What Is Kumon and Does It Reallly Work?

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Kumon

You’ve likely seen ads on television or passed by Kumon centers in your daily travels.  Have you every wondered, exactly, what Kumon is?

About 9 months ago, I was introduced to Kumon through Detroit Mommies, learned about their program and decided to try it out.  Before I get into the results, let’s start with a little bit of history.

The History of Kumon

In 1954, Toru Kumon, a high school math teacher in Japan, began developing materials to help his second grade son who was struggling in math.  With a few key principles in mind, Mr. Kumon created a series of sequenced materials for his son to complete after school.  His son improved in math; Mr. Kumon’s neighbors heard about this success and began asking him to work with their children.  The first Kumon center opened in 1956 and it continued to grow, expanding into North America in 1974.

Now you know why Kumon is so familiar to you already; it’s been around for over 50 years!  They offer after school programs for both math and reading.  We elected to participate in the math program, since my daughter didn’t feel confident in that area and has always been a strong reader.

What is Kumon?

I had always thought Kumon was a tutoring program.  In reality, it is a curriculum for math and/or reading.  If you register for a Kumon program, your child will need to work this program in addition to his or her regular school assignments after school.

The curriculum consists of hundreds of short assignments (worksheets) completed in sequential order.  Every assignment is timed and graded.  Students must get close to 100% accuracy within a set time in order to be able to move on to the next level of worksheet.

In our case, my daughter was assigned additional “speed drills” for addition and multiplication practice.

What to Expect During Your First Visit to Kumon

When you enroll in the program, you will sit down with a center instructor for an orientation.  During the orientation, we watched a Power Point presentation and went over parent expectations.  Parents will be required to complete some paperwork (it wasn’t terribly long) and children will take a placement test.

The placement test is actually a series of tests.  Your child will work through different “leveled” evaluations until he or she can not complete any more.  These tests are immediately graded and your child will be sent home with his or first assignments to be completed.  All in all, expect to spend roughly an hour and a half during your first visit.

What to Expect at Home

Page 8 of the Kumon Parent’s Guide says “There’s no getting around it: Kumon is extra.  Extra time.  Extra homework.  Extra effort.”  Boy, do they mean it.

Children are expected to complete their Kumon assignments 7 days a week.  My daughter was assigned 10 worksheets a day, 7 days a week, plus 10 minutes of “speed drills” each day.  Parents, you’ll be expected to grade the assignments immediately, return them to your student to correct and participate in the speed drills.  Be prepared to commit about 30 minutes a day  to Kumon assignments.

In addition to the daily at-home assignments, children visit the Kumon center 2 times per week to turn in their homework and receive the next batch.

Our center was flexible enough when it came to our crazy travel schedule, giving us a week’s worth of assignments at a time, when we let them know when we could not make it back twice in one week.

What to Expect on Visits to the Center

During your child’s twice-weekly visits to the center, he or she will turn in his or her homework to the instructor who will review it to make sure your child is on course.  The center instructor may work on speed drills with your child and watch him or her work through another set of worksheets.

Do not expect the center instructor to teach the materials to your child in the same manner as in a traditional classroom.  The instructors do not lecture, demonstrate or tutor students through the curriculum.  The Kumon method utilizes in the “learn-by-doing” approach.  The instructor provides guidance, praise and assistance, if absolutely needed.

According to the parent materials provided, the Kumon approach believes that having a child try to solve the problems on his or her own teaches them to think for themselves and build confidence.

How Much Does Kumon Cost?

Let’s face it, cost factors into the equation for most of it.  Each Kumon center is independently owned and operated, so costs will vary by location.  In general, though, expect to pay $95 – $125 per month, per subject, plus a $30 – $50 one-time registration fee.

Does Kumon Really Work?

At the beginning of our trial of Kumon, my daughter was entering 8th grade Pre-Algebra.  After her initial placement evaluation, the instructors at the center thought she should start with addition of single-digit positive numbers (almost near the beginning).  She understood single-addition math just fine, but the center instructor wanted her to be able to do the math faster before moving on.  After attending the orientation and reading through all of the parent materials, I understood why our instructor made this decision but, unfortunately, my daughter did not.  She was embarrassed and her self esteem was very low.

