In business more than 50 years with locations in 48 countries, Kumon is the largest after school math and reading program in the world. At each of the Kumon’s franchise locations, instructors can help “accelerate your child’s learning” through their individualized, carefully planned instruction and disciplined, worksheet-based approach, which allow your child to progress at his or her own pace, regardless of academic level.
Starting from age 3 through high school, Kumon’s structured, proven self-learning math and reading programs claim to give your child “a lifetime of advantages,” including a pattern of academic success, a spark for critical thinking, and help building their self confidence. In fact, many Kumon students study above their grade level, which the company claims can help them “compete in today’s world.”
Whether you’re looking to move your child beyond their current school curriculum, or to help them catch up, is Kumon a good choice? Even if your child excels at Kumon, will this translate into real world benefits? Is it expensive? Let’s start answering all your important questions by taking a closer look at the Kumon process.
How Do Children Learn at Kumon?
At the core of Kumon’s methodology are their worksheets, which actively involve your child in the process, and which are “continually fine tuned to keep them relevant in the modern world.” According to the company, their math program was developed from the top-down by asking: “What mathematical skills are necessary to study calculus,” while their reading program is intended to reinforce reasoning, interpretation, induction, and persuasion skills.
During the week, your child will be responsible for completing seven assignments (one per day), which take about 30 minutes each. Five of these assignments will be completed at home with your guidance, while the remaining two are completed at your local Kumon center.
Worried about tutoring your child at home? According to Kumon, their worksheets teach concepts in a logical way, so your child will have a solid grasp of the fundamentals before moving ob to the next step. Furthermore, Kumon’s materials are built to enhance what students learn in school, not replace it, so you’ll have the insights to know “if your child is struggling with lessons – or advancing ahead of grade level.” Remember this point, because we’ll come back to it shortly.
Does Kumon Help With Reading?
Kumon’s reading program is designed to help students of all ages and abilities conquer reading, from basic phonics to in-depth comprehension.
To do this, each student will work through a series of assignments in incremental progressions. For example, they’ll first learn to make sounds. Then, they’ll use sounds to form words by connecting words with familiar objects and reciting rhyming phrases.
Next, they’ll use words to form sentences. This is accomplished by studying simple phrases and basic sentences, identifying subjects and predicates, and learning to define words using context clues.
Now, your child will lean how to use sentences to form paragraphs. Here, they’ll start by creating compound and complex sentences, learning to understand the main and supporting ideas of statements, and developing a relationship between sentences in a paragraph, and also between paragraphs.
Finally, Kumon’s reading program will move into the summary and critique levels, where you child will sharpen their logical reasoning ability and learn how to apply information gathered from text. This includes developing analysis skills and introducing story elements like plot, character, and descriptive language by exposing them to many different styles of writing.
Kumon’s Math Program
The Kumon Math Program was designed to help students studying at any level, from learning to count to calculus, regardless of their current abilities, age, or grade by asking the question: “What mathematical skills are necessary to study calculus?” As with Reading, each level within Kumon’s Math Program is designed to build on the previous level:
- Ages 3-5 – Using engaging, colorful worksheets, your child will begin developing basic math skills like counting, writing numbers, and addition and subtraction. This with honing the fine motor skills necessary to write numbers, followed by number sequencing, developing mental calculation skills, and boosting critical thinking skills.
- Ages 6-12 – At this point, your child will be introduced to more advanced math concepts like arithmetic, fractions, and decimals, including multiplication tables, single and multi-digit numbers, division, fractions, and ultimately, algebra.
- Ages 13+ – Now, your child will learn advanced, high-school level math, from simple equations and quadratic equations, functions, and integrals, to differential equations. This will prepare them for calculus, college, and ultimately, their career.
How much will Kumon’s worksheet-focused instruction cost you?
How Much Does Kumon Cost?
Most Kumon educational centers are franchises, so they’re independently owned and operated and prices may vary. However, according to DetroitMommies.com, you should “expect to pay $95 – $125 per month, per subject, plus a $30 – $50 one-time registration fee.”
After enrollment, you child will take a no-cost assessment to determine their best starting point. As mentioned above, upon beginning, this includes all worksheet-based assignments, as well as 2 weekly visits to your neighborhood Kumon center, where your child will complete their assignments.
Regarding these visits, we contacted Kumon customer support to obtain additional information and learned that your child will spend about 30 minutes in class (roughly the same amount of time it will take them to complete assignments at home). This time can vary though, depending on your child’s progress, whether or not they have any problems that need to be addressed, questions answered, etc., which is the primary purpose of these visits.
What is Kumon+?
