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Call Paul: The man behind the campus tutoring signs

Kayla Byler / For The Lantern

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We’ve all seen them. The yellow signs in just about every classroom on campus. “Tutoring: Call Paul $20/hour.”

The signs are hung high in the corners of math and statistics classrooms and litter the hallways of various other buildings, but if you needed a tutor, would you call Paul?

Who is he? What are his qualifications? Is it worth it?

Meet Paul Tucker, a former instructor at Winona State University in Winona, Minn., a former high school math teacher and a tutor in the OSU community since 1980.

“By training, (I’m) a psychologist, both an experimental psychologist and I have an interest in developmental psychology,” Tucker said.

Tucker is a graduate of OSU, and said he quit his job as a teacher because he didn’t like teaching.

“But ironically I ended up becoming a math tutor,” Tucker said.

Yet Tucker said his job doesn’t take a lot of skill.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot of mathematic ability to tutor basic statistics,” Tucker said. “In any of the social sciences where statistics is used a lot, it is just applied elementary algebra.”

Dennis Pearl, an OSU statistics professor who teaches Statistics 135, said he would not recommend tutors who pass out flyers, including Tucker, to his students.

“I don’t know too much about the qualifications of the people who hand out flyers,” Pearl said. “I wouldn’t really recommend them.”

Daniel Shapiro, a mathematics professor at OSU, agreed.

“(These people) charge relatively high fees but are sometimes unqualified to tutor,” he said.

Shapiro is a vice chair in the Department of Mathematics and oversees Math 050 to 150.

Pearl and Shapiro said they do not know anything specifically about Tucker. If a student asks for tutoring, they refer them to the Mathematics and Statistics Learning Center.

The MSLC is in Cockins Hall and provides students with free resources, including tutoring. It is open about 40 hours a week, Pearl said.

Hannah Beck, third-year in city and regional planning, said she went to the MSLC tutoring room four times last quarter for help in Stats 135.

Beck said she feels like she received high-quality, individual attention from the MSLC.

“My questions are small, so I wouldn’t need an hour” of tutoring, she said.

Beck said she would not pay for a personal tutor when free tutoring was available.

Katelyn Severt, second-year in nutrition, said she went to the MSLC twice last quarter for tutoring in Stats 135 and said her experiences have been good.

Shapiro said usually near the end of the quarter, with final exams approaching, the center sees an influx of students.

“We get students coming in and saying they want individual tutors and are willing to pay,” he said. “(At this point,) we refer (students) to the tutors who are approved by the Learning Center and who post information online.”

Despite a lack of recommendation from professors, Tucker said he has about 75 appointments during a busy quarter. Tucker said he usually sees about 30 students two to three times each.

The amount of students seeking a personal tutor depends on the quarter, Tucker said.

“I am most active in the fall, particularly with statistics, and it tends to decrease during the winter and may become even less during the spring,” Tucker said.

Tucker said though he does not have any quantitative data, he consistently raises students’ grades.

“(Most students) want help on an upcoming exam, they don’t really want to understand the material,” Tucker said. “The best kind of students who I prefer come on a regular basis.”

Josh Goldberg, third-year in finance, said he called Tucker for tutoring in his Business Administration 330 class, a statistics-based course in the Fisher College of Business.

“It is a really hard class. It goes very quick. There is a lot of information covered and he really helped me understand it,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg called Tucker after seeing his flyers and has met with him six times, he said.

“(Tucker) helped me a ton,” Goldberg said. “He is really experienced. He knows how to teach very well and how to explain everything.”

Goldberg said his grade in the class definitely improved after meeting with Tucker and he would recommend him to a friend who needed a tutor.

Tucker blames the quality of instruction at OSU for the reason students come to him for tutoring.

“The poorer the quality of instruction, the more students need tutoring,” he said.

Courses at OSU include too much material that is taught too rapidly, Tucker said.

“If teachers would just decrease material in the courses,” he said. “Go over it much more slowly, increase homework and grade the homework, I would be out of business.”

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