We worked through the program with as much consistency as possible.  I’ll readily admit that we were not as consistent with the program as we should have been and we may have bitten off more than we could chew this school year.  After nine months with Kumon we did not see a dramatic increase in her Pre-Algebra grade, but we weren’t expecting to either.  It’s not a tutoring program, remember?

I have noticed other, smaller changes, though.  Her confidence in math is slowly starting to improve and she’s extremely quick and accurate with her addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, which does help avoid simple calculation errors on her regular school math assignments .

As mentioned before, Kumon has been around for over 50 years.  A program that doesn’t deliver results wouldn’t survive that long.  It’s important, to remember that individual results will vary and completing those daily assignments and staying on course is vital to your child’s success in the program.

Disclosure: I was provided 9 months of the Kumon math program for the purposes of this review.  All opinions in this blog post are strictly my own.

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About Christina

Christina is a veteran homeschool mom of two in the greater Detroit area. She is the Director of Client Services at Crackerjack Marketing , co-founder of Smart Savvy Social, and publisher of HomeschoolingInDetroit.com. You can find her on Twitter as @MrsStrick.

Comments

  1. Hmmm, our schools teach math with homework just like this. Doesn’t cost me a penny….

  2. They started my 4th grade son with the same nonsense. addition of single digits, twice a week, for months. I’m sorry, but that’s absolute bull. How does that help a 4th grader (or in your case an 8th grader)? I can see a review of it. I can see a week or two of intense repetition of it. but when they do nothing but give your child “baby math” busy work for weeks at a time, how do you see that as acceptable?? You may as well put your child back in 1st grade and save yourself $125/month.

  3. If you want a personalized math learning program for more than half the price of kumon without having to leave the house, you don’t have to grade, and each student is assigned a certified teacher who will provide regular feedback, check out http://www.tabtor.com. They are offering a free 2 week trial (no credit card required) and a $0.99 app at the Apple store just for trying it. Your kids can earn rewards for doing math, they will love it!!
    Use referral code kristine

  4. My son has been going to Kumon for the last two years and he definitely has benefitted from it. I think we are also lucky to be with a center where they are flexible and willing to move him to test him for the next level if they feel he has got the concept. That being said, I don’t think Kumon clicks with all kids. There are other options out there today which cater to different learning styles like Aloha, Singapore Math, JEI where they may be more hands-on teaching involved. We compared some of these options in our article: http://www.schoolsnmore.com/articles/article/53-what-s-the-right-formula-a-look-at-kumon-aloha-singapore-math-and-vedic-math

  5. Valerie says:

    My daughter started kumon last summer (2012) at age 5 and I believe it made ALL the difference in her success in school this past year. She entered kindergarten but she was quickly identified as advanced and participated in the first grade classroom all year (she is in a montessori school so they were easily able to adapt). Initially, as the writer mentions she was completing 10 pages per day of both reading and math but as she progressed we “downshifted” to 5 pages per day due to her other activities. Because kumon put her ahead of her curriculum in school, she was able to participate in many “in school” activities that she otherwise wouldn’t have. The downside? She absolutely DOES NOT like the homework but she LOVES going to the kumon center! She doesn’t like the homework because she’s at home and like most 6 year olds, she would much rather be playing but she also recognizes that she is doing math beyond even 2nd graders in her school (she was recently introduced to division thru kumon). Yes, there is a lot of repetition but kumon’s goal is to “lock-in” fundamentals so as math progresses, students won’t waste time counting on their fingers for the solution to problems such as “9+8=?”. At 6, she now considers low multiplication problems such as “2×2″ or “3×5″ as “baby math” (her own words). Is my child gifted? I don’t know but I do know that not only is kumon supporting her to succeed beyond expectation in math and reading (she reads at a 2nd grade level), she is learning that success requires commitment and diligence – lessons that can only serve her well throughout her life. As one of the other commenters wrote, kumon is definitely NOT for everyone and there are many factors that determine whether it is the right fit for your family. It is not just a commitment for the child, it is also a commitment for the parent/s and the journey is definitely not always pretty but it has absolutely been worth it…..

