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

The Good

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.

The Bad

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.

The Ugly

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

The Good

At the study centre your child gets support from the Kumon staff and sees other children, all studying towards a common goal.

The Bad

As a parent, you have to take your child to the centre, or arrange for the work to be sent to you each week.

The Ugly

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

The Good

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 Bad

The repetition and the speed criteria in particular can be tough for children to meet.

The Ugly

Students can literally  get stuck at certain difficult stages in the Kumon program for weeks due to the strict enforcement of target times.

Click here to grab your FREE 13 page sampler of The Ultimate Kumon Review

All Kumon students start with easy work relative to their ability

The Good

Student’s will find the work easy and will initially enjoy doing the worksheets.

The Bad

The easy Kumon work eventually becomes not so easy, and then really rather difficult.

The Ugly

Doing 10 pages of questions like these, quickly and accurately is extremely difficult. Even Kumon themselves call this the Level D mountain.

Kumon Level D Worksheets

The Kumon program encourages independent learning

The Good

The Kumon worksheets explain and guide students whenever a new topic is introduced, therefore they can work independently.

The Bad

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.

The Ugly

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 Good

The  Kumon US or Kumon UK websites.

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

The Ugly

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!

Click here to grab your FREE 13 page sampler of The Ultimate Kumon Review


More on Kumon:

8 Things to Hate About Kumon – A Review

Is Thinkster Math a Real Alternative to Kumon?

8 Things to Love About Thinkster (formerly Tabtor) Math

8 Things to Hate about Kumon – A Review

If you’ve ever clicked through to my about page, you will see that on that page, I confess my previous, sordid source of income. My occupation took me to a cold and dank church hall twice a week.  I even employed others, some of them barely teenagers, to help in my dastardly enterprise!

I ran a Kumon centre!

Now in some circles being a Kumon Instructor is tantamount to a sub criminal activity! Kumon seems to be something that people either love or hate. I’ve started answering questions on parenting forums and sometimes there are  parent’s asking for a kumon review. The responses often go:
I hate it!

I hate it!

I love it!

I hate it!

I hate it!

8 Things to Hate About Kumon

Photo Credit: Manu-chan ????

So what’s my Kumon review after my time on the inside?

Whenever I read the pros and cons of the Kumon method, I agree with the moderate opinions on both sides; it’s not the answer to all maths problems but it’s not a rip-off or scam either!

However instead of providing an insider’s impartial Kumon review, here are my 8 things to hate about Kumon, along with, what you can learn and use from the Kumon method when tutoring your own child!

1) Kumon is expensive

$100 dollars or £50 a month isn’t cheap. (Yes Kumon is cheaper in the UK as there, the worksheets are marked by the parents.)  It can buy a lot of fun math workbooks or a lot of printer ink to print off worksheets! However it’s cheap compared to $40/£30 per hour for private tuition. Of course tutoring your child yourself is the least financially expensive option of all. Don’t have time to tutor your child yourself? When it comes to time, parents feel that sending their children to Kumon will save time, but when you factor in ferrying your child to the centre each week, tutoring your child yourself at home is a time saver as well.

2) Kumon instructors aren’t qualified maths teachers

Most Kumon instructors, although trained in the Kumon method, are not maths teachers. As a parent you may feel that because you’re not a qualified teacher or a mathematician, then you can’t tutor your own child, but Yes You Can! Who cares more about your child’s learning? In addition, learning alongside your child sets an amazingly positive example to your child!

3) Kumon instructors don’t teach

In fact instructors spend around  a maximum of 10 minutes with each student each session.  As a parent tutor, there will be times when you can tutor your child while preparing a meal. or running your business. Children love being independent, but not always when it comes to school work. We feel that it’s necessary to fill our children’s heads with information, but many times it’s better to encourage children to try to work things out by themselves with guidance where needed.

4) Kumon is repetitive and boring

In the Kumon method, children repeat the same worksheet up to 6 times. It is true that repeating helps kids get faster at their maths, practice does make perfect. Geoff Colvin in his book Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else claims that 10,000 hours of practice is needed in order to truly excel at something. The key here is to make the repetition interesting.  Mix it up; use workbooks, drills, maths games, and videos.

5) Kumon is a franchise so results depend on which centre you study at

Different Kumon instructors have different personalities, some are very strict which is a problem if your child is sensitive and some are gentle which can be a problem if your child needs a firm hand!  As your child’s tutor, you’re in the best position to judge your child’s changing moods and to devise a flexible program (e.g. we won’t do drills today, let’s play cards instead!)

Click here for your FREE Kumon Checklist

6) Kumon doesn’t do (much) problem solving

Kumon does this so kids can focus on improving their arithmetic, which means when they come across a maths problem, the arithmetic part of the question will be easy. Of course, as your child’s tutor you can also cover the important skill of problem solving.

7) Kumon uses different methods from those used at school

In maths, there can be many different ways to solve problems.  Of course it makes sense to follow the methods your child’s school uses, but also looking at other techniques will help your child when faced with different maths problems.

8 ) Kumon turns out arithmeticians not mathematicians

The Kumon method doesn’t cover telling the time, data handling, maths investigations, or (much geometry) but Kumon students will be fast at arithmetic. This in turn improves children’s maths confidence. Make sure that your child’s arithmetic is strong which in turn will support their learning in the other areas of mathematics.

If you’re a  parent trying to make the decision about whether Kumon is right for your family? Check out Maths Insider’s Ultimate Kumon Review.

So tell me, do you still hate Kumon?

More on Kumon:

About Kumon The Good, The Bad and The Ugly 

Is Thinkster Math a Real Alternative to Kumon?

8 Things to Love About Thinkster Math