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Kumon vs. Sylvan vs. Learner: What’s Best for Math Tutoring?

If you're looking for a math tutor, here's what you need to know about tutoring services at Sylvan, Kumon and Learner.
13 minutes
Kumon vs. Sylvan vs. Learner: What’s Best for Math Tutoring?
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If your child struggles with math, then they’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by Cuemath, a private tutoring service, 82% of students between grades 7 and 10 struggle with apprehension surrounding math learning. This survey also reflects that as students transition from middle to high school, anxiety in math class only increases.

Thankfully, there are many resources for stressed math students to turn to in their time of need. The biggest question is, then, what resources are most worth your time and money? Kumon, Sylvan, and Learner are three of the most popular math tutoring services on the market. In this article, we will carefully review each tutoring program to help you determine which one might be the best fit for you.

What is Kumon?

Kumon is a tutoring program committed to helping students excel in school and beyond. This established company operates in 50 countries with millions of participants. Toru Kumon, a Japanese math teacher who serves as the platform's namesake, created Kumon in 1954 to assist his son in academic success. Kumon focuses on drilling foundational math and reading skills. For math, students work on developing basic number sense and skills. Students of any age and skill level can participate in Kumon, but the typical audience is younger children. 


  • Online and in-person tutoring
  • Relatively affordable
  • Offers both reading and math curriculums
  • Proven methods


  • Tutors are not carefully vetted
  • No one-on-one tutoring offered
  • Does not promote a deeper understanding of math concepts

Bottom Line: This decades-old learning platform is renowned for drilling the basics of math and reading into students through incrementally challenging worksheets. Kumon doesn't use personalized learning plans or push students to understand math concepts deeply. Instead, it helps students learn the basics.

What is Sylvan?

Founded in 1979, Sylvan is a tutoring center that strives to boost student grades through personalized assistance that aligns with student needs. Every Sylvan student begins the program by taking the "Sylvan Assessment," a short survey that lets the program understand your child's learning needs.

From there, Sylvan's team will create a personalized lesson plan based on their current knowledge and proficiency. Aside from math, Sylvan also offers tutoring in reading, writing, homework help, study skills, test prep, and advanced math for students from kindergarten through grade 12. Sylvan's tutoring style revolves around small-group instruction; every group class has three students and one instructor. 


  • Provides an initial assessment and a personalized curriculum
  • Online and in-person tutoring
  • Offers tutoring in a variety of subjects
  • Hands-on instruction 


  • No private tutoring offered
  • Relatively expensive

Bottom Line: Founded in 1979, Sylvan is a tutoring center that strives to boost student grades through personalized assistance and small group courses. Aside from math, Sylvan offers tutoring in reading, writing, homework help, study skills, test prep, and advanced math for students from kindergarten through grade 12.

What is Learner?

Learner is an online tutoring company that specializes in individualized, one-on-one sessions. Although their target audience is high school and college students, they also offer tutoring choices for younger kids and teenagers. Students can access classes and get assistance from far more locations because Learner tutoring sessions are 100% online. Additionally, because Learner's coaching is digital, parents and students can rewatch sessions to check for quality or to revisit certain ideas.

Learner believes that a tutor's attitude and personality are frequently as important as their lessons. Due to this, Learner hires and trains a specialized customer service team dedicated to finding the ideal pairing of tutor and student.This service feature stands in stark contrast to other tutoring services that focus less on choosing the best instructor for each student.


  • Students are carefully matched to ideal tutors
  • Tutors must meet strict education and experience standards
  • Tutors provide advice and feedback after each session


  • No mobile app for communication
  • Consultation required for exact pricing

Bottom Line: Although a more premium service than either Kumon or Sylvan, Learner’s slightly higher price point is justified by its excellent tutoring standards, personalized instruction, and ease of access. While we most strongly suggest Learner for older students, their services may benefit students of all ages.

Kumon vs. Sylvan vs. Learner Benefits

While Kumon and Sylvan both focus on in-person math assistance, Learner exclusively offers its tutoring online. We’ll go into the benefits of each and how you should decide which is best for you.

Kumon Benefits

One of the benefits of Kumon is that it mimics the setup of a regular classroom environment. For instance, if a student needs help with a problem on their worksheet, they will need to ask for help in front of a classroom full of students. One of the reasons students fall behind in school is because they are too shy or embarrassed to ask for help in front of their peers or admit when they need help understanding a complex math concept. Kumon learning centers get students to request assistance when necessary, a healthy academic habit that will aid students through the rest of their education and beyond. 