  6. I really don’t understand how people pay for this Kumon and there is no hands on teaching going on? I researched this for my son and couldn’t believe people would actually pay to have kids do worksheets that you can basically print from the web and then have to correct them yourselves. If the kid gets stuck how do they learn if they are not tutored? They are just told, go back and try it over and over. It is a franchise and I am sure the owners all laugh at how they don’t have to pay a tutor or teacher because they are just glorified timers and babysitters. Why not hire someone really good in math to come to your home and answer all your child’s questions?

  7. Aakansha Mehrotra says:

    I am a student in Kumon. Right now I am in 6th grade GEM(advanced math). I think what they are doing in school is purely easy even though it seems complicated to classmates. Kumon has helped me a lot but I have to say 4-3 pages a day thing is really getting on my nerves. Obviously it doesn’t work for everyone because I saw a teenager who was about 16 and he was doing single digit addition scratching his head.

  8. Paying $125 a month to KUMON is more or less a consulting fee. Not unrealistic considering it’s an appointment fee for a physician. If you can get your child to do homework YOU give him, great… but psychologically, most kids won’t do it. Or, you can offer the child $4 a day for doing the worksheets.

  9. My son start kumon, when he was 3 1/2 and I agree with some parents, Kumon is not for everyone. The center I go to is very good, not every child is ready and they won’t take your child because of money, forcing is not allowed. Has to have willingness of every child. If your child is not happy they will talked to you about other option. My child turn 4 last Sept 2013. I would say that he is very independent and the ability that you know he has the confidence ondoing and reading his homework is a wonderdul feeling. He is reading 2 yrs ahead for his age and he does math just like that! They offer 2xaweek and 30 mins each subject.
    Plus you have a choice to lessen the assignment. My son only do 5 pages each subject and no Sundays. I believe education is very important and some parents choose to spend it to other things. You have to start early for every child future.

  10. So I’m 18 started kumon back in November and let’s just say I’m in grade 12 pre calculus and kumon does not help one bit. If anything it’s made me worse because I have to spend my time ding kumon instead of my homework. In my opinion kumon is a waste of time and money, as it just repeats sheet after sheet. Who has time to do all this work? And my biggest problem is that I am in grade 12 and the instructor started me on grade 4 single digit addition, I know how to do that. I have tried to tell my parents that I want to quit that it is not helping me at all, but their comments are that the instructor said it may take a few months (which it has been) to see improvement pm and I have not seen improvement besides knowing my times tables better and still being quick at adding subtracting dividing and multiplying. So if anyone wants my opinion don’t go to kumo. Big waste of time, find somewhere else to go or get a private tutor for your child… Take it from me a kumon user…. I hate it.

  11. My son started Kumon at 4 1/2 years for Englist. I agree that Kumon is not for everyone. Not only the kids but the parents also need to have the commitment for Kumon. It has been 9 months for my son so far. Results: He can read sentences, understands phonics, improved his vocabulary, can try to say difficult words by himself. Remembers most of the sight words. Most importantly, he understands that homework is every day activity. Initially, I had to struggle to make him sit for 30 mins do get his homework done. Now when I remind him (yes, I still need to remind him), he will get his bag, takes his homework and completes it with little assistance. I make him do math and other worksheets also at the same time… Overall, Kumon helped him and me.

