You Think YOU Hate Math?

, , , , , , | Learning | May 8, 2020

I work as a private tutor to help pay for college. I usually tutor math, but sometimes I’ll also tutor the more math-heavy sciences. Most of my students are regulars who have weekly or monthly appointments, but at exam time, I get a lot of new and often one-time students. They — or their parents — want someone to help them study for their exams.

When I get a three-hour booking for Algebra 2, I know it’s going to be one of those cram sessions. However, once I arrive, the mother asks me to also tutor her other two children in AP Physics and AP Chemistry after I’m done with the three-hour session. She makes it sound like they only need a little help with the math, so I agree on the condition that she pays a slightly higher rate for the last-minute change and understands that I haven’t had time to review any of the material for the second two subjects.

It turns out that all three of her children need an intense cram session to learn an entire semester’s worth of material in a single day. The first kid keeps to the three-hour time frame, but the other two need even longer. It’s not just the math they need help with, either.

I arrive at 9:00 am, and I’m there until 9:00 pm.

They provide me with two meals, since I wasn’t expecting to be there so long. However, there’s an ingredient mixed into the sauce at dinner that I’m allergic to. The allergy is mild, so I don’t even notice until after I’ve finished eating and don’t need medical attention. It does make my throat sore, though. For the last three hours or so, I’m progressively losing my voice, between the allergic reaction and the fact that I’ve been talking almost nonstop for hours.

By the end of it, I’m mentally exhausted. The mother states an amount of money and asks if it’s right while counting out bills — most other clients pay electronically or by check. I’ve never even seen that much money at once, so I just nod without thinking about it. It’s not until I get to the car that I realize the total doesn’t cover the number of hours I worked, even at my base rate. If it was just a few dollars, I might not bother going back, but it’s short by about $100.

I go back and knock on the door, feeling a little ridiculous to have not caught the mistake right away. I explain what happened, and the mother, of course, asks why I got the math wrong if I’m a math tutor.

The father is standing nearby and hears my explanation of the situation. Before I can answer, he comes up behind his wife and says, “Probably because you just had her work a twelve-hour shift of mentally taxing work when she was expecting a few hours, tops, and then nearly poisoned her. Just pay her, honey.”

The wife still seems reluctant, so the husband gives me two hundred-dollar bills from his wallet and tells me to keep the change. It was probably the most money I’ve ever made in a single day, but I decided I was never doing it again. This is why I now have a blanket policy of no unexpected extra students or school subjects.

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