Articles for parents

What's the secret behind how Kumon works?

Oct 2023

Kumon has earned a reputation for being one of the most successful methods of learning in the world, managing to suit children of all ages and abilities. How does Kumon achieve this, what's the secret?

We’re all familiar with traditional schoolroom style-teaching, and many of us will also be aware of 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 to repair a domestic appliance, or performing maintenance on a car without going to a mechanic. By thinking deeply and working things out, step-by-step, we can often succeed. It may take a little longer and take a few tries but, with perseverance and motivation, we can get there and will often find ourselves with an enormous sense of achievement from our work and newly-acquired skills! Often, the confidence we have gained will motivate us to also try to fix something for ourselves the next time. We use what we learned previously and continue to develop our skills.

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
The Kumon Method of Learning is based on the principle of students working things out for themselves, completing the worksheets while supported by an Instructor. Kumon’s ‘secret’ lies in the examples and contextual clues given by the worksheets themselves, which are selected to guide the student the student by our experienced Instructors. Instructors will aim to set worksheets at the ‘just right’ level for the student, ensuring that they are completing work that is just enough of a challenge for their current abilities. When a student works something out for themselves, overcoming that challenge becomes a thrill, and 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, by having them notice hints and clues, and demonstrates 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 children as 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 their students 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 almost 70 years, working with and learning from students of all abilities, and each 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.