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Do You Kumon?

At a recent gathering of moms and kids, one mom asked the rest of us: "Do you Kumon?"

Kumon for those of you, like me, who had never heard the term before some friends brought it up, is a seven-day-a-week academic learning, tutoring or enrichment program -- depending on who you ask. The math and reading programs are structured to enforce and reinforce fundamentals with kids as they move through incrementally harder work, according to Gigi Hermina, who directs a Kumon center in Olney, Md. The program -- which focuses on math and reading -- costs $80 to $100 a month. More than 10,000 kids in the D.C. area attend Kumon.

Let's take the math program as an example of how Kumon works: Students first learn to count to 10, then 30, then 50. Then it's writing numbers up to 120 without help, counting to 220 and recognizing groups of 20 dots. From there, they begin single digit addition with +1, then +2, all the way through +5. The levels go on, tackling horizontal addition and subtraction before vertical. The math "levels" advance through the beginnings of calculus. When a student masters a level, meaning that he can answer the questions accurately within a speedy time, the student gets a certificate and moves on.

Enter the Kumon center in Olney, and you'll see four long tables with graders at the end and a small room for preschoolers and slightly older children. Kids -- mostly elementary age level and younger -- enter, pick up their work packets, sit and begin work. Inside their packets are worksheets, placed in there by the Kumon instructor and geared toward that child's current ability. The child puts a start time on top of the worksheet and begins. When the worksheet is complete, the child writes the end time and takes it to the grader. Incorrect answers are reworked until the child gets all the problems right. The child then earns a sticker, which he places on the outside of his work packet. Parents, meanwhile, sit in a waiting area while the child works, sometimes chatting with the center's lead instructor.

Parents describe Kumon as a self-confidence builder. Ugochi Onyewu is one of those parents. Onyewu's nearly 5-year-old twins started Kumon four months ago. "They love it and compete with each other to finish the work first," says Onyewu, who describes a change in her quiet son since he began the program. To get the twins to do the Kumon work, she tells them it must be done in order to watch television.

Mom Nancy Hull agrees that she's seen both grade and self-confidence boosts in her children, fourth-grader Maddie and second-grader Sam. They don't complain about the work too often, Hull says, adding that she's got a reward system in place to encourage the children. "Each got an iPod after one year of Kumon." Says Sam with a smile: "Whoever has the most table points at the end of the week gets candy." Hull has no qualms about spending the money on Kumon or rewards, though, given that Maddie just won a multiplication contest in her class.

So, what drives these parents to Kumon? Some, including Hull and Hermina, describe a public school math program that jumps from basic to complex math quickly and bounces around topics. "If they don't get it the first time, they are left behind," Hull said. Others find Kumon through friend and teacher referrals after kids fall behind in school.

And some, like Lourdes and Orly Diestro, bring their children to Kumon because they see it as a good skill sharpener. Diestro's daughter Christine began Kumon at 4 1/2. Now 7, Christine is adding fractions and her parents are looking to limit her worksheets to slow her down. "We try to balance her activities," Lourdes Diestro says, describing a busy schedule of piano lessons, private school homework, swimming and Chinese checkers.

While Kumon clearly works for many, some teens share a dislike of it on social groups online. A Facebook search reveals such groups of critics like "I did Kumon when I was young... but dropped it soon after" and "Club ANTI-KUMON!!!"

Do your kids or their friends Kumon? What do you and your kids think of the program? Are there other programs you have tried? Which have worked best for your child and why?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  January 17, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers
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" costs $80-$100 per month. More than 10,000 kids in the D.C. region attend Kumon."

Let's see my math at work.

$80 x 10,000 = $800,000
$100 x 10,000 = $1,000,000

So, this place grosses between $800,000 and $1 million PER MONTH. Nice.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 17, 2008 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like a place where highly competitive parents can send their already over-scheduled kids so they can be sure the1r stressed out 5th graders remain at the top of their game. We wouldn't have wanted poor Maddie to place 2nd in that multiplication contest, now would we?

When do these kids play? Who really needs more worksheets?

