMART aims to be a resource for local parents and guardians, as well as students. Sessions also touch on different math skills, so if students are absent, they can “rejoin without being lost,” Friedman explained on his site.
As June approaches, Friedman is working on hiring a few teachers and figuring out the number of students per session. Friedman recently created a GoFundMe to raise $800 to support two tutoring groups with weekly sessions for five weeks. Looking ahead, he also hopes to expand his SMART service to include other grade levels and subjects.
“I’ve seen it over and over again in my life and with my kids and with other kids,” Friedman said. “If they get supplemental instruction, their performance improves. I think that this has the potential to elevate the whole community in terms of education.”
For more information on SMART, visit smart-tutoring.mailchimpsites.com.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the tutoring service is open to third and fourth graders. SMART currently serves incoming fourth graders. This post has since been updated. Wednesday Journal regrets the error.