Back to index of justice, government, and education pages by Donald Sauter.
Back to Kumon - a look at the pluses and minuses.

Kumon Questions and Answers

These are emails I have received in response to my main Kumon page. I've responded as honestly as possible. There's no useful order; you have to skim to see which exchanges may be of interest to you.



THEE: Hello,
I just happened to read your "critique" of the Kumon program. If 
I can recall you only had one positive and the rest was a tangent 
about the bad side of Kumon. I am surprised that you took on the 
arduous task of completing actual packets. I am curious to know 
how far you went. 

I have just recently completed the Kumon program in its entirety. 
I was a student for 10 years. I am African American and seventeen 
years old. I am currently in the process of writing College Apps. 
and as I look back onto my life, the Kumon program has had the 
most significance. If you look beyond the countless packets, 
you would realize that Kumon instills self motivation, confidence 
and the skills needed to succeed. Kumon has helped me in my 
mathematics classes especially, I skipped Algebra 2 and pre-calc 
and I have successfully completed the Calc AB and BC courses. I 
will luckily be able to go straight into Calc 3 in college. Kumon 
also helped me realize my love for math. Without Kumon I would 
have only liked math and maybe not pursue a career in the field.

You also described the reading program as being helpful or 
something like that. In my own experience, the Kumon reading 
program is pointless. It basically is copying the phrases from 
the passage, and nothing more. Sure it has selections from 
American and British classics, but it doesn't give you the tools 
tp becoming a great writer which is necessary to succeed in High 
School and the rest of your life. 

In my opinion, I feel as if you should add more of the positives 
of the Kumon program, instead of bashing it. The Kumon program is 
not mean, it is beneficial to every student involved. 

(You probably won't care what I have to say, but I am a strong 
advocate of the Kumon program, and I have had 1st hand experience 
through all of it.)

ME: Thanks for writing.  By all means, I do care what you have to 
say.  As much as anybody, and I'll bet a lot more than most, I 
recognize that different people are different and what works 
for one won't necessarily work for another, and vice versa.  
If Kumon worked for you, I tip my hat to both you and Kumon.  

I don't believe my page "bashes" Kumon.  I believe I have been fair 
and honest about Kumon.  You have to know what an exception you are.  
I can't imagine how far past the decimal point you'd have to go to 
describe the fraction of Kumon students who complete the math 
program.  My page has been up for several years now, and your 
message feels like the first pro-Kumon one I have received, 
although there may have been one or two others.  Just today I got 
an email from a mother who said that, every day for 5 years, her 
son never once did his Kumon without her making him.  

About devoting 10 years of your life to Kumon, I'm willing to bet 
that if you had taken a year on, a year off, you could have still 
completed the math program in the same time, but only have spent 
5 years at it.  Just think, if you had started at 3, instead of 7, 
you would have had 14 glorious Kumon years!  The old brain can 
only be pushed so fast . . . 

About the reading program, I think I was complimentary towards the 
beginning- and early-reader levels, but called it worthless once it 
gets to the point where someone needs to take a close look at the 
students' written answers.  I believe Kumon's excerpts, whether or 
not from American and British classics, are totally worthless, and 
more likely to turn a student off from reading.  

As far as I remember, Kumon does not make any claims about its 
reading program also being a writing program.  Good for them, 
as there certainly is no known program to make anyone a great writer.  
Never has been, and I'll stick my neck out and say never will be.  
That's something a person either has or doesn't, although the pc 
police are liable to kick down my door for saying so.  

Are you amazed that I did Kumon worksheets because you know your 
Kumon instructor never did?  

THEE: The answer to your question is yes/no. No because I am amazed 
that you voluntarily completed the worksheets, I have never heard 
of someone who started Kumon because they wanted to. I am no 
exception. I started Kumon because of my Dad, but as you can see 
I started to like it after a while. 
Yes because I realized that if my instructor would have just 
attempted the packets she wouldn't seem so stupid to me. I know 
it's kind of harsh, but I knew that my instructor had no idea what 
type of math I was doing once I reached Level G.  For that main 
reason, she was forced to find tutors/employees that could help me. 
I think after adding up all of the people I went through it was 
about 11 employees. Only one of them stuck with Kumon long enough 
to help me through Level O, and that person eventually quit, 
leaving me to figure out the math by myself. 


THEE: I found your Kumon page to be very interesting.   We have a 
daughter who has been enrolled in Kumon for the past two years.  
At her request (she knew classmates who were in the program), we 
enrolled her during the summer between Grades 5 & 6.  She is just 
completing Grade Seven.  They started her at Level 2A and she is 
now in Level G.  Things went very well at first, but have 
definitely declined in the past year.  Kumon initially boosted 
her confidence and sense of pride and she could see a correlation 
between what she was doing in Kumon and what she was doing at 
school.  In the past year, she is less and less motivated and 
more and more frustrated by Kumon.  She has written the Level G 
test twice now and is facing more review unless she quits.  

We had thought that the experience was less positive because of a 
change in the centre's administrator. (It's a corporate center.)  
The new administrator is someone who runs things 'by the book'.  
When my daughter told her that I was doing some exercises with 
her, the administrator said that it was not the 'Kumon way'.  The 
previous administrator was more easygoing.  She allowed tricks 
and shortcuts and tended to move kids forward even when they 
didn't have things 100% right.  
But now, after reading your page, I think that maybe it's a 
combination of the new approach at the centre and the difficulty 
of the higher levels.  Do you consider the 'G' level to be in the 
'mean' category?  My daughter said that she finds the G test to 
be very confusing, as the review sheets have examples but the 
test does not.  She's had tears in her eyes after failing both 
My daughter has made it clear that she wants to quit.  I was 
encouraging her to successfully finish the level she is in before 
doing so, but now I wonder if I'm doing the right thing.  I 
didn't want her to walk away from something unfinished.  But, now 
after reading your perspective, I wonder if not only should we be 
allowing her to walk away but to run!!

ME: To be honest, I think Kumon's Level G is of value and is not 
particularly hard or "mean".  The Achievement Test backs off 
somewhat from the hardest material in the worksheets, which is 
generally true of Kumon's Achievement Tests.  I don't have a good 
answer for your daughter's troubles at this level.  I wish I had 
a chance to work with her to see exactly what the problem is.  
Everything in the Achievement Test falls into two categories: 
either "evaluate an expression"; or "solve an equation."  And 
the two sorts of problems aren't even mixed up.  My best guess is 
that no one has ever hammered home the difference between 
evaluating and expression and solving an equation; first of all, 
because Kumon is a "self study" program, and secondly, because I 
doubt a single teacher in the country has ever thought to 
emphasize this with his students - if, indeed, any of them have 
ever noticed the difference, themselves.  (It's one of my 
"things".)  After all, expressions and equations look so much 
like each other - strings of numbers and letters and operations 
with an equal sign - but they are two different beasts.  