  12. I had such high high hopes for Kumon. Truly, I did, because I did in fact enroll my child for the Kumon program here in Kumon Math & Reading in a center by the shore here in New Jersey. The rates were high for a middle class family like ours, but I figured someone had to pay for the whacky yellow VW Beetle that’s zips stupidly through the town. With MUCH push my husband finally agreed to let me pay the fees. I chose to put my child on their auto pay system where they would charge tuition to my account. Big mistake. Still, I continued to bring my son. First, the A/c either hardly works or the owner is cutting corners. When I would pick up my son in the summer the classroom was so hot I could smell the children’s sweat while in winter it is so cold you could freeze a turkey to stone in that place. One of my biggest concerns was the child to teacher ratio, were talking 15-30 KIDS to one TEACHER who happens to be the owner again!!!! Why? It was a ZOO when I would have to get him early. There was no less than 35 kids in the class at any given time. While picking my son from the center, my heart would break to see the kids struggling and crying with no one trying to help them. As a mother I know that some have no choice but to put their children at a learning center to keep up with school. But would you want to put your child in a place that is only after your money and doesn’t care about your child? It just made me so sad to see this daily. I feel like if a child doesn’t understand the material, the staff or teacher could do a better job of engaging the child. The staff is SUPER UNFRIENDLY I actually stopped smiling to them because you know that feeling when you smile at someone and they look a you like you have gone mad smiling at them!!

    In conclusion if you feel the need to enroll you must be okay with the following:
    1. Your child must NEVER make a mistake or know all the answers on the worksheets that they give. One mistake and your child will be repeating the same piles of dumb worksheets.
    2. Have an endless supply of money because you will need it to pay the owner for the endless supply of the same worksheets your child will get. All that in the same of some “self-learning” mumbo-jumbo you will hear with a husky lisped voice.
    3. Must be okay to drop your kid with unfriendly staff and leave.
    4. Must be aware that none of the staff or the owner is qualified or a certified teacher in the state of New Jersey. The owner and staff are below average to average. If there were exceptions, I failed to experience it.
    5. Physical safety at this center is lacking with people walking in an out of the center and classroom. Your child is completely vulnerable to anyone walking in through the door. Overall, I was disgusted with this place. The owner and program failed to meet my expectations for providing my child the education, attention and care he needed for the price I paid.

  13. The Kumon cost is a very high price to pay. Many parents, like me, don’t realize the heavy cost Kumon causes them in the long run. I had enrolled my son in Kumon as I thought he needed help with his studies. Just as any parent in a tough economy, I was sensitive to what Kumon cost me per month. I did not realize the unforeseen Kumon cost in terms of the damage it had caused my son. The program is ill-suited for students in America. It causes significant damage to a child’s frontal cortex. I know this because it happened to my son and the doctors zeroed in on Kumon as the cause. If you love your children, please do not put them in Kumon, you will pay for it dearly.

  14. Thank you so much for writing the review of Kumon Math. I myself was a Kumon Math Instructor/Parent, and a Kumon Center Founder/Owner for 15 years. After stop doing Kumon, I founded a new learning center offering Math, Science, and Reading; using workbooks available in US book markets, and enjoy to be independent in this business.

    I totally agree that Kumon Math Program is very good program to train students for arithmetic, then Algebra, Pre-Cal, and Calculus. Kumon Math is really good for high school students. But for lower grades, K-8, Kumon Math does not have enough materials to train the students. I used it for my own children, but I had to supply with other math workbooks, to make sure that my children to be trained with geometry, word problem & problem solving, basic statistics for Elementary level, graphic, etc… Please visit my Facebook Pages for more details: https://www.facebook.com/thien.ho.14 and https://www.facebook.com/trainyourchildforacademicsuccess?ref_type=bookmark

  15. So agreed with your post. Have sent my daughter to kumon for the last 2 and haft years, since she was in kindred garden. At some points, I also doubted about komun results. But so far, I am think it is worthy the money and effort (she has to do heavy worksheet every day /week, and I have to double check her work besides taking her to school). But my daughter math skill currentlyb is at first in her class, and her reading level is 4th grader when she is at second one. My comment is: kumon does work! But the earlier your children get in it, the better for the result. And I would guess it will not really help that much if your child is at 5th grade or up. I would find some other way for my daughter when she is getting there.

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