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Mathnasium vs. Sylvan vs. Learner: Which Math Tutoring Service Is Best?

Here’s what you need to know about the tutors, structure, benefits, cost, and more at three math tutoring services: Sylvan, Mathnasium, and Learner.
9 minutes
Mathnasium vs. Sylvan vs. Learner: Which Math Tutoring Service Is Best?
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Key Takeaways

  • Learner - Best Personalized Math Tutoring
  • Mathnasium - Good Practice for the Classroom
  • Sylvan - Good for a Variety of Needs

It's no secret that math can be a challenging subject for many students. Unlike other, more objective subjects, math involves specific skills and problem-solving strategies that require considerable time, effort, and confidence to master. Studies demonstrate that math not only presents significant skill-based challenges but also intimidates students. 82% of students in grades 7 through 10 struggle with feelings of anxiety about learning math, according to a survey by Cuemath, a personalized math tutoring service.

However, with the proper support and mindset, every student can overcome these hurdles and succeed in this subject. To achieve this, students and their families can turn to a number of valuable resources, from private math tutoring services to small group and self-learning courses.

What is Mathnasium?

As the name suggests, Mathnasium is a math-only learning program for kindergarten through high school-aged students. In the Mathnasium program, students begin by taking an initial assessment to evaluate their current math proficiency. From there, Mathnasium develops a personalized curriculum for students to work through during their time at the center.

There is no private tutoring offered at Mathnasium, but services are available online or in person. Instead, one instructor is responsible for a group of four to six students. If your child is a high school student preparing for standardized testing, Mathnasium also offers SAT and ACT prep courses to help students with the math sections.


  • Tutoring online and in-person
  • Personalized curriculum
  • Offers standardized test prep courses


  • Math-only tutoring options
  • Some consider Mathnasium to be overpriced
  • No private tutoring offered

Bottom Line

Mathnasium is a math-only learning program for kindergarten through high school students. After taking an initial assessment, students receive a personalized curriculum that they will work through in small group classes, though no one-on-one tutoring is available.

What Is Sylvan?

Founded in 1979, more than 750 Sylvan learning centers are scattered across the United States. While Sylvan is best known for its in-person support, this service now offers virtual tutoring options as well. Like Mathnasium, students begin their process with Sylvan by completing an assessment evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. Sylvan's team uses the results from this test to create a customized curriculum for each student.

Math tutoring is available at Sylvan Learning Centers, as is tutoring in ELA, foreign languages, STEM, and other subjects. Instructors can also work with students to improve their organization and study skills. Sylvan students learn in small-group courses, with one tutor usually assigned to three students.


  • Online and in-person classes
  • Personalized curriculum
  • Students can also receive tutoring in numerous other subjects


  • No private tutoring offered
  • Relatively expensive

Bottom Line

Students begin their process with Sylvan by completing an assessment, allowing Sylvan to develop a personalized curriculum for each student. Sylvan learning centers offer support in math and many other subjects, including ELA, foreign languages, STEM, etc.

What Is Learner?

Learner, founded by dedicated and accomplished educators, is relatively new to the online tutoring world. That said, it has quickly made a name for itself due to its unique and effective tutoring model, which combines customized student-tutor matching with private and personalized lessons. 

While Learner specializes in one-on-one math tutoring for students of all ages, this platform also offers tutoring in other subjects, such as SAT and ACT preparation. Unlike Sylvan and Mathnasium, Learner was designed for a digital world and only offers online tutoring. Every lesson takes place in a virtual classroom on Learner’s platform, which includes video, audio, screen sharing, and an interactive whiteboard. 

Each lesson is recorded for safety reasons, but these recordings also double as study tools for older students when they are preparing for a test or working on a complex homework assignment. Regular feedback sessions are incorporated into each student’s curriculum, allowing parents to intervene and help their child when necessary. 


  • Student-tutor matching
  • Innovative technology 
  • Customized lesson plans
  • Specializes in math but offers other subjects
  • Students have the opportunity to work with one-on-one tutors long-term


  • Only offers online tutoring
  • Tutors are not available 24/7

Bottom Line

Learner has very quickly established itself in the online tutoring space due to its effective model, which combines customized student-tutor matching with private and personalized lessons. Our private instructors meet students wherever they are in their learning journey and adapt to their needs, strengths, and areas of improvement.

Mathnasium vs. Sylvan vs. Learner Benefits

Each of these three tutoring platforms features various instruction elements and styles that offer unique advantages.

Mathnasium Benefits

One of Mathnasium's most significant advantages is the personalized element of its program. Students start by taking an initial assessment, which allows Mathnasium to gauge the areas where students struggle most. Mathnasium can then assemble students into small group classes based on which areas they need the most assistance. 

Mathnasium's learning program has helped tens of thousands of students improve their grades and test scores in math. Customer reviews have shown that parents are generally very satisfied with their child's experience with the Mathnasium program. 