If that's not the problem, I have to wonder if it's a weakness 
with basic arithmetic that's at the root of her troubles.  
Theoretically, that can't happen in Kumon, but . . . 

The accuracy and time requirements on the Achievement Test become 
harder and harder to satisfy as the levels increase.  I don't 
seem to have kept a record of my performance on the Achievement 
Tests.  In a folder of "souvenirs" I have a Level G AT completed 
by my most brilliant student - and he didn't quite make a "Group 
1".  (Want some fun?  Pull out a Level G Achievement Test and a 
timer and ask the instructor to sit down and do it.)  

I can't tell you not to throw in the towel on Level G; after all, 
one's mental health is a lot more important than math.  But I do 
believe that Level G is very basic and should be within the grasp 
of a good 7th-grade student.  Maybe a session or two with an 
insightful tutor would remove the stumbling block.  


THEE: I read your thoughts on Kumon, thanks. I am thinking of 
enrolling my son. He loves math games. I want to facilitate his 
interest and skills - not burden him or kill it for him.
I agree with you - parents should do the kids homework with them. 
This is helpful on many levels and sends a message to them that 
"I am interested in your work. I want you to be interested and 
engaged in this too."

So, are there products out there that let parents run their own 
Kumon-type experience with their child without having to engage 
the help of a third party?

ME: That's a good question - maybe the "million dollar" 
question.  Wouldn't it be great if parents could just buy workbooks 
from the grocery store or dollar store and help make it enjoyable 
enough so that children would actually work through them, from 
beginning to end, with enthusiasm?  There must be some reason you 
rarely see such a thing.  I suppose it has to do with familiarity; 
we reserve our worst and least deferential behavior for the people 
closest to us.  

To answer your question, yes, almost any sort of learning 
material out there could be administered in a Kumon-like way.  
The qualifier is that it would have to be something that hammers 
away at one skill at a time, as opposed to mixing up questions on 
a bunch of different topics on each page.  My feeling is that 
almost any math curriculum, besides modern "fuzzy math", would 
have to be far superior to Kumon's.  

Having said that, I believe it would be nearly impossible for a 
parent to actually implement a Kumon-like regimen.  The amount of 
repetition employed in the Kumon system is unthinkable to an 
ordinary human (no offense).  It's not part of our mindset; it's 
never even occurred to any of our educators; nothing like it is 
used in a single school in our country.  When a student gets a 
question right one time, yippee! - time to move on!  Who cares 
about burning the material in and giving a student a chance to 
see it in the bigger picture?  

I'd be glad to be proved wrong on this, but, supposing you and 
your child have a good working relation, and supposing you trust 
yourself to recognize when he's ready to advance, I'm guessing 
you will both have bitten each other's head off long before he's 
done that workbook page assigned for just the third time.  I'm 
afraid it takes a depersonalized third party to crack that whip.  
(Of course, even with that, many kids rebel intensely against 

Sound bleak?  Sorry about that!  Again, prove me wrong and then 
communicate your success to the world.  I just wish that some 
educator with a drop of perception would take Kumon's basic idea 
and marry it to a good math curriculum.  


THEE: I think I might understand what you are saying about Kumon.  I 
am thinking about enrolling my daughter in Kumon.  She is finishing 
2nd grade at a public Montessori school.  She just can't seem to 
get her math down and since Montessori does not drill nor offer 
homework but offers the bigger picture, I think Kumon might be 
right for her. One thing that I really liked was that Kumon will 
send worksheets home that she & I and her father could work on 
together.  We can actually help her here at home.  Is this a 
correct assumption?  Do many parents expect the children to just 
come home and complete the worksheets by themselves?  

ME: Sure, give Kumon math a try.  If it's not nearly as good as it 
could be, it's better than nothing (at the lower levels), and it 
sounds like nothing is exactly what your daughter's school 
teaches.  Theoretically, Kumon is graduated so imperceptibly that 
a student never needs help.  Of course, that's in theory only; 
nobody's ever taught himself everything.  We all meet obstacles 
and hurdles we need help with.  Also remember that Kumon starts 
at a very, very low level, so it will be a while before things 
get difficult for your daughter.  But, by all means, involve 
yourself as much as possible with her Kumon work.  I try to give 
a variety of reasons for that in my web page.  To be honest, I 
think very few parents do anything more than mark the worksheets.  
I'm begging to hear from parents who have put themselves through 
the same Kumon regimen they put their children through.  


THEE: I have young children (2yrs, 10mos) boy/girl twins.  They 
are doing really well.  My daughter can read many, many words and 
simple sentences.  My son is doing well too.   I have wanted to 
enroll them a Kumon when they turn three but I am concerned about 
your critique.  I read much of what you posted and was thoroughly 
impressed by your commitment as a teacher.  I'm hesitant to become 
involved with Kumon now because it seems like a factory and a 
business franchise as opposed to a place where the staff is 
committed to the child.  What do you think?

ME: Thanks for writing.  Little, if anything, I say on my Kumon 
page applies to the very lowest levels of Kumon's reading or math 
program.  At those levels the parent works together with the 
child on every assignment.  The point is, the commitment of the 
staff is not really a factor.  (I hope I haven't said anywhere 
that Kumon center staff is not generally committed.)  You're the 
one who will be working with your children on a daily basis.  So 
the only question is whether Kumon's learning material is 
satisfactory.  I'm no expert in early childhood education, but I 
believe the beginning levels of Kumon to be very good - perhaps 
the best thing going.  Based on what you wrote, I think you 
should give it a try.  You might want to start with one child 
first to see what you think.  If you sign up, take notice of how 
beneficial the work at the "Junior Kumon" table at the center is.  
If you find yourself thinking, "I could do better than that one-
on-one at home," you might opt for one center visit per week 
rather than two.  


THEE: My daughter will take SAT MATH test in June and general test 
in Oct.  Does Kumon have any tutorial course for the tests?

ME: In a word, no.  That's not what Kumon does.  Kumon starts 
everyone over again in math.  If your daughter joined Kumon she 
*might* get up to long division by October.  

It's interesting to note that Kumon had an instructor here in 
Delaware who was shut down in part for providing help with SAT 
preparation.  (He's a chemist who had played an important role in 
some Nobel prize winning work.  Imagine your child having an 
instructor like that!)  

To be fair, Kumon is about solidifying the basics which students 
have gotten rusty on, or, more than likely, were never taught in 
the schools the first place.  

Also, to be fair, SAT preparation is a fiction.  They design the 
test so that it can't be prepared for.  The key is the word 
"Aptitude".  It has nothing to do with knowing anything.  They 
would never include a question like "Which is greater, the number 
of sides on a triangle or the number of legs on a horse?" because 
that wouldn't be fair to someone who doesn't know what a horse is 
or what a triangle is.  In the math section, there is nothing 
above a 7th-grade level.  They don't even presume you know the 
area of square or circle - that's given to you.  Students are 
separated out according to their ability to see through tricky 
and confusing questions, not perform advanced math. 