Posted by: Momof5 | January 17, 2008 8:39 AM | Report abuse

While we like worksheets we prefer to by the teacher's aide books and work with our daughter during breaks from school. It is almost like a game for her to climb up on daddy's lap and go over multiplication facts (especially when he pretends he cannot remember simple facts). It keeps her mind on topic but it never is more important than unstructured play. I don't think stressed out short people are much fun. Kids have plenty of time to get stressed once they reach the upper grades and college.

Posted by: 21117 | January 17, 2008 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I haven't taken my kids to the Kumon center but we do use the Kumon workbooks at home. For my oldest, who is in kindergarten, the workbooks have been excellent practice for learning to write letters and numbers. He seems to enjoy the worksheets and the method does build his confidence. I don't see the added value of going to the Kumon center for handwriting, spelling, simple addition but the method they use does seem to work.

Posted by: Mom2LED | January 17, 2008 9:05 AM | Report abuse

I put my daughter into the Kumon program out of desperation. Her school's math program is horrible. It is one of those "fuzzy math" all concepts, "spiral learning" programs (jumping from subject to subject getting some one year, some the next, etc) and my daughter couldn't calculate to save her life. We were told that she needed some tutoring when she was in first grade. In second and third grade she was placed in the "average" math class. That would be ok with me, but she was several grades higher in reading and writing so this didn't make sense to me. Plus knowing how deficient the math program was, I felt it was mostly the math program not her. So I put her in kumon for a year and it changed everything. It is NOT a tutoring program so disabuse yourself of that. It is a series of workbooks that the kids do on their own and they are timed. It creates an automaticity and number sense that is missing from current elementary school programs. Also, you are really just paying for the booklets because the parents are expected to do the corrections. My daugher was in the program for a year and when she began complaining a lot, I stopped it. I didn't want her to hate math and I was willing to start working with her myself. She then tested as "gifted" in math (2-3 grades higher). I was a bit surprised but obviously she was good at math all along but that the math program sucks and she didn't exactly have great math teachers to make up for the program. So now she is doing an online program through CTY and LOVES it. She thinks its playtime and she is learning not just calculation skills but learning concepts in a logical order of progression.

Kumon will not make your child "smarter", but it is a good program for disciplined kids--those who will sit down every day for 15 minutes to do the booklets. My older kid would never have stood for it and I would never have considered it for him. But my daughter needed the calculation skills and number sense that this type of program confers.

And if math were taught well in our schools, I would never consider these extracurricular activities.

Posted by: commentator3 | January 17, 2008 9:09 AM | Report abuse

I didn't know much about Kumon except that our kids had been given some of the workbooks (mazes) and enjoyed them. Then I visited my sister in Massachusetts over winter break and found that her three kids (ages 9, 7 and 4) were in Kumon. Every day they had ten minutes of workbook time, and the older two kids were extremely proficient in basic math tables (multiplication, addition, subtraction). I am impressed and feel that it is important to know one's basic math tables, because that sense of quantity & numbers is the foundation of all other math. I will probably not sign our kids up for Kumon (they're still young & we don't need another scheduled activity) but if they don't get the basic math drilling at school, I will definitely make sure they get it at home. It's not that it's important to be the fastest at multiplication, but that having the information at your mental fingertips makes it much easier to grasp & deal with harder math concepts.

Posted by: Interested observer | January 17, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

A friend of mine was enrolled in Kumon by her parents in 7th grade after getting (god forbid) B's in the most advanced 7th grade math offered in our Fairfax County middle school.
Sufficed to say after 7 hours in school... the last thing a middle schooler who doesn't love math wants to do is go to the Kumon center or sit down and plow through worksheets until she gets them right. But she had to before she was allowed to do anything else after school.

I'm sure for some younger children it's a great way to build key skills and underpinnings of the more advanced math they will eventually have to learn, but for some children it just seems to be fostering the "sucess above all else" mentality that pervades the DC area and produces the aforementioned stressed out kids (who become... surprise, stressed out adults).

Posted by: anon | January 17, 2008 9:53 AM | Report abuse

"Are there other programs you have tried? "

Does "going to public school" count?

