Get Help with your Homework

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Are you knee-deep in homework? Don’t worry—your local library has virtual and onsite tutors waiting to help
By Jenn Danko

Talk about a major freak out.

When Mary Rose O’Brien started stressing over her algebra homework last school year, she thought about asking her parents for help first.

“But parents sometimes forget that kind of thing,” quips O’Brien, a 15-year-old student entering her sophomore year at a high school in Tacoma, Washington. Looking for solutions, she learned about an online tutor program offered through the Pierce County Public Library System. With the help of a library card, O’Brien was able to log on to, a free service that offers live tutors to answer specific questions on a range of subjects including science, social studies, English and, most commonly, math.

After hitting the “virtual books” for several months, O’Brien saw her test scores change from C’s to B’s, and her attitude toward homework has also improved.

“It was definitely less of a struggle,” she says regarding her nightly assignments. “Getting frustrated over your homework is just the worst.”

Virtual Study Buddy
Today, more libraries are helping teens across the country by offering online tutor programs in their libraries — all free of charge. All you need is a library card and a willingness to spend time learning the steps it takes to arrive at the right answer.

“We offer the service with the idea that the student is not being given the answer, but is helped to solve it themselves,” says Judy Nelson, youth services director with the Pierce County Library System in Washington State. The service caters to kindergarten students all the way through college, but most users are teens and young adults between sixth grade and college. Nelson says her library system sees a monthly average of about 1,000 sessions.

“The average length of a session is about 20 minutes long with math and science being the biggest hits,” Nelson says.

One, Two, Three Access has been a big hit in public libraries across the country. The service is available in more than 1,800 libraries in the United States and Canada, and all you need is a library card.

Here’s how it works:

  • Grab your library card, and head to your local library. Access the library’s website on one of its computers and find the icon.
  • Enter your library card number, and answer a few questions. This helps the program connect you with an expert tutor who can help answer your homework questions.
  • Meet with your assigned tutor in an online classroom, where you can interact via text-chat, an interactive white board with drag-and-drop tools, Web browsing and file sharing.
  • At the end of the session, you can e-mail yourself the transcript or print out the entire session.

Have a geometry problem that’s simply puzzling? The online classroom’s drag-and-drop tools include 3-D shapes, a virtual protractor, graphing paper background, most math symbols and even math equations. Everything can be dragged and dropped onto the whiteboard where you and the tutor can work together in real time.

Even making sense of your English assignments may become easier. If you are working on a term paper, the site allows you to share the document and watch while your tutor edits in real time.

Other popular topics offered through the service include:

  • Math: Elementary, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Trigonometry, Statistics, Calculus (AP levels too)
  • Science: Elementary, Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics (AP levels too)
  • Social Studies: U.S. History, World History
  • English: Writing, Grammar, Vocabulary, Book Reports, Essay Writing, Creative Writing

A Total Hit has been working with libraries since 2000. And don’t worry: The service comes approved by your friends.

“We have over a 90 percent recommend-to-friend-rate from students and thousands of great comments,” says Jennifer Kohn, vice president of corporate communications with

What’s the best part about the service? It’s offered well into the night, with some sessions open as late as 10 p.m.

O’Brien says she has used many times when she has gone into homework “panic mode” — and would totally recommend it to all of her friends.

“I’ve been using the service for about two years now,” she says. “And it’s great that it goes pretty late.”


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