THEE: I just read your whole review of Kumon Math.  I am the "math 
specialist" at a very small private school.  We currently use 
Saxon Math for grades 3 through 8.  For Kindergarten through 2nd 
grade we principally use RightStart Math by Alabacus.  While I 
recognize there are problems with every curriculum, I am VERY 
confident about our current programs.  However, we have a couple 
of families that send their children to Kumon as a supplement and 
are convinced that the Kumon program is the best.  My Principal 
approached me this morning with the proposal that we strive to 
make our school a school that allows students to move at their 
own pace in math.  This sounds great in many respects.  In fact, 
several students this year had to move down in math levels as 
they couldn't handle the material.  We also have several students 
with such low math skills that we honestly have no place for 
them.  As soon as Kumon was mentioned, however, as the curriculum 
they (the Principal and School Board) are thinking of bringing 
in, I rebelled inside of myself.  I know it would REALLY be 
useful for those struggling students but I have no intention of 
replacing Saxon for Kumon.  So, here are some questions/comments 
I hope you can comment on.  

ME: I'm behind you all the way.  The basic idea of the Kumon method 
has much merit, but the material itself is nearly barren.  I find 
myself telling people that *any* curriculum is better than 
Kumon's; for you to replace a curriculum of which you are very 
confident with Kumon would be a horrendous mistake.  

What's good about the Kumon method is the daily practice, and 
that a student advances only when he is ready.  If you can more 
or less work that into your current curriculum there would be no 
reason to even think about Kumon.  

About students moving along at their own pace: It sounds 
wonderful, but is really only suited to a self-study program, 
such as Kumon, for example.  I don't see how it can give rise to 
anything but chaos in a teaching environment.  Fifty third 
graders each working on something different?  Good luck.  

Am I saying that the strongest students shouldn't move ahead?  
This is a soapbox issue of mine.  My radical answer is yes, 
that's my belief; they should NOT move ahead.  As you've 
substantiated with the one example you give, it's bound to 
cause problems, besides being a pain in the neck for everyone 
concerned, like having to bus elementary school kids to a middle 
school for their math class.  Sorry, but an A+ means the student 
"got it".  That's a starting point; not a basis for wrapping up.  
I've never met a student, no matter how outstanding, who didn't 
have more gaps that could use filling.  If a student can do 5/6 + 
3/8 blindfolded, then put him on 23 438/5670 - 18 4333/5640.  
(Those are mixed numbers.)  If he really knows what's going on in 
the textbook problems, he should be able to dive in and evaluate 
that without his pencil stopping for a moment.  In the fantastic 
case of a student who really does have perfect and complete 
understanding of the subject matter being taught, I say there's 
plenty of room to expand laterally.  Textbooks are so big and fat 
that they have about five or ten times as much material as a 
class can get to in a year.  Let the standout students explore 
those other areas.  Suppose a "talented and gifted" 6th-grader 
has charged ahead and gotten a taste of introductory calculus.  
So what?  I really doubt there are too many engineering firms or 
science laboratories hiring 6th-graders.  Instead of skittering 
ahead, the best students should be *absorbing*.  There's plenty 
of time.  

Sorry about that; like I said, it's a soapbox issue of mine.  
Getting back to Kumon, is your principal and school board aware 
that Kumon is not a worksheet vendor?  The customer doesn't buy 
worksheets; he's paying for a program.  Either a certified 
Kumon instructor would have to come into your school; or someone 
in your school would have to take training to become a Kumon 

>I know it would REALLY be useful for those struggling students 
but I have no intention of replacing Saxon for Kumon.  

I'm not so sure about that even.  I would think struggling 
students, more than anyone, need "number sense" ways of doing 
basic arithmetic.  Kumon has no notion of number sense.  It has 
no idea that something completely different is at work in the 
brain when you do 9+6 vs. 5+3 vs. 7+7 vs. 6+4 vs. 8+5 etc., etc.  
Kumon only knows brute force memorization.  

>Is the Kumon curriculum meant to be supplemental or can students 
really use is as the main curriculum in a school?

I don't view Kumon as supplemental.  I see it as stepping in when 
a school has failed to teach basic arithmetic.  If schools taught 
arithmetic, Kumon would die.  (Yes, Kumon has levels which go 
beyond arithmetic, but, as I say in my Kumon page, very few 
students survive very long in Kumon once they get beyond 
arithmetic.  It's pure death.)  I can't imagine Kumon serving as 
the main curriculum in a school.  I can't put my fingers on it, 
but I'm sure I read somewhere that Kumon provides something like 
40% of the math taught in the elementary grades, and a higher 
percentage, like 80%, of the math taught in the upper grades.  

>I am all for understanding WHY numbers work the way they do, not 
just doing it because that's the way it is so memorize it.  Am I 
off base here?  

If you are, so am I!

>I would like your opinion on this - what if, along with our main 
curriculum, we used the Kumon Worksheets (this also troubles me 
that this is ALL WORKSHEETS) for the lower grades to focus on the 
basics on Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, all 
including fractions, decimals, and percents?  

I think you could find, or generate, much better worksheets on 
the web - for free.  Remember, you can't just use Kumon 
worksheets as you see fit; the Kumon program must be followed.  
Be aware that scores and times for each and every worksheet must 
be entered into a computer program and sent off to Kumon monthly.  

Best of luck with your principal and school board!


THEE: I am looking for some tutoring for my daughter not because she is 
bad in any particular subject but because she is playful and I want 
something to help her concentrate and help her organize her thoughts 
while she writes. I was looking at Oxford learning centre and Kumon. Do 
you know anything about Oxford method by any chance? They say that their 
teacher to student ratio is 1 to 3 and they have personalized program 
for each child based on his/her needs. I am not sure how true that is. 
They get $150.00 for the assessment test (which take about 2 hours) and 
$170.00 per month for 4 hours. Comparing the prices Kumon is way more 
economical but they say that there is no teacher. Kumon says that 
students get homework for 7 days on each visit which is 15 minutes and 
they have to do it on their own. I am not sure if this is going to be 
helpful for my child.

ME: Unfortunately, I know absolutely nothing about the Oxford learning 
centre.  If it sounds a little bit "to good to be true", I wouldn't 
necessarily hold that against them; doesn't that apply to almost 
everything that's marketed?  My position on student/teacher ratio is 
very radical - so reader beware!  While we are supposed to believe that 
the smaller the student/teacher ratio the better, I believe that there 
is no significant difference between 3 students or 40 per teacher.  I am 
convinced the magic number is 2, which has many advantages over one-on-
one, even.  Three becomes a class; and a teacher can't latch onto three 
student brains at once.  At that point, dialog becomes lecture - with 
the attendant uncertainty of everything being "taught" being grasped by 
all of those good, little, attentive(?) students.