According to online reviews, most parents have been happy with their Kumon experience. Even though Kumon is not registered with the Better Business Bureau, it has received an impressive A+ rating. This rating reflects this service's many positive reviews from satisfied parents. Even former teachers have said that students who had trouble with math improved at numbers and math operations after taking Kumon lessons regularly. According to the Kumon website, students' skills were over a year ahead of the national average after attending Kumon. In addition, on average, Kumon math students score 5.27 SAT points higher. 

Sylvan Benefits

One of the most significant factors that sets Sylvan apart from other math tutoring services is its customized lesson plans. Every student begins by taking an initial assessment, also known as the "Sylvan assessment," to understand the student's strengths and weaknesses more deeply. The results of this assessment allow Sylvan to create a personalized lesson plan tailored to the areas where students need the most growth. In addition, one of Sylvan's priorities is aligning its lesson plans with state and provincial standards so that your child will see their hard work leading to better grades in school. Sylvan also prioritizes communicating with student parents and families often, so they are always up-to-date on their child's progress. 

Sylvan's website says that students who participate in its program have a high success rate in everyday schooling. Sylvan students experience 2-3 times more academic growth than other students. Those enrolled in a math program see 51% more academic growth when compared to peers who only had their school's math instruction. The reading results are even higher, with Sylvan students seeing 98% more academic growth than those who don't attend Sylvan. 

Learner Benefits

One of the most significant benefits that sets Learner apart from other tutoring services is its private tutoring structure. Receiving one-on-one instruction allows tutors to cater each lesson to the math topics the student needs the most assistance with, bypassing the subjects and skills they are already comfortable with and confident in. Tutors can teach lessons using strategies aligned with the student's preferred learning style, match the student's pace, and answer as many questions as they need before thoroughly understanding a subject. At Learner, students work with the same tutor session after session. This creates a safe learning environment for students to ask questions, make mistakes, and admit when they are struggling to understand a topic. 

Another benefit of Learner’s tutoring program is its high-quality instructors. Every tutor must undergo thorough background checks and vetting to ensure they meet Learner’s strict standards. Only tutors with bachelor’s degrees from four-year colleges and several years of teaching experience can apply to Learner’s platform, and only 5% of tutor applicants are admitted into Learner’s network. 

Kumon vs. Sylvan Tutoring Services

Sylvan and Kumon operate under very different tutoring structures. Here is what you need to know about the setup of both services:


Kumon is a worksheet-based math program with a focus on repetition and drills. Students start by taking an initial test, which helps Kumon's team put them in a starting worksheet class. This class is always easier than the child's current level of skill and knowledge. Structuring coursework this way lets students get used to worksheets and gain confidence quickly. They will continue to work through a set of worksheets until they have "mastered" a topic.

Students are typically seated in a large room with one main supervisor and a number of "helpers." When students arrive at the center, they pick up their worksheets for the day and have 30 minutes to complete them. When they leave, they take several worksheets to complete at home. Students should work on these worksheets five days a week; two days are spent at Kumon centers, and three are spent at home. 


When students sign up for Sylvan, they begin by taking an initial assessment. The Sylvan team uses this test's results to make each student's personalized curriculum. At Sylvan, students learn in small group classes, with three students assigned to one instructor.

Under this model, Sylvan guarantees that students will learn 50 new skills in their first 50 hours of instruction. Regardless of whether students opt for in-person or online tutoring, Sylvan's tutoring is very tech-forward—even in-person lessons are taught on iPads. All lesson plans are detailed on the virtual SylvanSync learning platform and can be adapted based on the student's progress. In addition, Sylvan has an online portal called MySylvan, allowing parents to check in on their child's progress and look at their homework assignments. During tutoring sessions, students mostly get help with homework assignments and test preparation. However, Sylvan also gives students daily homework to do. These worksheets allow students to work on skills and concepts aligning with their current school curriculum. 


The first step students take when getting started with Learner is a short online assessment. Students will answer a few questions about themselves, their academic interests, and their goals, and the Learner team will review those results. This information allows Learner to match students with the most compatible tutor in their network. Learner’s matching specialist considers factors like a student’s schedule, personality, interests, learning style, strengths, and weaknesses when making this decision. 

Once a student is matched with a tutor, they can schedule their first lesson. Every Learner lesson occurs in a state-of-the-art online classroom equipped with an interactive whiteboard, video, and audio. Students can share files with their tutor, and every lesson is recorded so they can use these lessons as study tools. Parents are regularly provided with updates so that they are constantly in the loop about their child’s progress. 