Posted by: fake99 | January 17, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I'd love to see a study on the correlation of a Kumon's center revenue and the local public school's use of Everyday Math, Investigations, or other new-math-crap that fails to teach foundations. Kumon's popularity has risen in response to a failure of the public schools to teach math properly.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | January 17, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

costs $80-$100 per month. More than 10,000 kids in the D.C. region attend Kumon."

Let's see my math at work.

$80 x 10,000 = $800,000
$100 x 10,000 = $1,000,000

So, this place grosses between $800,000 and $1 million PER MONTH. Nice.

Posted by: | January 17, 2008 08:30 AM

No, you're mistaken. They mention the Olney location, but it is not the only one in the area.

It works for my eldest quite well. No, the kid isn't thrilled at doing the work, but does admit that math is no longer the soul-sucking stress-fest it used to be. AND the concepts make sense.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 17, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

In response to fake99's post, "Does public school count?". No, it doesn't count when the public schools are so focused on helping kids who are failing the SOL tests become merely "proficient" in order to meet unrealistic NCLB expectations (100% passing by 2013 - in what reality?) that they have no time for a kid who is not failing.

for the others who complain about overscheduled kids - At what point in time do we wake up and realize that we need to educate children to their individual potential and not try to stuff them all down the same proverbial pipe? At what point do we realize that we can provide opportunities for learning, but not guarantees? Meanwhile, when our kids in elementary school graduate from college to an increasingly GLOBAL economy where the rest of the world has an education system that has not been similarly handicapped they will find themselves to be thoroughly uncompetitive and unemployed accordingly.

Posted by: ConcernedParent | January 17, 2008 10:28 AM | Report abuse

i worked at a kumon center for a while for the extra cash. i like the concept of the program b/c it does get the kids to know their facts automatically. most kids were in and out within half an hour or so.

when i taught 1st grade, one of the major complaints with the text was that the skills were not taught in a logical order. it drove the teachers nuts because the kids were unable to master a skill before moving onto a new one.

i think for the younger kids, it is a good program to supplement the school curriculum.

Posted by: pre-kteacher | January 17, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

First, just because a kid excels in one area (writing) does not mean they will in another (math).

I was clearly 'gifted' in math (at least, I could do the higher level work at a younger age than many others), but sucked at writing, so was taken out of that gifted class.

Second, typically, elementary school teachers go into that field and many of them are not fond of math - if they were, they'd be teaching middle or high school. So kid's 'hatred' of math starts early, in my opinion, because you have teachers who enjoy teaching writing and social studies, math and science not so much.

It's hard to undo that. But with teacher's salaries so low, I'm not sure what the answer is. If you have an aptitude in math and science, you're rarely going to teach anywhere, let alone the public schools. Just my 2 cents, FYI. And I'm not saying ALL this or ALL that - I'm saying for the most part. Overall.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

AHHHHH- how long did it take to hear the cliche "teachers salaries are so low" to explain why they can't teach?

I am so sick of this comment - teachers' salaries are NOT low. They only work 9 months a year, they have full benefits, they are off early in the p.m. -

Do you know whose salaries are low? Construction workers. Hotel employees. Waiters.

Teachers have government jobs that are secure and they go into the job knowing the pay scale.

Anyway, private and religious school teachers make MUCH less money and guess what? They teach math b/c they arent' Fx. County public schools that hop on the latest education trend that comes by. Catholic schools have long been critized for their "rote memorization" of math skills - and for failing to be creative. But it sounds as if Kumon is taking the same approach - teaching the basic skills and making a fortune.

Posted by: Julia | January 17, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

No better way to kill the joy of learning than to drill them everyday!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 17, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

My MIL is a teacher, retired a couple of years ago with a GREAT pension and health plan. So yes, she's doing fine NOW. But there's a few reasons I'm not teaching (and one of them *is* money) - EVEN THOUGH there's a HUGE demand for math teachers (did you know that schools (public) are NOT ALLOWED to pay teachers different salaries for different classes, i.e., English teachers and Math teachers make the same amount of money).