You didn't say the age of your daughter.  If her writing is your main 
concern, I presume she's already a developed reader.  If that's the 
case, I don't think the Kumon reading program would have much to offer.  
And more extensive writing doesn't come about until much later in the 
Kumon program.  And when the student does write more than a few words, 
there's no one at Kumon who has the time or experience necessary to give 
it more than a dry comparison with the workbook answer.  

Having said all of that, if your local Kumon doesn't lock you into a 
long term plan right from the start, it wouldn't hurt to give it a 
chance.  Maybe the regimen of doing Kumon worksheets 15 minutes a day is 
just the thing for your daughter's "playfulness".  (I hope they don't 
kill it completely!)  You'll have to be open-minded about the low 
starting point, though.  


THEE: I just read most of your comments  in preparation for hosting an 
exchange student who listed  Kumon as an after school activity--I was 
expecting a martial art, and it appears I was not that far wrong.

As you emphasize, the needs/capacities of the student and a tutor who 
fits them are the ingredients for success.  I hope parents follow your 
suggestion of doing the worksheets--they will soon know if Kumon is a 
good fit for their child.

Thanks offering your even-handed, revealing perspective..

ME: Thanks very much for the supportive words.  I get occasional 
feedback on my Kumon page, but very rarely any comment on the main point 
- my entreaty to parents to do what the student has to do.  If a program 
is ineffectual, it will be found out.  If a program is good, that's when 
the magic starts.


THEE: i read your article on kumon.  most parents think kumon is great, 
but little do they know what the system is really like, much less the 
curriculum.  i have a relative who runs a kumon in california.  i can't 
believe so many people pay so much money for worksheets!  if only 
parents just took time to teach at home.  kumon is a business.  it comes 
from an asian culture that prioritizes excellence in education at all 
costs.  that philosophy turns me off.  excellence in character and 
values and actions is what we need to strive for.  kumon is not for 
everyone.  its methods are mind numbing.  it does not inspire.  i had 
once thought of opening up a kumon myself.  thought i might open one 
with that aforementioned relative.  in retrospect, i would have died 
buried under the worksheets, bored and numbed by the mechanics.  math is 
wonderful.  reading is wonderful.  there is such a thing as the spirit 
of the as well as the letter of the law.  the spirit of math and reading 
is lost with kumon.  knowledge without spirit is no knowledge at all.  

ME: Thanks for your thoughts.  Of course, I am in almost complete 
agreement.  What little Kumon has going for it stems from how hopeless 
our schools are (generally speaking).  Kumon math may be murderous, but 
at least *some* students may pick up *some* arithmetic skills from it.  
The schools couldn't care less - just railroad a kid on to the next 
level whether or not he's learned anything.  I think Kumon's reading 
program for the very beginning readers may be quite good; thereafter, 
you could do a lot better with a stack of comic books or anything else 
you can get a kid to read.  And Kumon may be the only thing in a child's 
life that requires a sort of work routine before getting out into the 
work world.  Too bad the material has no "spirit", as you put it.  


THEE: I stumbled upon your website and am quite interested in your time 
with kumon. I, too, am a kumon instructor having difficulties with kumon 
management. So much so that I am patiently waiting for someone to buy 
the franchise so I can get as far away from it as possible. My question 
to you is if you have had any other replies/responses/comments from 
other kumon Instructors with the same kind of problems with kumon mgmt.? 
They have made me feel like I've been doing a terrible job and I'm the 
only one out there that they are harassing. Its nice to hear I'm not the 
only one having problems with them.  

That's all really. I understood everything you said in your 'good, bad 
and the ugly' link. Its a real shame that they are so closed minded - 
they lose really devoted and committed Instructors. i've definitely been 
discouraged on the whole 'franchising' thing.  

ME: Thanks for writing, and sorry to hear about your problems with 
Kumon.  No, I haven't heard from other Kumon instructors having problems 
with Kumon management.  In fact, I haven't gotten any messages (that I 
can remember offhand) from any Kumon instructors.  I know only a tiny, 
tiny fraction of the people who visit a web site take the time to shoot 
off a message, but that baffles me a little.  Guess I've been holding my 
breath for an irate instructor to tear me limb from limb for my web 
page.  I mostly hear from Kumon parents, and people considering opening 
a center.  


THEE: I stumbled across your website while doing a search about Kumon 
Learning Centers. I won't take up a lot of your time, I am sure you get 
a lot of emails.

My question is this; I am going to be applying for a Manager Trainee 
position at a local Kumon center here in Texas. What is a good math 
review website or other source to prepare myself for the Math test that 
Kumon requires? I would appreciate any thoughts you have on this.

I completed up to trigonometry in college but have not used it for 
years....I have been a jazz pianist for the last 20.  Thanks in 

ME: "Stumbled"???  I'm Number 3, man!  

I'm always glad to be of assistance, but I'm not sure I understand your 
situation.  I don't know what a "Manager Trainee" is; I only know of the 
Instructor and the Assistants at a Kumon center.  Does this mean a Kumon 
franchisee can nowadays just sit back and hire a manager to run the 

Kumon is mostly a self-study program.  Sometimes an instructor or 
assistant might find a moment to help a struggling student, but it's not 
a formal part of the program; not something the customer is paying for.  
Kumon management would not even want a center to get heavily into that 
because the center would then deviate from other centers.  Since Kumon 
is a franchise, that is not considered acceptable.  

As far as math requirements are concerned, be assured that only a small  
fraction of Kumon students ever gets beyond basic arithmetic, and a 
tinier fraction yet gets beyond introductory algebra.  The students that 
get beyond that are whiz kids who won't need assistance, anyway.  


THEE: Thanks for your insights on Kumon. I have a 5 year daughter who is 
somewhat easily distractible with a short attention span.  Do you think 
that these worksheets and constant repetition would help her with math 
and reading better?  I am looking to give her more structure and 

ME: There are no guarantees in life, but it sounds like the Kumon 
regimen very well might help your daughter.  At her age, the worksheets 
should be as much fun as work.  


THEE: I have read your article on Kumon, and I want to thank you for 
your time and sense of humour, my daughter has been doing it for three 
months, I must admit that your article had opened my eyes and I am 
prepared to be killed by her any minute, it is certainly a pain in the 
neck, but her self steem has improved as well as her marks at school. 
Following your advice I do the same exercises, and God it is boring!, 
the good point is that we seem to be spending a lot of time together and 
I'm reviewing (two students for the price of one), fortunately the 
instructor is very flexible and has let us jump from addition to 
subtraction, and from addition to two levels higher and backwards.  

ME: Thanks for writing; I'm glad my suggestions have helped somebody! 


THEE: What is the cost to have a child tested at your facility?  What is 
the cost per hour for tutoring?

ME: For information on Kumon, go to their main site by typing "kumon" in 
Google.  They will say there is no cost to have your child tested, but 
there is a registration fee of about $50 if you enroll.  I see figures 
given in news articles of about $35 - $70 dollars per hour as the 
average for a private tutor.  Of course, the sky's the limit.  That may 
sound expensive, but a half-hour session per week compares very 
favorably with Kumon.   


