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Math by Blain -- Frequently Asked Questions

What does this cost?

The cost depends on several factors, such as the time and length of the session, the number of people who will be there, my familiarity with the course material.

Basic Rates

People at Session Length of Session
1 hr 2 hr 3 hr 4 hr additional
1 $20 $25 $35 $50 $15/hr
2-9 +$5/hr/person
10 + $5/hr/person
n/a $5/hr/person for the first five groups making appointments for sessions of at least 2 hours

Additional Charges

Charge Amount Applies to:
Trip Fee $5/session Sessions of 1-2 people listed as "trip fee" on the schedule, and
Sessions beginning after 8:00 p.m. regardless of group size
No-show Fee $25/session Scheduled appointments that aren't attended where notice isn't given.
No-show fees are due not later than the start of the next session.
Two questions below have more information on this.
Cancellation Fee $10/cancellation Scheduled appointments that are canceled the day of the appointment other than emergencies.


Discount Amount Applies to:
Extra Sessions $5/session Any session beyond one per week for the same person or group
Less Familiar Subjects $5/session Sessions involving subjects/courses I'm less familiar with
Unfamiliar Subjects $10/session Sessions involving subjects I'm not familiar with

Groups will receive priority in scheduling for available session times over individuals, and bigger groups over smaller groups.

If you are particularly interested in being part of a study group (and saving money), please let me know and I'll see if I can find a spot in a group for you. It's possible to do both group and individual work if that's what's going to work better for you.

If my fees should go up, you can continue with the arrangement you began with as long as the relationship continues (up to the end of the course). If my fees should go down, or your time no longer be listed as trip-fee, you can receive that benefit immediately with the change.

Wow. Being in a study group is a lot cheaper than working individually. Why is that?

For two major reasons. First, because it's been my experience that working in study groups helps a great deal in learning math (I talk about this in my Tips for Success in Your Math Class). And, second, because it's easier on me and a better use of my time to work with groups of people working together than to work with each of them separately, and it only seems fair to reflect that in my pricing.

When are sessions available?

The schedule shows available session times of various types. This will be updated as available times change.

It looks like the entire schedule is either "closed" or "trip fee" time. Am I going to be stuck paying a trip-fee no matter what?

Not necessarily. At the start of a quarter, most time slots will be marked as "trip fee". However, as sessions are scheduled, the time around them will become open, and, if sessions are scheduled in those open times, neither session will be charged a trip-fee.

Also, trip fees don't apply to sessions that begin before 8:00 for groups of 3 or more or last more than two hours, so there are several ways you can avoid paying trip fees.

How long should sessions be?

That's going to depend to some degree on your needs. The best results, in my experience, come with sessions of two hours or three, so I've set my pricing to encourage sessions of these sizes. With groups, longer sessions may be more effective. In some cases, more than one session per week might be appropriate, and those additional session fees will be discounted.

Where can we meet?

Pretty much any place that's close, has a table we can work at, and isn't too distracting. I've worked with people in their apartments, in the study rooms at Wilson, in the food court at the mall, at Shari's, in unused classrooms around Western, and other places.

What kinds of pizza do you like?

Lots of kinds. I particularly like garlic-based sauces with chicken, artichoke hearts (artichoke bottoms would be better) and extra garlic (the rule with garlic is that, if everybody's eating, nobody gets offended). I like standard sauces with most toppings except anchovies, green peppers, and sliced tomatoes. Things involving mushrooms and black olives are frequently good guesses.

So, how can I tell which of those svelte-looking tall guys is you?

Sounds like I'd better get some pictures of myself to put online, doesn't it?

What if something happens and I can't make it to a session?

Let me know as quickly as possible so I can plan around it. If possible, we can reschedule the session and stay pretty much on track. If not, then I won't be showing up and watching for you while you're basking on the beach at St. Thomas. If you've made a good faith effort to let me know that you can't make it, or if there is an emergency that precludes letting me know that you won't be there, there won't be a problem (just let me know as soon as possible afterwards). I should give you my cell number when we schedule our first appointment, and my voice mail works there even if I'm unable to answer.

If you cancel the session the day it's scheduled, and you knew before then that you'd have to cancel, there will probably be a cancellation fee.

What if I just don't show up for a session?

If you no-show without making an effort to let me know as soon as possible (even if that's after the fact) I'm going to charge you $25. A no-show is when either of us is not at the appointed place fifteen minutes after the scheduled time without prior notice (and, preferably, agreement). For study groups, a no-show will be if none of the group members shows up and any of them haven't given prior notice. If some show up and some don't, the fee will be according to the standard formula based on how many are there.

What if you just don't show up for a session?

It's just as important that I keep you informed if I am unable to make a session. If I fail to let you know that I can't make a session before the fact (or to contact you as soon after the fact as possible for emergencies) then I will provide you with a session an hour longer than your standard weekly session at no charge.

What's this about free test-prep sessions?

It's my way of saying "thank you" for committing to a regular schedule of sessions. The basic idea is that, if we have two weekly sessions prior to mid-term, you will get a free test-prep session for mid-term and (assuming you maintain the schedule) final. If you start after that, but we still have at least three weekly sessions prior to your final, you will get a free test-prep session for that final. Some classes have a different schedule, so the timing may need to be adjusted slightly, but the principle of two test-prep sessions per quarter will be the basic idea.

Test-prep sessions are an hour longer to your standard weekly session. They can be in the place of a standard weekly session, or additional. Test-prep session times will come on a first- come first-served basis, and, if demand requires, may need to be group sessions. Test-prep sessions will consist of a review of the concepts which will be on the test, brush-up on any loose end concepts, and some strategies for test taking.

It's okay to bring friends to your test-prep session -- it's encouraged, in fact. They can join in for just $5/hr each.

What if I need help in the middle of the night (or just the middle of the week) and I can't wait for our next session?

Give me a call or shoot me an e-mail and we'll see what we can do to make it make sense. There will be no charge for a few short support calls.

What if my friend needs some help too?

Your friend can come with you to one or more sessions, or I can talk with your friend about individual work instead, or both. Whichever works best for the people involved. Friends are particularly encouraged to join in test-prep sessions.

Who are you? Where are these places you're talking about?

Oh, sorry. I'm Blain Nelson. I tutor math in Whatcom County, Washington. Most of my tutoring takes place at Western Washington University.

So, are these sessions going to be as dry and boring as class?

I sure hope not. I work little breaks into the sessions all the time to help break out of the stuck and confusing places that come up along the way, and can provide some little tangents of the concepts we're working with that help make it a little more meaningful. I'm not as entertaining as, say, Doug Mooers, but I doubt there'd be much need for me to be tutoring any of Doug's students anyhow.

Believe it or not (and you really shouldn't shout "not!" so quickly), math really can (and ought to be) a great deal of fun. It's quite like solving puzzles -- looking for creative ways to achieve the task at hand, be it solving, simplifying, evaluating, factoring, graphing, or whatever. There is at least as much opportunity for creativity in learning topics like algebra, trigonometry, calculus, etc. as in an English composition class. All you have to do is learn the rules, and, within those rules, you have immense freedom in how you apply them. Rather like poetry -- learn the rules and then use them creatively to create things of beauty.

If you're still reading at this point, I think you're doing quite well.

How do I arrange a session time?

When you've looked over the schedule, contact me and let me know which time slot you'd like, which class you're in, and whether you're open to working with a group (or if you are a group). If you want the group to be open to more people to join, let me know also. It might be good to put forward several time slots which will work for you, as the schedule may be slightly behind. Time slots will be assigned on a first come first served basis, and groups will have priority over individuals (with larger groups having priority over smaller groups).