What is Kumon? How is it different from regular tuition classes? What are the benefits? Get answers to all of the above in this article.
Ever wondered what Kumon is and whether it’s effective or not? You most certainly would have heard a parent in your circles remark about the benefits of Kumon class and how it’s really made a difference.
Kumon, which makes up a determined Math empire, started in a small way when in 1954, Japanese high school Math teacher Toru Kumon devised step-by-step, structured problems for his son to solve, one page a day. In time, Kumon’s son went on to master college-level calculus even while in school and advanced at a very rapid pace.
It is a structure that has been carried forth to this day, for Kumon believed that practice perfected understanding and built self-esteem.
What it is
Kumon is a method of teaching Maths and English. There are various levels and a child’s individual strengths are taken into account before they are assigned a particular level. Both Maths and English are taught through carefully devised worksheets and span pre-set levels for children in the age group of 2 to 14.
Kumon is not based on a school curriculum and exists independently of it, although the material consists of Maths and English and is derived from international syllabi. Also, age is not a determining factor. Older children can be at lower levels and vice versa.
The Kumon method consists of worksheets that the children have to solve. There are no notes, there is no memorization. Children repeat Math problems or language exercises so many times that it becomes ingrained in them. Worksheets are specifically designed to appeal to children who may otherwise find class work or homework dull. In fact, many children enjoy Kumon worksheets and can’t wait to finish them at home.
A Kumon worksheet set is timed so it helps the child develop an awareness of time and prepares them for exams. When enrolled for a Kumon class, a child goes to the centre and tackles worksheets with an instructor presiding over him or her, twice a week. During the other five days, children need to finish 5 worksheets at home, with each worksheet amounting to 30 minutes.
There are Kumon centres all over the world and all of them follow the same worksheets, structure and pattern.
What makes Kumon tick
Kumon has been criticized for being rigid but if there are two things that set a Kumon learning philosophy apart, they are discipline and self-study. The Kumon framework is designed to inculcate discipline and a strong work ethic in children, which will stay with them for a long time.
When your child sits with a worksheet in front of an instructor, the instructor won’t explain the process the way a teacher does in school but will guide the child. Kumon is based on concept and example. They don’t give too many instructions but guide the child. If he or she has made a mistake in the previous step, they ask them to check and give them hints but won’t tell them what went wrong directly. Parents usually ask, if you don’t explain multiplication, how does the child know it is done? Actually, the child is so thorough in his foundation that he grasps a concept like multiplication without too much instruction.” In other words, it is self-motivation and self-directed learning through positive reinforcement.
The Math taught in Kumon doesn’t involve laborious steps but is more of mental mathematics, with no ‘borrowing’ or ‘carrying over’. Children use logic and internalize it to solve problems.
According to Uma, this method rarely clashes with the Math processes taught at school, because children are able to do both methods well and in fact arrive at the right answer quickly by using the Kumon method and working backwards to derive the steps.
Kumon math is offered till grade 12, although there are adults who opt for it too!
The Kumon math program has produced Olympiad English and Science Medallists and top rankers, apart from Arjun Bhargava, a 10-year-old who has actually completed Kumon English! Kumon has also produced children who have excelled in sports and arts because the strong work ethic has been carried over to their other goals and passions.
Kumon English, grammar and composition
Kumon’s English program focuses on reading and comprehension, apart from factoring in phonics, sound parts and advancing to grammar, punctuation, reading and writing skills. CD books are given for children to listen to before they start their work in order to learn specific pronunciations.
Some of the excerpts in the higher levels are wonderful, varied and of high calibre, from reputed works of literature. Critical thinking about texts is encouraged and the children are encouraged to build their vocabulary and use the language creatively.
Pre-Kg children and Kumon
The Kumon program takes in children as young as 2 and while they love counting, shapes and other fun concepts that make Math interesting, they are still unable to write. Says Savitha Rishi, whose son is enrolled in Maths Kumon in North Bangalore, “My child loves the concept and can even count till 100. He enjoys it a lot, although he still isn’t able to write properly because his fingers aren’t strong enough to use a pencil. To be fair, the instructors are very gentle with him but a 3 and a half-year old is simply not ready. I wish I had waited a little longer before enrolling him.” Kumon has special, large, triangular pencils imported from Malaysia, which encourage a child to grip the pencil properly and learn how to do it correctly.
Says Pragya, whose 4-year-old twins go to Kumon in East Bangalore, “My kids enjoy the classes. Their curiosity has increased and they like doing worksheets at home. Kumon is repetitive, so we sometimes give it a break and then start again.”
Kumon’s biggest incentive is the work ethic that it inculcates in children. From the way the homework has to be submitted and the classwork has to be picked up to how to wind the session down, everything follows structure and discipline. These are life skills that help a child stay organized and focused.
How it works
Do you still want to choose Kumon? Head to your closest Kumon centre. The instructor recommends a parent orientation and will give your child a diagnostic test. This test is to determine which level your child qualifies for – some are advanced for their age, others aren’t. The test identifies the child’s current ability and accordingly, the entry level is decided.