Posted by: atlmom1234 | January 17, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Kumon's been around for a long time. It originated in Japan in the 1950s. I graduated from college in 2000, and my mom had me doing Kumon in junior high (she was thinking of opening a Kumon center herself). As much as I hated it then, I have to say that it probably gave me a huge boost with math and a facility for numbers, so I can still do a lot of calculations in my head, much to everyone's amazement (unless they did Kumon themselves). But like with any other regimented method of learning based on lots of repetition and memorization, you probably lose a bit of your natural creativity and ingenuity. I think you see this trade-off reflected in the differing competencies of countries around the world, particularly in East Asia and India vs the United States. Hopefully we can all strike some sort of balance!

Posted by: ABC | January 17, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I enrolled my sons last spring after the (then) 3rd grader began complaining that he was bad at math, couldn't do it, etc. Previously, he'd done well with math but Everyday Math's deemphasis of math facts eventually took its toll. I actually like many aspects of EM and have found Kumon to be a very effective complement to the EM curriculum.

Yes, we could have done drills at home using workbooks but building in a regular Kumon interlude each day has been fairly easy for our family and has reaped much value in terms of knowledge of math facts and increased self confidence.

Although it is a popular stereotype, it is not always about pushy DC-area parents shoving their kids towards the Ivies. Rather, in our case at least it was about wanting our kids to build confidence and recognize that through practice, they could master mathematics.

Posted by: Alexandria parent | January 17, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I am 24 now but when I was in 5th grade at Brooke Grove Elementary in Olney my friend took Kumon because he was bad at Math. I also had problems but my parents took a different approach. They locked me in my room and made me read the math book for thirty minutes every night, seven days a week and then my mom would quiz me with problems she made herself. The reading and trying out the sample problems in the chapter did the trick and I did better in Math. I went on to UMD College Park, got a degree in Accounting and Finance and got a prestigious job in McLean, VA. My friend had no motivation and no discipline and was easily lured by the candies and rewards, he did terrible went to community college dropped out and became unemployed. The lesson is this: If you want your children to be a success in school you will actually have to be a parent which means that you will have to sit down with them and get interested in teaching the basics of math and reading to your kids. MCPS does NOT prepare students for college, instead they focus on preparing kids to follow rules, regulations, and respect authority which is to say it is a glorified babysitting agency. If you want truly successful children you as a parent has to motivate and inspire your children to succeed and do a little teaching yourself. Olney is full of these dual career parents who think that throwing money and handing their kids over to "specialists" will solve all problems. What they don't realize is that Kumon is a business and as the commenter said above, a business that grosses over $1M a month so think long and hard about that fact. My mom and dad were genuinely interested in my schooling and did their best to help me learn reading and math despite the fact that they were immigrants and never went to college and that fact made me realize how special education is and made me work harder in school. There is no "secret fix" to make a child successful and Kumon is not the answer. Take it from me.

Posted by: Kurt | January 17, 2008 11:27 AM | Report abuse

The Kumon center in Olney does NOT gross over a million dollars a month, Kurt.

Ms. Hermina simply does not have that many students there.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 17, 2008 11:35 AM | Report abuse


Do you have first-hand knowledge and experience with the Kumon program?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 17, 2008 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Julia, you clearly don't know any teachers. My mother was a 4th-grade teacher and is now an elementary school guidance counselor. She's at work at 7 a.m. and rarely leaves before 5. She teaches 6 different grade levels, in addition to her work with the local social services agencies, courts, and counseling services. And everyone seems to forget that the school year is nine months long -- along with your salary. The summer is not three months paid leave. My mother always taught a supplemental class or two during the summer for extra cash. Please don't disparage the teaching profession unless you know something about it.

Posted by: kentuckienne | January 17, 2008 11:53 AM | Report abuse

The parents ARE involved with the Kumon program. The kids do the packet, the parents check it over and if there are any mistakes the child is to fix it that day. You may or may not have to sit there and watch the kid do the work. Depends on the child.

Some kids do 3 sheets/day, some do more. It depends on the child and the level.

It's not right for every kid, but daily drilling isn't all bad either. It's more efficient than cramming. It's like flying an airplane, you use a lot more fuel when you change your altitude than you do when you stay at one level. Take-offs, landings, dives and pulling up suck down the fuel.

It's working well for one of my kids, it didn't for another. So it goes.

