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In 1954 in Japan, a grade 2 student by the name of Takeshi scored poorly in a math test. His mother, Teiko, asked her husband, Toru Kumon, to take a closer look at their son's school textbooks. Being a high school math teacher, Toru Kumon thought Takeshi's textbooks did not give children enough practice to be confident in a topic. Mr. Kumon decided to help his son by handwriting worksheets for him to practice. This was the start of the Kumon Method.
By the time Takeshi was in grade 6, he had studied his father's daily hand-written worksheets for four years and could solve differential and integral calculus problems. Friends and neighbors noticed Takeshi's achievements and asked Mr. Kumon to help their own children learn with this method. It was through this local word of mouth that the Kumon Method began to spread. In 1958 the Kumon Institute of Education was established in Osaka, Japan. In its first year of operation, Kumon attracted 300 students through recommendations by parents whose children had studied the Kumon Method.
The first Kumon franchise in Tokyo opened in 1962. Kumon franchises were soon opened in the United States of America, Brazil, Germany, Philippines, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, India and elsewhere. Today there are more than 4 million children of all ages and abilities studying with Kumon in 49 countries.
Kumon method of learning
Kumon has two core programs, the Kumon Math and Kumon Native Language Program (language varies by country). There are also Kumon Japanese and Kumon Kokugo courses for Japanese language speakers and a Pencil Skills Program for younger students.
How Kumon works is that each student is given an initial assessment of his or her abilities. Based on the results and the student's study skills, a Kumon Instructor will create an individualized-study plan. Students commonly begin Kumon at an 'easy starting point' to build study habits, concentration and a strong understanding of the fundamental topics.
As students progress, Kumon Instructors plan for students to study material at what Toru Kumon described as 'the just right level'. This is a level of difficulty that aims to challenge students so they remain motivated and can learn independently but not so difficult as to discourage them.
The study plan is regularly updated by the Kumon Instructor to match the ability of each student. Students are tested at the end of each topic but they do not pass or fail; rather, they are given the chance to practice until they have demonstrated a sound understanding of the material. Once this is achieved, students can progress to more-advanced topics.
All Kumon programs are pencil and worksheet based. The worksheets increase in difficulty in small increments. It is recommended that students study for 15–30 minutes for five days of the week with the other two study days being completed when students visit their local Kumon Center.
Instructors and assistants
Kumon is a franchise model with Kumon Education Centers run by a senior Instructor and a team of Center Assistants. All Kumon Instructors are qualified and trained in the teaching of the Kumon method and are supported by Kumon office staff. Kumon Instructors are considered experts in the Kumon curriculum, observing students’ study habits and individualizing the programs to suit a student's ability.
Kumon Assistants are often past Kumon students with a deep understanding of the method and its goals. Kumon Assistants are trained by Kumon Instructors.
After guiding many students with his method, Mr. Kumon began to see the benefits of advanced, independent learning. He saw that once a child experienced the success of studying content ahead of their school grade level, they begin to develop other positive characteristics such as confidence, composure, perseverance and maturity.
As a high school mathematics teacher, Mr. Kumon understood that an understanding of calculus was essential for Japanese university entrance exams so in writing worksheets for his son, Mr. Kumon focused on all the topics needed for a strong understanding of calculus starting from the basics of counting. Kumon students do not use calculators and solve all problems using mental calculation. A student is known as a Kumon Completer once they reach the finish the final level of the Kumon Math or Kumon Native Language program. (Note: Levels vary slightly by country)
- Level 6A: Counting numbers to 10, reading numbers.
- Level 5A: Reading numbers to 50, sequence of numbers.
- Level 4A: Reading numbers, writing numbers to 120.
- Level 3A: Numbers up to 120, adding up to 3.
- Level 2A: Adding up to 10.
- Level A: Horizontal addition, Subtraction from numbers up to 20.
- Level B: Vertical addition and subtraction.
- Level C: Basic multiplication, division.
- Level D: Long multiplication, long division, introduction to fractions.
- Level E: Fractions.
- Level F: Four operations of fractions, decimals.
- Level G: Positive/negative numbers, exponents, Algebraic expressions, Single-Variable Equations with 1-4 steps.
- Level H: Transforming Equations, Linear/simultaneous equations, inequalities, algebraic functions and graphs, adding and subtracting Monomials and Polynomials.
- Level I: Factorization, square roots, quadratic equations, Pythagorean theorem.
- Level J: Algebra II.
- Level K: Functions: Quadratic, fractional, irrational, exponential.
- Level L: Logarithms, basic limits, derivatives, integrals, and its applications.
- Level M: Trigonometry, straight lines, equation of circles.
- Level N: Loci, limits of functions, sequences, differentiation.
- Level O: Advanced differentiation, integration, applications of calculus, differential equations.
- Level X (elective levels): XM, XP, XS, XT, and XV (Matrices, Probability, Statistics, Triangles, and Vectors).
The Kumon Native Language Programs are designed to expose students to a broad range of texts and develop the skill of reading comprehension. A number of Kumon Centres also use audio CDs to help students with pronunciation. (Note: Levels vary slightly by country)
- Level 7A: Look, Listen, Repeat.
- Level 6A: Reciting Words with Pictures.
- Level 5A: Letter Sounds.
- Level 4A: Consonant Combinations and Vowel Sounds.
- Level 3A: Advanced Vowel Sounds & Advanced Sounding Out.
- Level 2A: Functions of Words (nouns, verbs, adjectives), Reading Aloud.
- Level AI: Structure of Simple Sentences.
- Level AII: Sentence Structure, Sentence Topics, Thought Sequence.
- Level BI: Subject and Predicate.
- Level BII: Comparing and Contrasting.
- Level CI: Constructing Sentences.
- Level CII: Organizing Information.
- Level DI: Combining Sentences.
- Level DII: Main Idea, Understanding Paragraphs.
- Level EI: Clauses.
- Level EII: Reason and Result.
- Level FI: Referring Words, Interpreting Text.
- Level FII: Concision, Analysis of & Recounting Events from Paragraphs.
- Level G: Point Making, Theme, Story Elements, Summary.
- Level H: Summation.
- Level I: Persuasion.
- Level J: Critical Reading.
- Level K: Elements of Literature.
- Level L: Interpretation.
- "Around the World in 80 ideas". Archived from the original on 2013-11-27. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
- "List of all Kumon franchises by country". Kumon.org. "List of all Kumon franchises by country". Kumon Group.
- "The Role of Kumon Instructors". Retrieved 2016-04-19.
- "The Maths Program". Retrieved 2016-04-14.
- "Improve Reading Skills & Comprehension | Reading Program for Kids | Kumon North America". www.kumon.com. Retrieved 2015-05-31.