How does Kumon work? What's the secret?
How has Kumon earned its reputation for being one of the most successful methods of learning in the world? How can it suit children of all ages and abilities, and how does Kumon achieve this?
We’re all familiar with a traditional schoolroom style-teaching and perhaps the one-to-one coaching that a tutor can provide, however as adults, our own life experience tells us that some of the most powerful and memorable learning that we will have done is when we’ve worked out how to do something ourselves. Perhaps it was attempting a repair on a domestic appliance or doing some simple maintenance on a car without going to a mechanic; by thinking deeply and working things out, step-by-step, we can often succeed. It might take a little time and we might overcome frustration with the task or our own ability, but with perseverance and motivation, we can get there and often with an enormous sense of achievement in our work and newly-acquired skills!
Often, the confidence it gives will motivate us to also try to fix something for ourselves next time. We use what we learned previously and develop our skills thereafter. Kumon study is built on this ethos of being challenged individually in small steps followed by daily practice and recognition of achievement.
Small steps to success
Kumon is a method of learning that is based on the principle of the student working things out for oneself, using the worksheets, supported by an Instructor. Kumon’s ‘secret’ lies in the examples set by the worksheets themselves, combined with experienced guidance from an Instructor, to set worksheets at the ‘just-right’ level for the student (the point of just enough challenge) for that individual. When a student works something out for themselves, overcoming that challenge becomes a thrill, and more-so, a key learning moment too.
Kumon supports children to develop the ability and confidence to be able to think for themselves and to form and try out hypotheses based on their existing knowledge. With practice, Kumon worksheets allow students to make judgements based on their own logic, regardless of age or school year. Additionally, the method develops other abilities and attributes such as curiosity, noticing hints and clues, and demonstrating that if they pause and think deeply, students can work out the answers by themselves. Learning in this way is powerful, memorable and deeply rewarding.
Image: worksheet from the Kumon Maths Programme – multiplication: two digits × one digit.
This example of a Kumon level C worksheet shows the moment where the multiplication of numbers of more than one digit is introduced. The child is already familiar with column carries as they have mastered this in the earlier levels and this worksheet builds on that, providing step-by-step examples and clues. This learning is essential to any child because a good knowledge of times tables, multiplication and working with four-digit numbers is a vital part of the SATs measurement of the Key Stage 2 curriculum in England and Wales.
The Instructor and the worksheets
Kumon Instructors’ careful observation of every student and their expertise in the setting of the worksheets at each student’s ‘just right’ level ensures that children can complete calculations in their own head with speed and accuracy. The Kumon worksheet-based study programmes have developed and evolved over the course of 60 years, working with and learning from students of all abilities, and every Instructor uses them to develop all aspects of each child’s study skills.
All ages and abilities
Because the Kumon maths and English programmes are not based on a standard school curriculum, they are accessible to children of all ages, allowing them as much time as they need to master a topic before moving on. Once a student displays fluency and a thorough knowledge of a topic, they can progress at their own pace, producing the greatest results in the quickest and most efficient way possible.