And the Kumon center at Olney is maybe 400 square feet. There is no way that over 10,000 kids per month are there, so there is no way that it is grossing anywhere near one million dollars per month.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 17, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I agree with kentuckiene. It's ridiculous to compare teachers to waiters, construction workers, and others who do not have a college degree. Often teachers have a Masters as well. For the level of education, teachers could be making far more money in another field, especially those who are good at math and science.

Posted by: Yes, kentuckienne | January 17, 2008 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I am 24 now but when I was in 5th grade at Brooke Grove Elementary in Olney my friend took Kumon because he was bad at Math.

That's amazing Kurt, because IF you're implying your friend went to the Kumon center in Olney, it wasn't opened until 5 or 6 years ago. You're talking about events that took place 14 years ago.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 17, 2008 12:42 PM | Report abuse

While VA doesn't require it, many states REQUIRE a master's degree to earn a teaching license. And most teachers continue earning additional credits to increase their pay, so if someone's been teaching for 5-10 years, odds are they have a master's degree, plus an additional 30-60 post-masters credits. How many of you can say the same. And as others have pointed out, teachers don't work 8:30-3, just because those are the basic school hours. They're at school before your children, stay after your kids leave, and spend some of their "free time" in the evenings and weekends planning their classes, assignments, grading your children's work, etc. So regardless of the curriculum your children's teachers are required by your school board to use, they are (most of them) doing their best to help your children enjoy learning.

Sister of a Kindergarten/1st grade teacher in New York City

Posted by: Thank the teachers | January 17, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Kentuckienne. Your response is right on target and totally correct.

Posted by: Lynne | January 17, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Kurt, you really had me agreeing with you until you started blaming "these dual career parents." Please don't presume that only a stay-at-home parent can be effective at instilling a love of learning and staying deeply involved in a child's education. It's just not true.

Posted by: clara | January 17, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I have my masters, I work 10 months out of the year. I get 2 months UNPAID in the summer and UNPAID week off for the holidays. I get paid for Christmas day and New Years Day, but, I do NOT get paid for the rest of the holiday.

I usually work 3-4 weeks of summer school to supplement my "12 month" pay. I opt to get some of my salary witheld throughout the year and it gets doled out over the summer. I still only get paid for 10 months.

I am usually at school by 7:15 or 7:30, leave around 4-5, and have to teach/moniter/assess/and basically raise 20 4-5 year olds.

Not many people can do my job. Teachers are truly underappreciated and underpaid for all that we have to do.

Posted by: pre-kteacher | January 17, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I went to Hooters several years ago and my son's 1st grade teacher waited on my friend and me.

Wow! No wunder why my son paid such good attention in her class!

Great service too! We left a nice tip.

Posted by: DandyLion | January 17, 2008 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I want to respond back to Clara cause she is right. Dual-career parents are just as great as stay at home ones are. In fact, my own parents were dual-career. I think the point I was trying to get across are those parents who put their career first instead of their kids and think that the extra money they will earn can make up for the fact that they are not there. I truly admire and respect parents who work full time and have children but those parents that work until 9pm are the ones who I was referring to.

As for the other posters, 1) I did not say the Olney place made over a million a year I meant the whole company, which is a global business probably made that and 2)I don't know what Kumon center my friend went to 14 years ago and whether it was in Olney. Montgomery County has almost a million people in it and I am sure that it was somewhere in the county back then. I am not suprised that people are attacking me and trying to discredit my comment. Its very hard to hear the truth that parents should get more interested in their kids education and trying to help them with very BASIC math and reading problems. I don't blame any of you for wanting to attack me since sometimes the truth is difficult. In fact I want to offer up a comprimise, if parents try their best to get involved with helping their kids with math and reading and they give their VERY BEST effort and still see no results, then I think going to Kumon is a good thing and could possibly help. But simply seeing it as the "end all and be all solution" is not the answer.

In life there is no quick and easy fix.

Posted by: Kurt | January 17, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

"I was clearly 'gifted' in math (at least, I could do the higher level work at a younger age than many others), but sucked at writing, so was taken out of that gifted class."

You still suck at writing.

