For nearly one year, I've been giving mathematics lessons to a high-school student. I think I have good knowledge of mathematics as I graduated from a French top engineering school and I specialized in operations research, a sub-field of applied mathematics and computer science.

During this year, I became more and more involved and concerned about the success of my student as he reminds me of me on many points when I was younger. I won't go too deep into this point as it is a bit personal. We do not do refresher courses but more homework and often deepening lessons. He will finally understand all exercises until then and he has the best grades in his class.

In the recent COVID-19 pandemic, I had to give him less lessons. Only two hours since the beginning of the restrictions, whereas I used to give him two a week. Even if it was only two hours and there might not be much more, I'm very concerned about the prices of our lessons. Indeed, I think that I'm much less efficient explaining to him the concepts while talking to him on the phone. Most of all, I find it very hard to write down the math, taking pictures of it, all the while thinking of my pedagogy, and finally sending it to him thanks to our phones. It appears we are less efficient.

That's why I was thinking of asking his mother to pay me less for those hours. Money isn't the main reason why I give those lessons at all. Enjoying doing some math, helping him, and having this experience are all more important reasons. So I don't mind at all being less paid and I'm much more concerned about the fairness of such discount. I don't think this is an important factor, but it appears their family isn't in need of money. I'm also concerned if it could degrade my lessons' quality opinion, maybe in general. And that's true, they are less efficient while online. I was also thinking of questioning my way of teaching online. Maybe I'm just not good at it, and many teachers can do it well, perhaps with practice.

I've searched online for good reasons to teach online instead of in-person and what I could find is:

  1. No travel to the student or teacher's houses or meeting place.
  2. Efficiency. This can be an innovative plus a recreational way of learning for the student
  3. Accessibility. Such lessons can benefit for disability students.
  4. Flexibility of schedules. Easier to plan the courses.

Points 1, 3 and 4 don't apply to my case. Point 2 is the opposite of my situation. Finally, if it was clear that it is fair and the right thing to discount my lessons, how do I know what percentage I should ask for?

  • First of all, figure out your market value. What would be the maximum price a student would pay for your teaching (online teaching in your case). Then, any discount above it would be fine since it is based on your generosity.
    – CoderInNetwork
    May 12, 2020 at 20:10
  • Remember, with telelessons there's an ability to record and retain the lesson for later review. So, is that not added value? (Assuming you record them)
    – Scott
    May 13, 2020 at 18:36

2 Answers 2


The only real reason that I could see for charging less is if your expenses have been a large part of your fees and now are not. Otherwise, I'd keep charging the same. In different circumstances you could charge less if you were now giving group lessons instead of individual ones.

But I'll guess that your expenses haven't gone down as you are paying for internet access, etc, that is now a part of making your service possible.

There are reasons beyond money. If someone gets something for free they are likely to value it less than if they have to give up something of value to get it. If they get the idea that your lessons are worth less, they may value them less and put less effort into their own learning.

Given that it may be parents who pay the fees, it also help assure that they will keep after the students to do what is necessary to learn.


If the quality of the lesson and the availability/amount of individual attention and supplemental resources does not decrease with the online format then I see no reason for you to be paid less. The difference in cost of your expenses across various formats is not the concern of the client, nor is the amount of time you necessarily spend delivering each lesson to a client. If the lesson is effective and provides the expected instruction, then the medium should not necessarily affect the end user cost.

For example, my sister is a yoga instructor and her clients are happily paying the normal rate for remote lessons; she is devoting the same amount of energy/attention to her classes (potentially more because she is responsible for bridging the gap between online/in-person.)

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