THEE: Thank you for your honest opinion of Kumon. I have been 
considering sending my daughter to Kumon for a while.

My daughter is in 2nd grade. Her school gives an addition and 
subtraction math test every month of 45 problems each. Each test has a 
time limit of 1 min. Although, she tests at a 4th grade level, she only 
gets about 15-17 of the problems done in 1 min. They are supposed to be 
able to do the entire sheet of 45 problems before entering 3rd grade. It 
seems like she slows down every time there is a time limit involved. Do 
you think Kumon could help with this? 

She has a grasp of numbers and can solve many word problems, so I know 
that she has the skills. I also sit with her while she does her homework 
and often do the problems in my head while looking over her shoulder. 
Sometimes I time her without her knowing and she will do her math 
homework (often word problems) in 5 to 10 mins depending on the number 
of problems on the sheet. I am starting to wonder if she has some 
psychological block with being timed.

ME: There are no garantees in life, but I think Kumon might help your 
daughter get over the timing anxiety.  After all, she'll be doing timed 
assignments every day, so if that doesn't get her used to it, I can't 
imagine what will.  Of course, the thing isn't to terrorize a student 
with a timer, and it isn't even the exact completion time or whether it 
beats some arbitrarily set limit that matters.  What you would be 
looking for, and nudging her towards, is a state of always keeping the 
pencil moving comfortably along.  That's proof of a student knowing what 
she's doing.  She doesn't have to be a speed demon about it; if that's 
what her school wants, they should be closed down.  

I also need to ask, are you really sure she has the single digit 
additions down pat?  Does she have number sense ways of doing "hard" 
additions like 7+9?  Is she completely beyond counting, externally or 
internally, in her additions?  Does she have a crystal clear 
understanding of subtraction being nothing new or separate, just 
addition going the other way?  


THEE: I was wondering if you could share your opinion with regards to 
which private math programs in your opinion stand above the rest?

ME: I wish I could answer your question.  It took a few years to get to 
know Kumon, so you can see it's not feasible for me get familiar with 
the other hundreds or thousands of programs people have come up with.  I 
still have no idea what goes on in a Sylvan or Huntington.  I look at 
things from the perspective of a competent private tutor.  It absolutely 
does not matter to me what math program a customer chooses.  If it has 
weaknesses I will see them and turn them into positives working with the 
student.  "See, you know better than the people who wrote this book!"


THEE: What IS a good math program then?  

I came across your website at my attempts to figure out the best way to 
teach math to my 1st and 3rd grade boys.  I've never had a good feeling 
about Kumon, but I've been curious about what makes it work.  I wanted 
to see what I could pick up from them  and tweak things around for my 
kids.  I see from your article that you've already tried to do that to 
their chagrin.  Is there a math (reading too, for that matter) program 
that you have seen that you would use (or would have used) for your own 
kids?  I was disappointed to read that Kumon doesn't encourage using 
mental steps: 

>A student is never told, and there are no exercises that burn in, "an 
>even plus an even gives an even". In this example, a student armed with 
>that basic understanding might see 8+6 as the next even number beyond 
>6+6, which he knows like the back of his hand, or simply as an even 
>number "not too far up" in the teens.  There's never a suggestion of 
>breaking a harder problem into quick and simple steps. Again, a Kumon 
>student learns 7+5 by brute force. A lightning quick series of mental 
>steps, such as breaking the 5 into two chunks, one of which gets you to 
>10 and the other to the final answer, is completely stonewalled by 

I'm trying to find a program that's been laid out in a logical, 
incremental way help them progress through the basic operations for 
now--using the mental steps that you've described above.  

What the boys get from  their public school just isn't enough for them 
to feel interested or competent.  I don't want to turn them off to math 
by throwing too many worksheets at them but I am finding out that a 
short 5 to 10 minute session of rote skills is not so frowned upon by 
them and absolutely necessary.  Any ideas on what I can use?  

Any suggestions would really be appreciated.  I enjoyed your very 
insightful articles.  Thanks.  

ME: Thanks for visiting and thanks for the positive comments.  I don't 
have a ready-to-go answer to your question.  It would take a thousand 
lifetimes to compare the math programs out there, the wheel has been 
reinvented so many times.  I've never seen any that include the insights 
I've gotten simply by taking a close look at what goes on in my brain 
step by step.  (Do you know, my brain *never* performs a subtraction?  
Or a division?  That 9+9 is a multiplication problem?) The other 
funny thing is that, from my point of view as a tutor, I don't 
necessarily need or want a "perfect" method.  I can turn the errors and 
gaps and confusions in a textbook or math workbook into an exciting 
learning experience for a student.  

Not too helpful, am I?  :)  I don't know if I can make a blanket 
generalization, but I've seen dollar store workbooks that are a hundred 
times better than school curricula.  Without any recent experience, I 
have to believe that there must be very good math and reading courses on 
cd-roms (if they still make those things.)  How could they mess that up?  
The program will know whether the student is doing well enough to move 
on.  And finally, have you looked into Indian Math Online (IMO)?  It's 
only $5 a month.  I spent a few days with it at the higher levels, and 
seemed to quite good (with a few oddities and mistakes here and there.)  
With the time I spent with it, I didn't see any sample problems worked 
out, so I'm not sure what IMO does about getting a new idea across.  

Good luck, and let *me* know if you come across a killer program.  


THEE: I went to a Kumon Center in Houston. My son was interviewed but 
when he knew that he has to start from the very beginning he stormed 
out.  He wanted a tutorial on Algebra 2.  I respected his judgment but 
I'm still looking for a better tutorial services. Any company you know?  

ME: I wish I could help, but I don't know of any nationwide one-on-one 
tutoring services, and would be leery of making a recommendation if I 
did since the quality of the service depends completely on the 
individual tutor.  

I think your son made a good decision, but not necessarily for the right 
reason.  Review is always beneficial, and if it's truly easy the student 
will fly right through it.  The problem with Kumon is that after the 
arithmetic levels, it really never aligns itself with any standard 
school curriculum, such as "Algebra 2".  

Good luck finding the right tutor.  Check the classifieds in the paper, 
the yellow pages, and put up a "tutor wanted" ad at the local 


THEE: I am a current 8th grader who finished Kumon reading and is in 
Level L in math. I cannot stand it anymore and my parents cannot help. 
Do you have any advice for me? Thank you


A Kumon disliker

ME: When you say your parents can't help, do you mean they won't listen 
to your request to stop?  There should be a law that a child can demand 
that his parents do everything they make him do, but I guess that's a 
way off yet.  Have they read my thoughts on the lack of value of Kumon 
above the arithmetic levels?  I hope that will soften them.  Best of 
luck.  You've certainly paid your dues.  