Posted by: chittybangbang | January 17, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

This seems quite interesting. I wonder how early one could start. I have 2 year old toddlers and counting is a big deal for them. If there were some age appropriate drills, I know my sons would love it.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | January 17, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Kumon sounds like it is just standard time drills. Doesn't sound like you need to do more then just buy the worksheet. It doesn't sound abusive but it is jammed packed into a very busy schedule for kids today. 15 minutes a day seems to make sense. Driving over to the center once a week, sounds like it is a drag. I don't see the purpose of having preschoolers or toddlers in a structured program like that. Kids that age should learn through their enviroment and not through worksheets. There is time in their life to do that. Basically, math is taught so badly in elementary-high school because most teachers (even math teachers) has never really taken any higher level math. Most of them do not have a major or even a minor in mathematics. Most math teachers have never been exposed to anything beyond integral calculus. It doesn't help that educators keep changing the methodology of teaching different subjects every 20 years or so. So the parents almost never know how to help their kids. I don't think it is the teachers but the people who drive curriculum that get on these band wagons. I personally don't consider arithmetic, mathematics. So it doesn't surprise me they really can't teach math because I think most of them really don't understand math.

Posted by: foamgnome | January 17, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I put my kids in Kumon when they were still counting on their fingers in fourth grade. Thanks, Everyday Math. They're not too thrilled with it, but I got worried when my daughter started telling me that she "just wasn't any good at math." Now she wants to be an engineer. Seems like a good investment to me.

I don't believe in 'drill and kill' for little kids, but I also don't believe in 7 year olds with 4 years of Kumon under their belts sitting in my son's kindergarten class. That was the norm when we lived in Vienna, VA. The only kids who got the necessary teacher recommendation for the GT program were the really old, really big kids who could multiply and divide in kindergarten. That's why we moved away.

Posted by: justlurking | January 17, 2008 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Ok, I need to clarify something about the teacher's salaries...

I pick up my son at aftercare and know for an absolutely, incontrovertible fact that his teacher drives up to work about 8am and is long gone when I pick him up at 4:30. The teacher's parking lot fills up quickly between 8-8:15 and only has 3 or 4 cars left at 4:30. Not every teacher drives, but none are staying to 5pm except the aftercare teachers.

One of the best teachers in his school makes $95,000k per year after 20+ years in the system. That is not great, but it's not bad either. His principal makes $99k. The lowest paid assistant I know makes $18k, but she comes in at 8:30 and leaves at 3pm and doesn't stay one minute late- guess who complains about that, the teacher she supports.

My mother was a teacher in an aftercare program in the 1970s and 80s and as she always said, teaching was much easier than the work she did at the state department. It paid well, it had a better pension, it was less work, had fewer hours and was, in general, a pretty cushy job because you never dealt with a complicated foe like in diplomacy.

I respect the opinions about a teacher's schedule from teachers who worked office jobs too. Many seem to think we aren't forced to work weekends or aren't forced to work nights and never put in 13 hour days or have meetings with European clients at 5am or 11pm. For instance, I have to work MLK Day, Presidents Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day. Do teachers get all 10 government holidays off?

My son's teacher spent Xmas break in Europe. I spent it watching my kids. I don't get to go to Europe because I spend all 10 days of my annual vacation watching my kids on their days off.

It's a trade-off. Working with kids is much easier than working with angry adult stakeholders, that I know from experience. With that ease comes the relatively low salaries. But then you get massive vacation time few can compete with...

Posted by: Anonymous | January 17, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I'd consider this kind of drill for my fourth grader who struggles with the Everyday Math curriculum but we get so much homework each night I don't know when we'd find the time. Ironic thing is my older daughter is very good at math and that curriculum was too slow and boring for her because it kept rotating back to subjects she already understood. Younger one can't keep up but older one was bored. I wish they'd give teachers more room to tailor their teaching to student needs!

Posted by: anne | January 17, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

I am 23 years old and a college graduate. I went to Kumon from 3rd-8th grade. It was a bad experience and the term "drill and kill" describes it perfectly. The program was actually detrimental to my self-esteem because I wasn't a human calculator that just spit out multiplication table numbers that Kumon requires. My parents went to school in an Asian country where worksheet drills and reciting 1+1=2, 1+2=3, etc, etc was the norm. I agree with ABC's post that there should be a balance between creativity/ingenuity and regimented memorization.

