Is the first session free? I do not want to commit after first meeting because the tutor has not established a plan for the tutoring and my son is not yet sure if he or she is a good fit?
Sometimes it's hard for a tutor to come up with a specific plan for a specific student before you meet. I'm sure YOU know your son very well, but a tutor won't know anything about your son except for what you may have told a prospective tutor. As a general rule, the more information you can provide before your first session, the more prepared your tutor will be.
I need a tutor for my son, who is struggling with 8th grade math.
This ad leaves a lot of questions in my mind. Is this student significantly behind his peers? Is he in an accelerated pre-algebra course? Is he in remedial math? Does this student have any learning disabilities that I should be aware of? (Many tutors won't mind either way if a learning disability is present, but it IS important information for the tutor to have, since it might mean that your tutor's techniques and strategies in working with your son might be a little different, like planning for a break halfway through an hour-long session or bringing manipulatives to help illustrate math concepts.) Is he receiving any other help (after-school tutoring, study groups, etc)? Where exactly is his class right now? Are they working on reviewing fractions and decimals? Square roots?
Any decent tutor should be able to make a reasonable guess at what topics your son should know in a given class. However, it's WAY more helpful for a tutor if you can provide a list of topics (in order) that your son's teacher will be covering. I personally do NOT promise to be able to come up with a specific plan for any student until we've met and I've been able to do a quick evaluation of where the student is now, and where they need to be. I can give parents a quick ballpark of what I think we might need to work on, but if my ballpark is incorrect, that can lead to frustration and resentment on both sides, which is NOT a good place to start for either party.
The other important factor in coming up with a plan is how quickly your child learns with whatever method your tutor is using. I've been able to cover square roots with about 70% mastery in an hour with some students, while others need hours and hours of practice before they 'get it.' The more your child works with a specific tutor, the better that tutor will know how your son learns. As your tutor gets to know your son (and more importantly, how his mind processes new information), the more quickly they'll be able to move through new material.
Learning is a process that frequently cannot be rushed. Some students simply need more time to master a particular concept. It is what it is. Here's an important point: just because a student moves slowly through academic material, doesn't mean they're not smart. I've seen many highly intelligent students who can't tell me who the 4th President of the United States was after they've completed that unit of study. I've also seen many students who have struggled with school for as long as they can remember who work exponentially as hard, but remember the majority of what they've learned in school over the years, many years after a given unit is done.
Here's the type of information I would love to have from any parent/prospective student (not necessarily in an ad, though, I'd be happy with this information in an email):
I am looking for a tutor for my son, who is currently in pre-algebra. His class is currently working on square roots. We did OK with multiplication and division, and he kind of understands exponents. He's really having a lot of trouble coming up with an equation when given a word problem. He was diagnosed with a learning disability in math two years ago. He also is struggling in English, but his grades are OK in English. He is not very motivated in math right now and dreads it. It's been a real struggle to get him to do his homework and has very little interest in learning math. We've tried after-school tutoring at school, but it didn't help very much. I'd like to start meeting once or twice a week and see how it goes.
This gives a tutor WAY more information and allows the tutor to come specifically prepared to evaluate whether your son's multiplication and division skills need more work to properly prepare him for working with square roots. Knowing that he is also struggling in English might suggest that his learning disability are also affecting critical thinking skills. That might not seem very important off-hand, but if your tutor can help your son with critical thinking skills in math, it might help improve his grade in English as well!
Sometimes tutors have to go backwards before we can go forwards. If a student doesn't have a good foundation to build on, trying to move forward might only result in more frustration for everyone involved. If you're upset because a specific tutor has refused to give you a specific plan of action without meeting your son, it's probably a GOOD SIGN! I'm sure your family doctor wouldn't offer a treatment plan of any kind without doing a physical exam if something was going on in your body, so why would a tutor offer a treatment plan for someone they've never met?
If your prospective tutor has good credentials and positive feedback on WyzAnt (assuming they've been with WyzAnt for a month or longer), give it a try! You can always request a refund if your tutor and your son don't seem to work well together.