By the way, did you get one thing out of Kumon's reading program that 
you wouldn't get out of reading the things you ordinarily read and like 
to read?  

THEE: When I say my parents can't help, I mean that the stuff in Level L 
is too complex for them. I don't have the time to stay in Kumon for an 
hour or so either. My mom says that I have forgotten the basics for this 
level (which is true) but every page is different. I don't get a chance 
to actually learn the material and use it. 

Kumon reading for me was useless. The only reason I passed was because 
the first time that I did a worksheet, I would get everything wrong. But 
then I would memorize the answer (It took some tries to get it 100% 
correct but I managed). How do you feel about Kumon reading. I will 
definetely show my mom your page. Thank you.

ME: In my Kumon web page I try to come across as a reasonable, 
thoughtful, even-tempered sort of guy.  So it's kind of hard to come out 
and say, "Kumon's reading program, above the elementary levels, is a 
miserable joke and a criminal waste of a child's life."  $50 worth of 
comic books would be more beneficial than $5000 worth of Kumon reading.  

Good luck in getting out of Kumon and on with your life.  


THEE: No words can describe how true the things you wrote about kumon 
are.  I am currently a high school freshman in level N of Kumon, and I 
would have to agree that most of the practices that are fundamental to 
the program are fundamentally WRONG.  My Kumon center is stricter then 
most, and I can't begin to describe the long hours that the program has 
taken from my life.  True, the idea is a good one, but improvements must 
be made.  As they say, the best is the enemy of the good, and there is 
no reason to strive for perfection at the cost of lagging years behind 
grade level.  So, simply put, I would like to thank you for getting 
these facts out there, and I hope that some people will take notice!

ME: Thanks for sharing something of your Kumon experience.  At least it 
sounds like you're holding up pretty well in spite of the drain on your 
life.  About my Kumon page, so far no one has ever written to say, "You 
don't know what you're talking about!"  


THEE: I found what you had to say about Kumon interesting.  My son (6th 
grade) is desperate to get out of Kumon jail.  Can you suggest some 
alternatives?  He's on level E and does need the practice but really 
dislikes Kumon and has since he started in 4th grade.

ME: I guess the main question is, why does your son hate doing the work?  
Does he naturally hate doing any sort of academic work?  That might 
sound horrible, but it probably describes the majority of kids since the 
beginning of time.  I don't have any suggestions regarding kids who 
won't work; I'll leave that problem to others.  

Or is it that the work is frustratingly difficult?  Students will say 
they "hate" an assignment, or it's "boring", but the problem is really 
that they don't have a complete understanding, and that makes the work 
very painful.  What I mean is, if a student has the multiplication table 
down pat, doing a page of long divisions should be as satisfying (fun?) 
as doing a word search, or crossword puzzle, or sudoku, etc.  If that's 
the problem, maybe irregular sessions with a private tutor would get 
your son over Kumon's hurdles.  No system is truly and completely "self-
study".  Of course, if you went with a private tutor, you might as well 
drop Kumon and find workbooks that aren't so dry and barren.  

My last idea relates to my suggestion to all parents to do everything 
the child does.  Might it be more fun, and therefore more productive, if 
he had a "teammate"?; if he didn't feel dumped into something on his 
own?  You might make a game of it, he does a problem that you check, 
then you do a problem that he checks, etc.  Kumon never has to know.  

THEE: Thank you for responding; I truly appreciate it.  I like your idea 
of doing the homework along with my child and will give it a shot in 
math and science to see if he becomes more engaged.
Do you know of any good/fun workbooks or CD's for 6th grade math?  

ME: If working with your son on his homework as a friendly team - as 
opposed to a master-pupil relationship - works, let the world know, or 
let me know so I can pass it on to the world.  I don't see how it can't, 
except in the case of insurmountable personality clash problems.  I met 
an Indian a few weeks ago and he told me that when he was a child and 
starting to take a "new math" course in India, a parent or relative 
close to him had to practically sign a contract that he (the adult) 
would learn the material along with the student.  Sure makes sense to 
me.  This practice of just "dumping" kids into this, that, and the other 
- something not a parent in a million even realizes he's doing - has to 

Sorry for the rant. 

About workbooks, I would just take the child to a bookstore and let him 
pick out something that looks the most fun or interesting.  I would 
start with a 3rd-grade book.  If he really is solid at that level, you 
(plural) should have a blast spinning through it.  


THEE: I have 2 sons ages 5 and 7 who have been enrolled in Kumon for 2 
years.  Though they are excelling in math and reading at school, I have 
always had the sinking feeling that I was being duped by this 
organization.  I get the feeling they have things set up in such a way 
that keeps dragging things on and on.  I understand that repetition is 
important, especially in math.  

I wonder if you have come up with any alternatives in the Math 
department for kids?  The only alternative I can find on the Web for 
Math is called Indian Math Online.  They have a comparison model to 
Kumon on their site.  Currently spending $600 per month on Kumon.....  

ME: $150 per subject per student per month???  We were told $80 to $100.  


THEE: read your site on Kumon - very insightful. I just wanted to send 
you an email & maybe pick your brain & learn from your experience w/ the 
Kumon franchise. I was completely planing on joining until I read your 
webpage. I'm hoping you can shed more light on this for me. Am I making 
a big mistake here or is this a good business to try? Also, I still have 
not gotten any good answers as to why the center cannot be opened more 
than twice a week....

ME: Kumon is probably a "good business" for most of the 1280 franchise 
owners in the U.S.  I suppose it was a "mistake" for most of the owners 
who shut down or sold their center to another instructor.  I have no 
idea what the figures are for the failures.  If you pursue Kumon you 
will get a book called a "UFOC" (Uniform Franchise Offering Circular).  
Part of what hooked me in was a list of over a 1000 thriving centers, 
and a list of just a few dozen that shut down.  What a fantastic success 
rate!  If they can do it, why can't I???  However, much later I realized 
the comparison was misleading; the list of operating centers was 
complete, but the list of shutdowns was for just the previous year.  

It's safe to say that if you want to work with students, Kumon is a 
mistake.  It's a self-study program.  To have enough students to pay the 
rent, you would hardly have time to work with students, anyway.  

If you want the feeling of being in charge of your own business, Kumon 
is probably a mistake.  You will be very much under Kumon's control.  

If you want to feel like you're making big improvements in the students' 
academic abilities, I'm not sure what to say.  I don't think there are 
any studies that show Kumon to be beneficial, although I'll be the first 
to admit such studies are very difficult to carry out.  

It's not so much "why" the center can't be opened more than twice a 
week, it's just that the Kumon routine is designed around two center 
visits per week.  Understand that the students don't do anything 
differently at the center than they do at home.  Kumon would work just 
about as well with one visit per week, or as a total correspondence 
course, even.  I've always wondered if those two center visits per week 
aren't mostly to make it look like Kumon gives you a lot of service for 
your money!