Parents have particularly emphasized their children's increased interest and enjoyment in mathematics. Unlike a typical math class, which can be anxiety-inducing and dull for many students, children reportedly have fun in Mathnasium sessions. While some parents may be looking for a more diverse tutoring platform, Mathnasium is an excellent option for students who solely want to focus on their math skills.

Sylvan Benefits

Like Mathnasium, Sylvan sets itself apart from other tutoring platforms through its customized lesson plans. Unlike some tutoring services, where students work through the same generalized math worksheets, Sylvan students receive personalized lesson plans tailored toward the areas they need the most improvement.

Remember that personalization in both Sylvan and Mathnasium is limited because students are in small group courses; therefore, tutors must also cater to the other students in their classes. Aside from catering to each student's needs, Sylvan also works closely to align their lesson plans with state and provincial standards.

According to their website, Sylvan students experience two to three times more academic growth than other students. Another report from the company said that students who took part in the Sylvan math program did 51% better in school than their peers who didn't take part in the program. Sylvan has received mixed customer reviews, but many parents have said the platform has helped their kids feel more confident and interested in school.

Learner Benefits

Learner has the unparalleled advantage of offering private lessons and a customized curriculum for every student. 

The benefits that students can gain from one-on-one lessons are unmatched. Unlike a traditional classroom and group lesson settings, students receive the undivided attention of their tutor. This personalized attention allows tutors to instantly correct students when they make mistakes, facilitating faster progress and growth. 

In addition, tutors can provide immediate positive reinforcement when students answer a question correctly, instilling greater confidence and self-esteem. Studies show that confidence is directly correlated with academic success. The more confident students are in their math abilities, the more likely they will persevere through difficult math problems and attempt new approaches when one method isn’t working. 

One-on-one tutoring also allows tutors to fully personalize the lesson for the student. Tutors can customize their teaching to match the student’s pace, skipping over the content they have mastered, spending more time on areas they are struggling with, and pausing when they need clarification or time to ask a question. 

By personalizing the lesson, tutors create an environment that is conducive to the student's optimal learning experience. This tailored instruction enhances understanding, increases engagement, and empowers students to actively participate and invest in their education.

Mathnasium vs. Sylvan vs. Learner Tutoring Services

Review the different tutoring services of Sylvan, Learner, and Mathnasium to learn more about which experience could be right for your family.

Mathnasium Tutoring Service

Mathnasium students begin by taking an initial assessment, evaluating their proficiency in specific math concepts, strengths, and weaknesses. After analyzing the results, Mathnasium will curate a personalized curriculum for the student. This curriculum will also help Mathnasium place students in an appropriate small group class.

During Mathnasium tutoring sessions, students work with tutors to get help on current math homework and test preparation. In addition, each tutor at Mathnasium abides by the "Mathnasium Method." Depending on the results of their personalized assessment, students are placed into a class of workbooks. As students progress through these workbooks, they will receive "mastery checks." Once students have accumulated a certain number of mastery checks, they can select a prize from the Mathnasium prize cabinet.

The idea behind the "Mathnasium Method" is to keep students motivated and boost their confidence once they begin to see results. Mathnasium does not assign homework.

Sylvan Tutoring Service

Sylvan students begin by taking an initial assessment, also known as the "Sylvan Assessment," which evaluates a student's needs and allows Sylvan's team to create a personalized curriculum for each student. Sylvan tutors work with students in small groups of three. With its traditional tutoring approach, which also factors in state and provincial guidelines, Sylvan guarantees that students will learn 50 new skills in their first 50 hours of lessons.

Sylvan is a tech-forward tutoring service, as each lesson is taught on an iPad. In addition, Sylvan uploads all of its lesson plans to an app called SylvanSync, which parents can view. On the SylvanSync learning platform, tutors can continually adjust learning plans based on the child's progress. Parents can also access the MySylvan online portal to view updated information about their child's progress and view their child's at-home math assignments.

Learner Tutoring Service

Similar to Sylvan and Mathnasium, Learner follows a process where students begin by taking an assessment on Learner's website. This assessment includes questions about math, the specific subject they need assistance with (like calculus), and the issues they are facing in that subject. In addition, the survey asks about the student's personality, interests, after-school activities, and scheduling conflicts.

Learner's team utilizes the information gathered from the assessment to match students with the most compatible tutors from their network. They also provide students with a basic study plan tailored to their needs. For example, Learner might recommend 10 hours of private tutoring based on the responses provided in the assessment.

During a student's first lesson, their tutor conducts a thorough evaluation and assessment to understand the student's familiarity with the subject matter, as well as identify their strengths, weaknesses, and learning style. This evaluation helps the tutor gain valuable insights into the student's individual needs. Based on the insights gathered from the initial lesson, tutors then develop personalized curriculums tailored to each student's specific requirements. 

Furthermore, the first lesson is also an important opportunity for students to assess their tutors. It allows students to gauge whether the tutor is the right person for them to collaborate with and if they feel comfortable working with them. This mutual assessment ensures that the student and tutor can establish a productive and supportive learning relationship.

