Getting absolute value

A young girl looking into a microscope.
Absolute Value Tutoring in The Galleria is taking applications now for the summer session, which begins June 12.

It’s a Thursday night and Absolute Value Tutoring Center in The Galleria is buzzing with activity.

Teacher Leslie Long is leading her weekly seventh grade math group. But this is no regular tutoring session. “It’s more like an enrichment type of learning. They’re actively engaged, working together,” Long said. She’s a certified math teacher, with 10 years of classroom experience at the high school and middle school level, who started tutoring here in November 2022.  “There was a lot of learning loss during COVID,” she pointed out.

Caitlyn Clarke, Osage Road, found out about Absolute Value Tutoring through a Google search during the pandemic, when Mt. Lebanon schools were conducting remote classes. She felt it was a safe in-person way to supplement the online assignments her son, William, was getting.

Now, she can’t keep him away. “William loves it. I think they’re obviously doing something right if they’re getting teenagers to want to come to a tutoring session on a Friday night,” she said.

William, 13, agrees. “It’s amazing. They always make it fun. I have a lot of friends that go here.”

Courtney Loughney, 13, Newburn Drive, has been a student at Absolute Value Tutoring since summer 2020. “I learn a lot and I also have fun. It’s one of my favorite places,” she said.

Courtney has participated in multiple learning pods, small groups of students working together in student-centered learning environments.

Heather and Tom Earley, Pinoak Road, started Absolute Value Tutoring in 2016 to help young adults navigate SAT testing, mathematics, language and literature, and emerging technologies and software.  In mathematics, the distance from zero to any given point is called its “absolute value,” which is always positive.

Heather has experience teaching English and Tom was the associate director of percussion at Mt. Lebanon High School for 25 years before retiring 10 years ago.

Absolute Value was an independent tutoring service, with no brick and mortar presence at the time.

The Earleys eventually signed a lease for a storefront in The Galleria on March 1, 2020, and spent the next two weeks getting ready to open when COVID brought things to a screeching halt. “That threw us for a loop,” Heather said.

They originally intended to continue working on SAT prep and teaching study skills at the new Galleria location. They weren’t planning to teach younger kids, until they started getting phone calls from parents, primarily of fifth graders from around western Pennsylvania, concerned about their children’s education post-lockdown.

“That’s when we pivoted. Instead of doing traditional tutoring, we created the pods,” Heather said.

The hands-on, experiential, collaborative multi-disciplinary teaching, with all original programming, takes the form of six-week courses that pull from different disciplines.

“Students needed something to get them to engage and be excited about education again,” Heather pointed out.

The learning doesn’t stop at Absolute Value Tutoring in the summertime. Summer camps start the week of June 12 and run through July.

For more details, Absolute Value Tutoring, (412) 206-7010,