About Kumon – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Do you know which post has had the most traffic on Maths Insider? There’s a big clue in the Wordle word cloud above!
It’s my post, “8 Things to Hate About Kumon – A Review”
Of course, if you’ve read my About page, you’ll know that I used to be a Kumon instructor. I ran a Kumon tutorial centre in the UK for 3 years.
But some Maths Insider readers have asked me,
“What is Kumon?”
You see, not everyone has heard of Kumon, even though, according to their official website, they have had 16 million students in 46 countries around the world.
So let me tell you about Kumon – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!
Kumon is an educational franchise, originally founded by Toru Kumon in 1956
Like McDonalds, the franchising effect means that there are thousands of Kumon centres around the world, from Germany to South Africa and from The Phillipines to the US, all helping children with maths.
Each instructor, although trained by Kumon will bring their own personality to the program, some are rigid and some are flexible. The majority have never been teachers.
Like McDonalds, profit is the big motive. Kumon is worth over $650 million, made from charging $100 a month, taking 40% from franchisees, and employing young and poorly paid support staff.
Kumon students typically visit the study centre once or twice a week and are given homework to do for the other 6 days
At the study centre your child gets support from the Kumon staff and sees other children, all studying towards a common goal.
As a parent, you have to take your child to the centre, or arrange for the work to be sent to you each week.
You the parent have to “police” your child’s Kumon homework 5 or 6 days a week, and field the complaints of, “It’s BORING!”
Kumon is an “individualised” learning program – students only move up to the next level when they have mastered the work. Mastery is defined as speed and accuracy
Each student works through the program at just the right pace for themselves, and children will develop motor and concentration skills as they repeat the worksheets.
The repetition and the speed criteria in particular can be tough for children to meet.
Students can literally get stuck at certain difficult stages in the Kumon program for weeks due to the strict enforcement of target times.
All Kumon students start with easy work relative to their ability
Student’s will find the work easy and will initially enjoy doing the worksheets.
The easy Kumon work eventually becomes not so easy, and then really rather difficult.
Doing 10 pages of questions like these, quickly and accurately is extremely difficult. Even Kumon themselves call this the Level D mountain.
The Kumon program encourages independent learning
The Kumon worksheets explain and guide students whenever a new topic is introduced, therefore they can work independently.
Students can’t always figure out the work themselves, especially at the higher levels. At larger centres, it can be impossible for instructors and assistants to have the time to explain the work.
There are tales on message boards of students being driven to tears because instructors refused to explain work to them.
Want to know more about Kumon?
The Bad (actually more funny than bad!)
A mother enrolls herself onto the Kumon program for 5 months, “I’m a Math Moron” – Slate Magazine
Donald Sauter, a former Kumon instructor spills all! His Kumon contract was not renewed after he radically tried to change the system, he tells the whole epic story on his website.
Are you a parent trying to make the decision about whether Kumon is right for your family? Check out Maths Insider’s Ultimate Kumon Review
Share your good, bad and ugly Kumon experiences in the comments below!