I'm glad to find your site regarding G-B-U-Kumon.  My son is ADHD and 
has always struggled with math.  He was always in small group math in 
school until the "No Child Left Behind Laws" came into being. School 
math has been a nightmare.    My son's eighth grade teacher was 
worthless - I begged for help through the school and it was impossible.  
I found a tutor at $40 an hour that he could relate to and learn from 
but it didn't help with his class.  (My tutor has since moved.)  We had 
to attend summer school to retake the test to move up to 9th grade.  At 
my wits end, a home school mom told me about Kumon.  So I talked to 
Kumon and they assured me ADHD was not a problem and he could learn long 
division.  He was evaluated and found to be way behind and it would take 
a year to catch him up to grade level.  I decided to try it since he had 
always struggled.  He started out very very very basic (1+2=3, etc.)  
finally 2 1/2 months ago we reached division.  He mastered the basic 1 
and 2 digit division problems rather quickly and finally moved up to 
long division.  For 2 months we have been doing the same work.  The 
instructor would give him a long division sheet and then say "oh, you're 
struggling and I don't want you to be frustrated so go back and practice 
8 divided by 2."  Finally my son's frustration level exploded on me.  He 
was never allowed to show his work on the worksheet.  He had to do 
everything in his head and write the answer down.  He also said they 
didn't work with him and expected him to be able to look at the problem 
and do it with no explanation.  He said mom it's pure torture. 

I just stopped taking him.  I can't work long division problems out 
without showing my work and I don't struggle with math.  The one good 
thing about Kumon, he did learn his times tables with ALL the repetitive 
work with basic multiplication problems.

Now I'm looking for another way to help him.  It's hard to find someone 
that really has a knack for being able to help struggling kids learn.  
Your website just confirmed I did the right thing to stop taking him to 

ME: Thanks for sharing your experience.  It points up the basic fallacy 
with Kumon's, or anybody's, "self-study" method of instruction.  If 
self-study truly worked, we could take any 5-year-old who has started to 
read and stick a mountain of books and worksheets in front of him and 
say, "Ok, we'll be back in 15 years, at which time you'll be an 
accomplished engineer, or accountant, or musician, etc."  Everybody, 
even the very best students, need help to get past a stumbling block.  
It might be just a word or two to clear up a simple confusion, but 
nothing substitutes for some words of experience from someone who's 
already been down that road.  (Not that everybody with experience has 
good skills for passing it on.) 

Most infuriating for me is that your son's instructor wouldn't let him 
show the steps to the long division problems.  If it makes something 
doable that otherwise is very painful, then why not?  It's an artificial 
constraint; I can imagine many students who write the intermediate steps 
beating, in both time and accuracy, the kids who struggle mightily to 
hold everything in their heads.  I know some Kumon instructors are 
flexible enough to let students write the intermediate steps in long 
division.  I suspect most Kumon instructors are "by the book", though.  

If I were working with your son, I would double check that he's rock 
solid on the single-digit multiplications, and then try to make it clear 
that division is nothing new, just multiplication turned around.  After 
all, if you're dividing 592 by 8, the first step is really asking 
yourself, "Hmmm, now what's that number in the 8's table that's up in 
the 50s?  Oh, yeah, I remember; it's 56, which is . . .  oh yeah, 8x7."  
Whether you're a 5th-grader or a master mathematician, that's what's 
going on in the brain.  After getting the 56, some people might be able 
to hang onto it, others might let it slip while they're writing down the 
7.  Then they have to bring it back by redoing the 7x8 multiplication.  
I can't think of a reason on earth why he shouldn't be allowed to write 
the 56 down so he can then see the upcoming subtraction easily.  

If your son really has reached that stage, even with writing the steps 
down, I'd say he's ready for division by multiple-digit divisors - where 
*everybody* writes the intermediate steps down.  (So what was the big 
deal about *not* writing them down with single-digit divisors?)  

If you find another tutor, I suggest that you retain that aspect of 
Kumon whereby your son does 15 minutes or so of work every day.  
Learning takes a combination of the two - direction from a "master", and 


THEE: I read your experience with the Kumon system.  In your Q&A 
section, a parent asked about Kumon workbooks.  I found Kumon reading 
and math workbooks in a school book store called ClassWorks in Hammond, 
Louisiana.  I purchased books for ages 5-7.  Although I have not 
enrolled my child in the Kumon program, I found the books to be 
beneficial and "fun" to work on and my child completed the books quickly 
and with interest.  Just thought you might like to know.

ME: Thanks for writing, and the report on Kumon workbooks.  I still have 
never seen one.  The people who run the educational book store in Dover, 
Delaware, have never heard of Kumon.  Glad to hear that the workbooks 
are beneficial and fun - hard to imagine much higher praise than that!  


THEE: I've been a high school English teacher for 24 years and my 13 year
old finds himself needing help with his basic math confidence and
skills.  Kumon came from the school coundelor as a suggestion.  I
googled it and read you before anything else and bless you for your
sensitive and candid insights.  I don't need to know anything else.

ME: Thanks for visiting my Kumon page.  I do worry that some 
parents may reject Kumon based solely on my page.  If your 
child still can't do arithmetic, Kumon might help.  Even though 
Kumon could be much, much better for basic arithmetic,  
it's better than nothing - a claim schools would be 
hard-pressed to make with a straight face.  If you went into 
Kumon with your eyes open, and took my advice of doing everything 
the student does, there's nothing to fear.  You'll know how 
bearable or not it is, and whether your child is benefiting.  
You can stop any time.  I'd love to hear back from parents 
who have "done" Kumon. 


THEE: I am an instructor in H~~, since 1999, and have shared your 
frustration with the mind boggling insistance on following ineffective 
and outdated operating procedures from the HO and other shortcoming of 
the Kumon Program. However, I am of the opinion that Kumon is one of the 
best answers for the middle income families struggling with the 
ineffective schools in America. So I am trying to work within the system 
to deliver a higher quality program to my students by delivering a 
personalized lessons (bend but don't break).  

This approach has worked well and have now grown to over 200 students. 
However, I have reached a point where my personal time does not enable 
me to continue to deliver the same level of service as the center 
continues to grow.  

Kumon in their wisdom, has opened 4 new center around me, one within 3 
miles recently. My point of differentiation is the level of service and 
I would like to develop my assistants, mostly high school students, to 
continue this strategy: happy students + good grades = happy parents.  

ME: Thanks a million for looking at my Kumon page and the kind words.  I 
had thought that H~~ was in the Washington, D.C. branch.  If that's 
correct, I'm a little surprised you haven't already brought down their 
wrath for 

>delivering personalized lessons (bend but don't break).  

I will argue to the end that nothing I did could even count as 
"bending"; I was just pulling students through the Kumon curriculum as 
fast as they could handle it.  

