Russian School of Math flip-flop: Winners and Losers

This past spring we learned about the Russian School of Math, a local math tutoring outfit started by Russian immigrants that has had some national success. We visited and were pleased to have our then-2nd grader A. assessed as being good enough for their 3rd grade classes. It seemed like a solid place and a good opportunity for A. to fulfill her potential in math away from the social distractions and pretty big class size (26+) that she had in the Newton public schools last year. We paid the deposit for her and rising 1st grader M. and felt good about taking action, working against girls’ tendency to get less interested in math as they get older, etc.

"Woman Laughing Alone with Salad" (from The Hairpin). This image gets at the difference between "How Much A. Was Going To Appreciate RSM" vs. "How Much She Dreaded Even Talking About It"

And yet as the summer went on and we thought about all the different activities that were stacking up for the fall, and the reality of having A. and M. spend basically a whole extra afternoon in school or waiting for the other one’s class to be done, we backed off. Right now it’s looking like no RSM for this year. To explain this reversal, I turn to the Winners and Losers blog format popularized by Chris Cillizza and others who are debasing our political debate with their hackery bringing a pugilistic immediacy to the daily round of policy coverage. Here we go!

The winners:

Niche religious coalitions: With our Jewish/Bahá’í family growing up, this year A. has hit the point of 2x/week Hebrew school—not to mention 2x/week soccer and a host of other activities. Amy is going to start up a Bahá’í class for our kids and other local kids, allowing the two older girls to have both Bahá’í and Hebrew school each week. The Eastern Orthodox, Socialist and animist-influenced RSM folks find themselves edged out by the outnumbered but philosophically/theologically well-aligned pairing of Jews and Bahá’ís.

Amy: Instead of spending 4+ hours every Wednesday afternoon shuttling A. and M. to their classes—with three-year-old E. tagging along and probably lovin’ every minute of it  —Amy will just manage all three girls, the household, and the lion’s share of cooking, while simultaneously continuing to develop her new career as an independent ethics and values consultant to universities and other groups. Bon-bon futures registered immediate gains as the market looked ahead to Amy recouping massive stretches of leisure time.

The Tiger Mother: Reached at her organic, Feng Shui-optimized Castle of Doom, “Tiger Mother” Amy Chua was simultaneously triumphant and disappointed in reacting to this policy reversal. “While I didn’t really expect any better from these sappy-assed prisoners of indulgence, even for me it is a bit sad to see the faint chance these children had for competitive excellence extinguished by their parents’ laziness. Destiny is a bitch and I’ll be sure to give my girls an extra few laps tonight after violin.”

E-tutoring: A. has been doing the summer don’t-forget-everything online tutoring package from another local provider, TenMarks. It is definitely aimed at non-Tiger gringo children and has worked pretty well for her, in part because she can do it on the iPad. Could this vaguely edu-tainmenty end of the tutoring sector take the lead over bricks-and-mortar drill factories?

The losers:

Russian School of Math: Or are they the winners? RSM suggests on background that while the hit to their Q3 revenues from two kids in one family will be noticed, privately they don’t mind having a few wuss-out stories to keep their base fired up and motivated to stay the course right through high school.

Panera Bread on Needham Street: Amy (and occasionally me) and all three girls might have been spending some quality time here while waiting around all afternoon during overlapping classes. But store managers said they would gladly forego sales of “probably just piddly ‘kid-size’ hot chocolates and maybe a guilt muffin” in order to avoid the collateral damage to customer morale that might be caused by our family’s footprint.

Next in this series: Birthday party theme choice: Winners and Losers


One thought on “Russian School of Math flip-flop: Winners and Losers

  1. Additional winners: Josh and Amy’s friends, who now can feel supported and confident in their decision not to send their own adequately-achieving kids to RSM.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *