Why is Kumon called Kumon?

Nov 2021

As it’s not an instantly recognisable word within the English language, you may be wondering where the word ‘Kumon’ comes from, and how the world’s leading supplementary education provider came to acquire its famous name.

Perhaps not surprisingly and like many organisations, Kumon is in fact named after its founder - Mr Toru Kumon - who was born in Japan in 1914. After graduating from Osaka University, he decided to pursue a career as a maths teacher.

One day, Toru and his wife discovered that their son, Takeshi, had not performed as well as he usually did in a school maths test. To help him improve, Toru started creating worksheets and handmade booklets for him to complete at home every day. Toru went through much trial and error initially so that Takeshi would be able to work comfortably with the materials each day, to steadily develop his skills. Believing strongly in fostering a self-learning mindset in children, Toru encouraged Takeshi to work on these learning materials independently.

Takeshi’s ability improved significantly and following his son’s success, Toru invited some local children to study in the same way to help them improve. Word soon got around and increasingly, more friends and neighbours were requesting booklets for their children too.

With demand increasing and a desire to help develop the potential of as many children as possible, Toru opened the first Kumon maths centre in Osaka in 1955. Over the following years, Kumon expanded throughout Japan and eventually, internationally. Now, over 3.5 million children in more than 50 different countries worldwide benefit from studying the Kumon Method of Learning. Toru Kumon died in 1995 at the age of 81, but clearly, his legacy lives on.

Whilst many Kumon students are familiar with this story, what’s perhaps less well-known is the extent to which Toru’s own philosophies on life are woven into the Kumon Method itself. Here are a few examples of the inspiring messages Toru Kumon left us, which we, as an organisation, continue to place great importance on today:

“Children who have developed the habit of self-learning will surely grow to become people who can continue solving problems in life on their own”.

One of Toru’s core beliefs was that whilst there’s a limit to how much you can help a child learn through teaching, their potential for growth through self-learning is much more powerful – in fact, endless.
Kumon Instructors, therefore, always encourage their students to endeavour to work out answers independently using the examples in the worksheets and their learning from previous questions. This increases the self-belief and confidence of the student, such that they feel able to tackle any problem thrown at them – both in their studies and more broadly in life.

“Every child is a gifted child”

Toru Kumon also advocated that just as every child is an individual, every child’s education should be individualised too.
At Kumon, there is no ‘ceiling’ as each child’s learning is perfectly tailored to their ability and not their age. This gives students the opportunity to reach their maximum potential and enjoy being able to study well ahead of their school year level.

“Coming up with the answers quickly and accurately is what counts the most”

High efficiency, or producing the greatest results in the shortest possible time, was a fundamental idea of Toru Kumon’s.
Through encouragement of their speed and fluency, Kumon students build up incredible mental agility, such as being able to add and subtract large numbers without writing in their carries and borrows. This strong foundation allows students to access school material and exams more easily, and tackle more challenging work, at school and beyond, with confidence.    

By remaining true to Toru Kumon’s learning principles for over 60 years, Kumon Instructors worldwide continue to help as many children as possible develop to their full potential and fulfil their dreams.