Tutor Qualifications

It takes a special type of person to help children learn, which is why it’s crucial to look into tutors’ levels of experience, background, and credentials.

Mathnasium Tutors

According to the Mathnasium website, all its tutors must undergo a strict screening process. Of the hundreds of individuals who apply, only a handful are officially accepted into the Mathnasium network. 

This self-reported information aligns with what parents say about their Mathnasium experience. Families have referred to Mathnasium tutors as qualified, professional, helpful, and friendly and have said that the tutors have significantly increased their children's enjoyment of math.

Sylvan Tutors

Parents have had more mixed reviews about Sylvan's tutors. Some customer reviews have revealed that parents do not see Sylvan as a reliable program, while others have claimed that Sylvan tutors give students less than the promised assistance. 

It's worth noting that each of Sylvan's 750 locations operates as a separate institution, even though they all fall under the Sylvan umbrella. Therefore, the quality of the experience may vastly differ across each tutoring center. 

Because Sylvan caters to many subjects, tutors are less likely to have a specialty in teaching math. Therefore, Sylvan may be better geared toward students who need help in a wide variety of subject areas. Other tutoring programs may be more beneficial if you are looking for a specialized math tutor.

Learner Tutors

Learner maintains a highly selective screening process for all applicants, with an exceptionally competitive acceptance rate of just 5%. Aspiring tutors are required to meet strict criteria, including holding a bachelor's degree from a prestigious four-year college or university, as well as possessing substantial experience in math tutoring.

After completing the initial screening, applicants proceed to a series of interviews, which may involve a mock tutoring session performed in front of Learner’s evaluation team. All applicants must also undergo a background check to ensure a safe and secure learning environment. 

At Learner, we want all of our students to have the opportunity to work with top-notch instructors. Therefore, not only do we consider an applicant's people and technical skills, but we also place significant emphasis on assembling a diverse pool of tutors who can cater to the needs of students from different backgrounds with varying learning styles and experience levels. And because we’re not limited to a physical location, this commitment allows us to create an inclusive and enriching learning experience for every family. 

Price Breakdown

When you’re making an investment in your student’s future, the cost naturally comes into play. See what the three companies offer for your budget.

Mathnasium Cost

Prices for Mathnasium depend on where the center is, but the average monthly cost is between $200 and $300. At most Mathnasium learning centers, students attend two sessions a week. Most sessions for high school students last 75 minutes, while most sessions for younger students last 60 minutes.

Even if your rates fall on the higher end of the spectrum, you will only pay approximately $37.50 per session. While this may seem affordable, it is relatively costly for a small group session when many private tutoring rates are only marginally higher.

Sylvan Cost

Similar to Mathnasium, Sylvan's rates depend on location and payment plan. For instance, if you live in Missouri, rates average $42 an hour, whereas in California, rates start at $50 an hour.

According to Sylvan's website, tutoring starts at $49 per hour, classes and camps start at $199, and ACT and SAT prep classes start at $999. Students may sometimes be charged an additional fee for the placement test and registration.

Learner Costs

While Learner does not include hourly rates on its website, once families take the initial online assessment, they will be provided with this information. Most hourly tutoring rates fall between $60 and $80 an hour. 

Most tutoring plans will also include a $25 introductory trial, which is backed by Learner’s satisfaction guarantee. If families are dissatisfied with their first lesson, they will receive a full refund and be matched with a new tutor for free. Our team is committed to helping each family find an affordable plan within their budget, so please reach out to our team if you have any questions or concerns. 

Why Choose Learner

Mathnasium and Sylvan offer commendable online and in-person tutoring services to kindergarten through high school students. With their small-group courses and relatively personalized lesson plans, these platforms have garnered the satisfaction of many parents across the country. That said, neither platform can rival the unparalleled advantages offered by Learner. 

Learner takes personalized lesson plans to a whole new level, going above and beyond what other platforms can offer. To ensure the perfect student-tutor match, students must complete a thorough initial assessment that evaluates their needs, strengths, weaknesses, interests, personality, and style. This meticulous process allows the Learner Team to pair students with the most compatible tutor from our extensive network. 

What truly sets Learner apart from the other services is its one-on-one approach. With undivided attention from a private math tutor, students experience an entirely customized learning journey. Tutors can tailor their teaching to match the student’s pace, allowing them to delve deeper into challenging topics and spend more time on areas that require more attention. This personalized attention also encourages students to ask as many questions as they need to thoroughly grasp a concept. 

Final Thoughts

Due to its high-quality tutors, superb matching system, full money-back guarantee, and state-of-the-art technology, Learner meets all of the criteria for a premium math tutoring service. Private tutors at Learner can give each student their undivided attention and tailor each lesson plan to their needs.

As an added bonus, every Learner lesson is conducted online in a state-of-the-art classroom with an interactive whiteboard, screen-sharing, and recording features. Not only are virtual lessons more convenient and affordable than in-person services, but they also allow students to connect with expert instructors from all across the country. If you’re ready to help your child level up their math skills, Learner can help.

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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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