I would recommend Kumon for K-2nd graders. It is a disciplined approach which works well for younger kids.

For students in 3rd grade or above, I would rather reccommend any sports extraciriculars or hands-on classes (art/theatre/science), because those classes can foster a life-long love of science or the arts. My early swimming and basketball classes have set me on track to be healthy and active all my life.

Kumon does not have the same effect. It's good for young and remedial students. But mostly, I remember Kumon as an excuse for overly pushy parents to get together in the waiting area and brag about their kids.

Posted by: Jaylin | January 18, 2008 12:07 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand how an article about Kumon could get so many comments about how teachers are lazy. A teacher myself, I can attest to the fact that there are teachers who regularly put in 10-12 hour days AND take work home on the weekends and over holidays (including summer vacation).

Of course, there are also teachers who roll in 5 minutes before school starts and leave as soon as the last bell rings. It's the same in every profession; show me an office where there isn't at least one person who comes in at 9 and turns off his computer at exactly 4:59.

And, for the poster who is complaining about having to watch her kids while the teacher went on vacation, why did you have kids? Hello, the school system is not the same as having a permanent and full-time babysitter. God forbid the person who spends 2/3 of a year with your precious little ones takes a week to herself!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 18, 2008 12:46 PM | Report abuse

As a former pub. school teacher, I think this is a wonderful resource program...if you need it. I have a friend in MA whose child was struggling in school, went to Kumon, and then had the confidence to excel socially and academically. However, I also have a friend nearby, who sent her already "smart" children there, probably to ensure their admission into the advanced public school programs, but at what cost? One was chronically sick, and the other appeared to be depressed. Knowing your child and communicating with his/her teacher is key to a child's academic success.

Much of our learning requires discipline, so if the child/parent needs a little help (not all parents feel they have the know-how or time to guide their child's at-home practice), and money is available, Kumon is a fine option, among many.

Posted by: Lilia1 | January 20, 2008 9:23 AM | Report abuse

I enrolled my oldest daughter in Kumon (for math) in the 5th grade. At the time, she routinely received good grades on all subjects in school - but she still had to count in her head when adding numbers like 6 + 7 or 5 + 8. You get the point. I didn't want her to have to "think" when performing basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division calculations. But she wasn't getting enough drills at school and she simply would not do flash cards with me. So instead I sent her to Kumon. The Kumon approach (endless drills) helped immeasurably on her basic math skills. Yes, she hated it and we did daily battles over the 10 or 15 minutes she was supposed to spend on the work. But it at least provided a framework for understanding where she had deficiencies in math, and then addressing them. After 2 or 3 years, I finally agreed that she could stop going. She's now 22 years old and a senior at a top-notch university. I think that if asked today, she would say she despised the program. But I'll bet she'll use it with her kids someday! It's effective!

Posted by: Austin fan | January 22, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

May I suggest another approach? I've got family in the boondocks of the Blue Ridge Mountains that play Dominoes regularly with family, which includes the children. You can't play dominoes if you can't add, and pretty soon you're adding all kinds of number combinations quickly and without being in a "learning" environment. As a college-educated professional whose job depends heavily on math (for which I liberally use calculators and spreadsheets), I found that my less-educated family members were much better at mental math than I. Since I got hooked on Dominoes, I calcualte numbers much quicker in my head.

Posted by: LJB | January 28, 2008 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Came to this site as a concerned grandparent who's daughter is considering Kumon for her children, hoping to learn more about the Kumon experience. I was not expecting a forum on the vicissitudes of the teaching profession.

This forum needs a moderator.

