Sylvan vs Mathnasium: Comparison Guide

Is your child struggling with math? Have you been thinking about trying tutoring? If so, you may have started looking into Sylvan and Mathnasium, two competing tutoring centers in the U.S. that offer math tutoring.

As a supportive parent seeking help for your child, how do you know which one is better suited to your child’s needs?

Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between Sylvan vs. Mathnasium.

Considering Your Options

While Sylvan and Mathnasium are two of the top tutoring centers in the U.S., there are several other options. Before we examine Sylvan and Mathnasium, we might need to consider some other options for your child that could be better suited to their needs, such as flexibility, self-pacing, motivation, and confidence.

Virtual Tutoring Options

While some Sylvan and Mathnasium centers began offering online services during the pandemic, they are typically exclusively in-person. Whether in-person or online, the services for both Mathnasium and Sylvan remain the same and must take place on the company’s pre-determined schedule and follow the company’s pre-determined curriculum.

However, virtual tutoring doesn’t have to take place on a pre-determined schedule, in-person, in a group session, or follow a pre-determined lesson. Virtual tutoring can be live, real-time sessions or pre-recorded lessons that students watch and/or work on at their own pace.

Both real-time tutoring and pre-recorded lessons each have their pros and cons.

Real-time virtual tutoring allows for in-the-moment help and instruction, but prerecorded lessons allow for flexibility and self-pacing. A great virtual tutoring option is Mastery Genius, which offers adaptive assessments that intuitively change with your child’s changing needs as they grow.

Mastery Genius offers customized curriculum attuned to your child’s learning gaps. Once your child’s needs are assessed, your child will practice a concept that they need help with until they have mastered it, meaning your child does not have to move at the pace of other students, an instructor, or a pre-determined curriculum.

Mastery Genius also offers tutoring in both math and reading subjects, unlike Mathnasium.

Virtual tutoring that adapts to student needs and offers pre-recorded lessons gives parents and students more flexibility, more privacy, more individualized help, and is typically much more affordable than in-person tutoring.

For example, Mastery Genius provides services for $30 a month without hourly rates, long-term commitments, or time constraints. Not to mention, virtual tutoring doesn’t allow for the spread of germs, doesn’t require pickups and drop-offs, and doesn’t require your student to be present in a session on someone else’s schedule.

Sylvan vs. Mathnasium: A Basic Overview

Both Sylvan and Mathnasium are popular, well-known franchised tutoring centers that offer in-person center based-tutoring programs. However, during the COVID pandemic, some locations began to offer select online services, and it is unfortunately unclear as to whether Sylvan and Mathnasium plan to keep or expand these services.

The methods utilized by both Sylvan and Mathnasium remain the same whether they are provided online or in-person. Each tutoring center for both Mathnasium and Sylvan is locally owned and provides corporately owned curriculum and methods.

Mathnasium has over 1,000 locations worldwide, while Sylvan has 750 locations worldwide. Sylvan has provided 40 years of service and has helped more than 4 million students worldwide while Mathnasium has offered 20 years of service and has helped more than 100,000 students worldwide.

Students often attend sessions 2-3 times per week for both Sylvan and Mathnasium. For both programs, students complete initial assessments and then work beginning from their skill level. Instructors guide students through small-group instruction and provide help when needed.

Mathnasium only offers help with math subjects while Sylvan offers help with both math and reading. Both Sylvan and Mathnasium provide math tutoring beginning from the 2nd grade through the 12th grade, as well as college prep.

As far as pricing goes, Sylvan rates begin at $49 an hour. Each center is locally owned and operated, so pricing can vary. Monthly packages offering one-hour sessions begin at $199 a month. ACT and SAT Prep classes start at $999. Sylvan also offers after-school programs and camps for STEM education, which include coding instruction. These types of programs begin at $99. Parents new to Sylvan will receive a $100 coupon for their child’s personal tutoring program. Sylvan also offers flexible financing and payment plans.

Mathnasium is also locally owned and operated, so pricing can vary. Nonetheless, Mathnasium monthly costs are typically $200-$300 per month. The Mathnasium membership is unlimited, meaning that students can technically attend the center more than the recommended 2-3 times per week, which differs from an hourly Sylvan plan.

The Mathnasium Method

Mathnasium offers a proprietary method exclusively for math subjects beginning in the 2nd grade through the 12th grade. Their method offers a wholistic approach that teaches math using Number Sense (how numbers relate and operate together) and mental, verbal, visual, tactile, and written techniques, which can benefit any student’s preferred learning style.