Every complete month your child attends Kumon, they can earn points that can be traded in for different rewards, such as microscopes and art tools, games and sports equipment, and even the ability to make a charitable donation to a worthy cause.
All students’ points are displayed on their personalized home page, along with their complete rewards catalog.
Are Parents & Students Happy with Kumon’s Instruction?
If you search online for “Kumon reviews,” you’ll quickly find a sharp difference in opinions; it seems that reviewers either love Kumon or loathe it, with little middle ground.
For example, many of the parents interviewed in this 2011 NY Times article seemed pleased with their child’s progress at Kumon. However, most of the professionals quoted in the article questioned the programs’ real world usefulness. The author specifically stated, “Research suggests that there is little benefit from this kind of tutoring; that young children learn just as much about math, if not more, fitting mixing bowls together on the kitchen floor.” Similarly, Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, was quoted as saying, “The best you can say is that they’re useless.”
Donald Sauter, a former Kumon franchisee whose contract wasn’t renewed after he claims he attempted to raise concerns about the coursework, seems to think there are many more cons than pros. Specifically, he thinks the company has an “unreasonable” approach to math:
“Above the arithmetic levels, there is hardly any correspondence between Kumon levels and school grades. For example, Kumon puts calculus before trigonometry. But that's not the reason your child will never reach trigonometry; Kumon is almost certain to weed him out long before calculus. It does this with ridiculously complicated work in polynomial factorization; in maxima and minima of every sort of function to come down the pike; and wrestling with inequalities of those functions.
… speaking from the point of view of someone who loved math and was a physics and math major in college, I found much of it very painful and of very questionable value. It's no mystery that there are long- and well-established Kumon centers that have never had a math program completer.”
To this extent, MathInsider.com claims that Kumon isn’t “the answer to all maths problems but it’s not a rip-off or scam either.” In other words, while your child could very well experience progress, it’s important that you keep your expectations realistic and understand that:
- Teachers may not be “qualified” to teach math (and different ones will have different personalities),
- There is a lot of rote memorization involved, and
- There’s very often a difference between the methods taught at Kumon and what your child might learn at school.
Finally, from a company perspective, Kumon North America, based out of Teaneck, NJ, had an A- Better Business Bureau rating at the time of our research. Although there were only three closed complaints, the company failed to respond to all of them. However, none referenced the company specifically—only individual branches.
This is a modern look at Kumon’s curriculum and reputation, but how did it all begin?
Who Founded Kumon Education Centers?
Back in 1954, a Japanese father and math teacher named Toru Kumon set out to help his son Takeshi better prepare for high school and college entrance exams. Specifically, he felt his son’s textbooks didn’t allow children to master a concept before moving on.
In order to do this, Toru had Takeshi complete short, incremental assignments each day that taught a core concept. Then, when Takeshi would master a concept, Toru would move on to a more advanced concept.
According to the company, Toru’s approach was so successful that by the time he reached the sixth grade, Takeshi could solve high school level calculus problems. As parents took notice and his services increased in demand, Toru opened the first Kumon Center in 1956 in Osaka, which gained an international presence by 1958.
Today, Kumon has helped millions of learners all across the globe. But does this necessarily mean they’re the right choice for you and your child? Let’s wrap everything up.
Is Kumon a Good Tutoring Program?
Is Kumon a scam? Absolutely not. The company’s been in business for well over half a century, most centers are independently owned and operated by hardworking franchisees, and you’ll find supportive Kumon reviews wherever you click online.
Just like any other legitimate business, though—especially one that focuses on learning—what works well for one child might be a disaster for another.
For example, based on much of the professional feedback we read during our research, it appears Kumon takes a repetition and drill-oriented approach to learning; especially math. Students might repeat the same equation dozens of times before moving on, with as little explanation as possible. On top of this, students are frequently expected to complete highly challenging timed tests in order to qualify for higher levels.
Given these points, if your child prefers to have someone provide a detailed explanation about the concept behind the equation they’re working on, if they require diversity in order to remain engaged, or they don’t perform well during timed drills, Kumon’s learning style may not be their (or your) cup of tea.
On the other hand, thousands of parents swear by what their children have accomplished through Kumon’s learning centers, and claim that they’re often light years ahead of their peers. Does this mean your child will be taking college level classes in grade school, as advertised in some of Kumon’s videos? While that certainly remains to be seen, just keep in mind that it will require extra time, hard work, commitment—and money—to get them there.
Also, as with any other purchase, remember to explore all your options. In addition to Kumon, there are other nationwide tutoring and after school centers like Sylvan, online-only programs, and even options available through many school districts!