Sylvan vs. Kumon Tutors

Sylvan Tutors

Even though Sylvan tutors are assessed to ensure they are safe and have relevant teaching experience, some reviews have said that teachers don't usually specialize in one subject. This quality makes Sylvan a good option for students who need to brush up on the basics in a wide variety of subjects, including math, reading, writing, etc. However, if your child needs specialized math assistance, you may be better off searching for a subject specialist through a different online tutoring service. There have been mixed reviews about the quality of Sylvan's tutors, with some parents claiming that the service wasn't worthwhile. However, it's important to note that each Sylvan learning center operates as a separate institution, so the quality of service may vary across Sylvan learning centers.

Kumon Tutors

Kumon tutors are often high school or college students, and their rates may change based on what they know or how much experience they have. That said, because Kumon operates a self-learning model where students work independently on worksheets, tutors are not required to have expertise in specific math subjects. In addition, more often than not, Kumon customers are younger students in kindergarten and elementary school. Because of this, high school and college students often help younger students answer the occasional question that involves simple processes such as basic addition or subtraction. 

Learner Tutors

Learner only hires tutors with at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year university and several years of teaching experience. Every tutor is rigorously vetted through thorough background checks and interviews. Learner hires tutors with various specialties and subject matter expertise to ensure that every student is matched with an instructor who can create a customized curriculum specifically for them. Only 5% of tutor applicants are typically accepted into Learner’s network. The quality of Learner’s tutors assures parents that their children will always work with the best in their field. 

Sylvan vs. Kumon. Cost

Kumon Cost

Kumon costs approximately $100 to $200 monthly for each subject. If your child takes math and reading, this cost will double. Some Kumon locations will have higher rates for high school and advanced students. Remember that most of this fee goes towards the worksheets and after-school supervision. Students only get one-on-one time with a tutor if they need help with a question. The total Kumon tutoring cost typically includes two sessions a week at a Kumon learning center and three days a week working on worksheets at home. 

Sylvan Cost

Sylvan tutoring costs tend to vary by location. For instance, in Missouri, rates are between $32 to $52 an hour, whereas in California, rates start at $50 an hour. According to Sylvan's website, tutoring costs are around $49 per hour and more if you sign up for a specific package. Camps start at $199, and ACT and SAT prep classes start at $999. 

If you find the rates at your local Sylvan center to be more expensive than those at your Kumon center, this is likely due to the personalization of Sylvan. Not only are students receiving personalized lesson plans, but they are also receiving direct instruction from a tutor in a small group setting. 

Learner Cost

Learner’s tutoring rates vary based on the tutor’s experience and level of education, as well as the tutoring package that a student selects. On average, Learner’s private tutoring services tend to cost between $30 and $80 per hour. Learner's consultation team can give families more information and help them find a price that fits their budget. Learner also offers every customer a full money-back guarantee. If a student is unsatisfied with their first lesson, Learner will either match them with a new tutor for free or give them a full refund. 

Why Choose Learner

While both Sylvan and Kumon are established math tutoring programs, they may not be the services that best help improve your child's math grades. A self-learning service like Kumon and a small group tutoring service like Sylvan can't match the private and personalized tutoring services offered by Learner. Every Learner student starts by taking a short test that looks at their strengths, weaknesses, goals, and how they learn best. A matching specialist uses the results from this assessment to connect each student with the most compatible private tutor in its network. All tutors are carefully screened and have at least a bachelor's degree from a recognized university and several years of teaching experience. 

Every Learner math tutoring session is held in an online classroom with a virtual whiteboard, video, and audio. Each session is also recorded for safety purposes, so students can use their lessons as study tools if necessary. 

Final Thoughts

Sylvan and Kumon are both popular math tutoring institutions with established histories, but they are both limited in how they can help improve your child's math grades and skills. Even though Sylvan creates customized lesson plans for each student, students will still be learning in a class with two other students, meaning that the personalization of each lesson plan is limited. Each Learner lesson is tailored toward a single student's strengths, weaknesses, learning style, personality, and interests. 

One of the most significant benefits of Learner is that it is also online, meaning that children of all ages can get personalized math assistance, regardless of where they live. Online tutoring saves students time and money and gives them access to math experts from across the country. 

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About the author:

Mike developed his passion for education as a math instructor at Penn State University. He expanded his educational experience launching and running an Executive Education business - training over 100,000 students per year. As the CEO of Learner, Mike focuses on accelerating learning and unleashing the potential of students. 

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