Mathnasium sessions usually consist of small-group instruction typically lasting approximately 60 minutes. During the sessions, students complete worksheets, and it is important to note that the worksheets are for in-session use only; students do not take worksheets/homework home for Mathnasium.

Much like most tutoring programs, Mathnasium conducts assessments of each student to determine their current level of understanding. After the assessment, students are assigned to a customized learning program. They have a different program for each grade, with objectives students complete before moving on to the next level.

Mathnasium does provide online tutoring, and the tutoring methods remain the same as in-person tutoring.

Each Mathnasium tutor has demonstrated advanced proficiency in mathematics and is screened and approved by Mathnasium using background checks and interviews.

The Sylvan Model

Sylvan focuses on working with students of all ages who hope to do better in class or on standardized test assessments, such as the ACT and SAT. Unlike Mathnasium, Sylvan offers both reading and math support. Their reading and math programs aim to target your student’s skill level and improve their reading comprehension as well as their math abilities and understanding. Additionally, Sylvan offers STEM programs, such as coding instruction and enrichment camps.

At a Sylvan center, students are seated in groups of no more than 4 students. Students are initially assessed using STAR assessment programs. In these groups, Sylvan provides pre-designed instructional activities geared toward your student’s assessed needs.

In some areas at varying costs, Sylvan can provide private tutors that can meet you at a preferred location, including your home, as frequently as you’d like. If the tutor provided intends to provide Sylvan’s proprietary model, the location will require Wi-Fi in order to utilize SylvanSync, a digital learning platform.

All Sylvan tutors must hold a four-year degree and must be screened through Sylvan, including a background check and an interview. Many Sylvan tutors are certified teachers and/or experts in their field.

Regardless of whether your child’s tutoring session is online or in-person, Sylvan requires that a parent/guardian be present during the entire session, which can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. The rate of individualized, one-on-one tutoring can vary by area and tutor. Cancelation fees for planned sessions can also vary.

Mathnasium vs. Sylvan: How Do They Stack Up Regarding Unique Student Needs, Affordability, and Flexibility?

Now that we’ve discussed both Mathnasium and Sylvan, which one seems more suitable for you and your child’s needs? If your child needs an extra boost in reading or both math and reading, Mathnasium won’t be able to offer you all the help you need. It would also be more affordable to choose a service that can help your child with both subject areas at the same center rather than paying for Mathnasium in addition to another tutoring service. 

If you’re only seeking math support for your child, you might need to consider your child’s learning styles and how they focus best. If your child needs more of a varied approach and/or an approach that explains the relationships among concepts, Mathnasium might be the best choice. Moreover, if your child learns best by using hands-on approaches and/or visual approaches, Mathnasium, again, might be the best choice.

Sylvan might best for students who generally have trouble focusing and need more in-person guidance and motivation, one-on-one tutoring, traditional instruction, conversational instruction, and/or specified homework help. Unlike Mathnasium, Sylvan can also offer tutoring at a preferred location with a private tutor as frequently as you’d like. However, Sylvan also makes it very clear that a parent/guardian must be present during the entire session. Mathnasium does not appear to offer private tutoring, and their group sessions appear to be more like traditional classrooms where parents are not expected to stay.

If your child can focus on the computer or tablet and you’re hoping to see quick progress on your own schedule (whether your schedule is always the same or your schedule always varies), then Mastery Genius is an affordable and flexible choice that can provide both math and reading support aligned specifically to your child’s individual, unique needs.

Each student often needs extra support mastering their foundational learning concepts, which are critical to their confidence, motivation, and growth moving forward. Overall, whether you choose Sylvan, Mathnasium, Kuman (which primarily focuses on elementary-aged students), or a similar program, you will likely see noticeable results.

Regardless of the tutoring route, tutoring of any type for any amount of time can offer your child a better instructor-to-student ratio, information to fill in gaps, answers to questions your student might have, and a productive environment for you student to grow from their current skill level. One-on-one, virtual, and/or self-paced tutoring, such as tutoring provided by Mastery Genius, can offer a safe environment for your student to grow at their own pace without feeling behind or left-out compared to other students in their traditional classroom or their small-group instruction provided by most other tutoring services, such as Sylvan and Mathnasium.