Posted by: CS | March 6, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I had my son in kumon for 2 years until the struggle got to be too much. He's in 2nd grade now and is incredibly fast at math, thanks to kumon. His teacher gives him special speed tests for 4th graders and he still beats the pants off of everyone, blowing through a full page of division problems while others are still trying to master addition. However the battle of wits was killing us. The kumon schedule is harsh. Get it done every week or you're throwing your money away. And really, the parents are doing everything, so they make a nice profit off of printing worksheets. Since I stopped taking him about 6 months ago I've made up my own worksheets for him on the computer or on sites like and now we do it on our own schedule. If he's having a bad day, no problem, we'll just skip a day. We don't have to worry anymore about making it up on the next day, which by itself would put him into a worse mood and set the stage for a bigger fight. We learned a lot from the Kumon method, but we're doing just fine, maybe even better, on our own.

Posted by: former kumon parent | March 31, 2008 12:02 AM | Report abuse

I have both of my children enrolled in Kumon. Its so much more than just rote memorization and worksheets. The reading program exposes children to a wide variety of literature and teaches them proper grammar, vocabulary, and other fundamentals of proper writing. Our children are not stressed. They're proud that they can calculate, read, and write on par with much older students. Most kids watch 2 to 3 hours of TV per day. We don't mind taking the few minutes Kumon requires each day to maximize our children's achievement and chance for future success.

Posted by: pleasedparent | March 31, 2008 12:54 AM | Report abuse

My 3rd grader has been doing Kumon math for about three months, and he loves it! He has always been pretty good at math, but the past year, he has been growing increasingly anxious about it, probably because it's presented in such as bizarre and roundabout way in school. It was a great relief to him to do the Kumon problems because everything was so clear and because the focus is on getting the right answer rather than on the dreaded: "Explain your thinking". (Teachers get very annoyed, apparently, if you write, like his friend did: "I'm thinking that 6+8 =14 because that's the right answer!")
My son was also excited to learn that you can do fractions without drawing a single pizza.

Yes, I'm delighted that my son is learning math and enjoying it. No, I'm not happy that I have to pay close to $100 a month in order for a gifted child who loves math to acquire the math skills he should be getting in school. But it's worth it.

Posted by: MommyToo | April 15, 2008 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Kumon has some problems advancing students. After I enrolled my two girls on Kumon, I read a newsletter stating that a fourth grader has finished the math a 12th grade level. I have also found that only Kumon instructors' kids got advanced quickly, not others. When I asked the instructors why their kids got advanced so fast the anser is they started at 2 or 3 years old. Even my 7 year old started Kumon later, she has been an A student. She has acquited the basic skills already. She came to Kumon just to get advancement. But, I found only Kumon instructors' kids got advanced quickly, and they tend to go out to brag about it.

My second grade daughter has been taught to write down the carryover and borrowing parts when she does the 3 digit additions and subtractions. But at Kumon center, the instructor was pushing her to speed up as well as urging her not to write those parts. My daughter just got frozen and could not function at all! Plus, she has learned the timetable by heart a year ago, the Kumon instructor still forces her to spend four months just to do the multiplications.

Another problem is at the counting part, if you start a four year old to learn. it is awfully hard to make her sit down to count up to 220. And then she will have to spend a year costing $120.00/month just to learn how to count up to 220 without errors.

I think kids should be allowed to learn with whatever the style they are comfortable with. If not, I would consider a waste of time at Kumon. Plus, I think it is a way of gold-digging.

I have found a website that create the worksheet just like Kumon's system for the kids from K-12, it is free. After you get to the website, click teachers site, then choose free math worksheet. If you don't get any tutoring, just the worksheet, why bother to pay $120.00 a month and make the kids suffer?

My girls are enjoying the math drills worksheet very much. We have officially quit from Kumon and feel a big relief.

Posted by: bin ziegler | April 19, 2008 1:06 AM | Report abuse

I have over heard some parents complaining about their kids' very confused solving the simple word problems at the Kumon waiting room. I think it is a big mistake that you think Kumon is the only answer to boost your kids grade. It only help kids to mechanically memorize the basic math skills, nothig more to it. If a kid can tell you very quickly that 5x5 equall=s 25 in a second, but could not solve the simpliest word problems using the formula, what is good to do math? I have also ordered Singapore Math textbooks for my kids, I found Singapore Math makes more sense to help kids with math. Students in Singapore have ranked top in math contests in the world. Since they have been trained with the best math learning system. I highly recommend Singapore Math instead of Kumon.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2008 1:17 AM | Report abuse

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