Have you noticed lately a marked increase on the internet in the amount of material being written about math tutoring and/or specific math subjects (like Geometry or Statistics) that never actually address the title or even the subject, but ALWAYS direct you to a tutoring website? Yes? Well, so have I, and I am getting very frustrated. I need your help to put a stop to this nonsense, or at least slow the negative impact this is having on mathematics knowledge for our young people--our leaders of tomorrow.
As a retired math teacher who has made improving mathematics education a personal goal, I take very seriously the accuracy and quality of the mathematical information presented on the internet. It is appalling just how much garbage is "out there." Both parents and students are searching for factual, helpful information. They SHOULD be able to find it everywhere, without having to weed through articles masquerading as fact that really are only for the purpose of directing "suckers" to a website.
Please understand that I am not criticizing legitimate articles about tutoring--I have written a couple myself. However, a good article about tutoring should give you information about what characteristics to be looking for in a private tutor or the qualities that make one tutor site better than another.
Finding a good math-tutor-match for your child, or even yourself, is not easy. There are many people with math knowledge who do not have the necessary teaching skills to help a person who is confused and in need of help. Even more of a concern is the fact that effective tutoring takes a very special set of skills that not all math teachers possess.
I suspect that economic realities are having something to do with what is happening. With school cutbacks, many teachers are being displaced. When math teachers don't have jobs, they often turn to tutoring because teaching is what they know best. Tutoring locally can get off to a slow start because it takes quite a long time to build a solid, positive reputation. Many displaced teachers turn to online tutoring as a quicker way to get students. However, the same economic hardships make it difficult for many parents to afford a tutor. This is causing tutor websites to have financial problems as well.
Tutor websites, like any other business, try to find ways to increase business. One tactic many websites--not just math tutoring websites--use to increase business is to hire people to quickly write many articles that should drive traffic (people) to the website and have these hired "writers" submit these articles all over the internet. If an article is an honest discussion of the merits of the website, this tactic is perfectly acceptable.
Ethical issues arise when: (1) the people hired know little or nothing about the topic and/or are poor writers, and (2) the hired writers (or website owners) are not honest about the real purpose of the articles. This causes articles with incorrect information to be passed off as accurate when, in fact, the only purpose of the article is to push the website.
If a business is just trying to be successful, should you care about the tactic used? ABSOLUTELY! With respect to mathematics (and every other educational topic), articles with inaccurate information can actually be damaging for the student who is already struggling with the topic. They are unable to recognize that the information is false--which is exactly why these "authors" feel safe. They believe no one will notice the misinformation. Hiring an online tutor can be even more hazardous since you have no way of knowing if the tutor has the necessary skills, and it may take several sessions and an attack on your wallet to find out you just poured your money down the drain.
There ARE ways to identify these sleazy articles. You are reading a sleazy article IF:
1) The article title is not about tutoring, but the article mentions tutoring frequently.
2) The article contains incorrect information. Since this is often difficult for the non-math-loving person to spot, these sleazy people assume readers will not notice. They also count on other authors either not reading these articles and/or not reporting them if they do read the articles.
3) The article never addresses what is in the title or only includes good information in one or two paragraphs, leaving the remainder of the article to tell you to hire a math tutor. For example: I recently read an article that purported to include the rules of logic. I read the article 3 times looking for those rules of logic. They simply weren't to be found; but half of the article dealt with getting a tutor.
Other than NOT going to the site being pushed on you, is there anything else you can do? YES!
First: You need to report the author and/or article to the article website. Respectable article sites have a "Report this author" or "Report this article" button--usually somewhere below the article or off to the side. You may have to hunt, but use these buttons!
Second: If a site allows you to send a comment directly to the author, DO SO. With enough personal complaints, the "author" might stop or at least switch back to a less harmful topic. (A few months ago I found many of my articles being stolen by the same "author." You can be sure I both reported this person to each website and sent the person a "nasty-gram" every chance I got. Do I believe this person ever got them? Not really, but it made me feel better to have sent them.)
Third: If the site includes author names beside article titles, like on a home page, refuse to read any more of this person's articles--no matter the category. If the site does not include names, encourage them to do so.
Fourth: Spread the word about this writer and tutor website so others are not caught in the trap.
If math education in this country is to improve, we must ELIMINATE THE SLEAZE. I need your help to do this.
Please remember that MOST authors in the math category, indeed in all educational categories, are working very hard to provide accurate information in well-explained, well-written articles. We need your support with your continued reading of our articles and spreading positive words about us while at the same time needing your help to remove those "others."