Regarding "helping students learn the objectives of the Kumon 
worksheets", I didn't make much effort in my web page to hide the fact 
that I think there are serious problems with what Kumon thinks is 
important above the arithmetic levels.  I think Kumon needs to tear it 
all down and start from scratch.  I think Kumon's goal should be to give 
students a very solid, but very basic, foundation in each subject - 
geometry, trigonometry, probability, calculus, etc. - so that if and 
when they take it up in school or college, they can hit the ground 
running and be in a good position to keep up when the material gets more 


THEE: I read attentively your comments on Kumon and they are ALL accurate.
There is NO place in the Kumon method for any meaningful instruction
(and certainly your intellect, writing skills and obviously top notch
teaching skills are of no interest to them and it is a true loss to
Kumon). It is a business and their sole interest is that each center
operate at 200 students. In order to make it viable they hire "very
qualified" assistants (high-school kids). This will make you laugh:
One of these qualified tutors corrected a D level page marking all
answers correct that indicated continuing division and not remainder
(example 5/2= 2.1 instead of 2R1).

Another point that you correctly state is that the mathematical
concept is NEVER approached. Students memorize and never learn a
mathematical strategy.

The reading program is an atrocity. I have observed kids that are
perfectly capable of "figuring" out a reading exercise (AI and AII)
proceeding by elimination (fill out the blanks) and NEVER actually
reading the content.

The "topping" is the Jr Kumon program. No 4-5 year old can concentrate
for 30 minutes on a particular task (physiologically the brain does
not acquire that capacity until 7-8 years old).


THEE: I was about to consider Kumon for my six-year old smart 
daughter, but after reading your article online---I reconsidered.  

I did observe my cousin's son when he was younger, doing Kumon under 
time pressure and it was more of a torture than learning! 

I went on to attend Columbia University without Kumon, so my daughter 
should do well as well!  Thanks again.  You saved me lots of money and 
headaches on this one.  

ME: You're more than welcome.  Of course, I try not to come out 
and say, "Don't do Kumon!", because there are so many factors and 
everyone is different.  Coincidentally there was a very 
entertaining article written recently by a woman who put herself 
through half a year of Kumon. 

She didn't write the article from the angle, "Wow, if it's this 
miserable for an *adult*, just think what it's like for a kid", 
which is too bad.  It would have been a real eye-opener.  


THEE: May be you should have  learned more math before buying a 
franchise....if a student did not know a problem...I would show 
him the steps! Such as how to solve a binomial or quadratic.   
Kumon does help....the practice builds confidence, the  memory of 
basics help the student focus on the parts they need to as they 
are half way thru the equation or problem.  

It is better if a Kumon instructor is a math teacher or a math 
major, they understand how to help the student.  People such as 
you should get a Curvers franchise or a food franchise and leave 
the education to educators.  

ME: But it was helping students that got me in trouble with 

THEE: Well you need to get it off GOOGLE.  Most parent are 
ignorant and it hurts my business.  For some reason as soon as 
they search for KUmon the article appears...and like everything 
there is more to the story.  

The average American parents of the generation I want to sell 
KUMON to, is not very up on education and does not get it...math 
or doing KUMON is good especially if I can get them 
to stay 6-months and read or get a kid to level J alg.  


THEE: Thank you so much for your honest input regarding Kumon 
Math.  I have been suspicious of their methods for quite some 
time.  I had considered enrolling my son, but had kept hearing 
that it required doing a series of worksheets for each level that 
would have to be mastered before going on to the next.  I do not 
consider this method of teaching very inspiring, in fact, I think 
it is down right mind numbing and only makes kids hate math.  
However, it does sound very typical of Japanese methods and 
methods in the United States around the 1950's.  I think we will 
reconsider Everyday Math through the University of Chicago.  

Thanks again for your honesty.  

ME: Thanks for spending time with my Kumon page.  I do worry a 
little that someone might reject Kumon solely on what I say, when 
it might be very effective for that particular child.  Good luck 
with Everyday Math.  I'm not familiar with it and will look into 


THEE: I stumbled upon your web page about Kumon.  May I ask what 
is the expected earning potential with owning your own center?  I 
have just recently started inquiring about Kumon.  

ME: Figure the average center has 100 students.  I think a 
typical tuition now is about $115 per month.  Kumon gets about 
$35 of that.  So you get to keep 100 x $80 = $8000 per month.  
Out of that comes the rental of the center space and utilities.  
That varies widely, of course, but I think very few Kumon 
instructors get away with less than $2000 per month.  You will 
also need to pay about 4 assistants about $9 per hour for about 6 
hours per week, each.  Call that another $1000 per month (very 
roughly), and you net about $5000 per month.  Fair enough for 
maybe 10 or 12 hours of work per week?  


THEE: I just read your paper on Kumon (Kumon - the good, the bad, 
& the ugly) after I found it on a google search. I am job 
searching and came across a position with Kumon as an Education 
Consultant. I'm very glad I read your take on the company, being 
I am a math teacher and I cringed at the thought of rote learning 
- isn't that what we strive to avoid in education these days? 
Anyway, it almost immediately turned me away from applying for 
the position because I could picture myself getting the same 
emails about accusation of "changing the Kumon method." But then 
it got me thinking... maybe this position is brand new. Did your 
words turn the light switch on for Kumon? Are they looking to 
improve their strategies in an effort to finally keep up with the 
trends of American education?  

ME: Interesting question - no one's ever asked me that!  My gut 
feeling is that my page has made Kumon powers think about their 
program.  I have no idea whether they might actually consider 
making improvements, or just go with the status quo.  I know they 
never accepted my offer of cheap input! 

There have been complaints in the Kumon instructors' forum about 
certain math "sets" (a booklet of 10 worksheets) that are wildly 
inappropriate where they're found in the curriculum.  I heard 
that Kumon management said they would look into it.  I have no 
idea if such discussions were prodded by my page to any extent.  

I don't believe my page has a negative effect on Kumon's business 
anymore than their own web site has a positive effect.  Such a 
business depends almost completely on word of mouth referrals.  
People might visit Kumon's site after having heard about it from 
another source, and they might even not reject it based on the 
typically annoying hype they find there, but no one has ever 
stumbled on Kumon's site cold and gone on to sign up.  That's my 
belief, anyway.  


THEE: I very much enjoyed reading your thoughtful analysis of 
Kumon. We have an 8 year old who has been in Kumon for over 2 
years. I have had some of the same concerns you expressed even 
though I also noted some benefits he gained from his experience. 
My son will be away for one year and I am looking for a book from 
which I could select some math problem for him on a regular 
basis. His mother will be working with him on his reading. He is 
going to the 4th grade.  Any recommendation you may have will be 
most appreciated.

ME: Unfortunately, it's a virtual impossibility comparing all the 
hundreds or thousands of math programs out there and choosing 
a favorite.  I now tutor privately, and the funny thing is, I 
don't care how good or bad a program is.  If there are flaws, I 
can turn that into something interesting and valuable working 
with a student.  "See, you know better than the people who wrote 
this!"  I tell the parents it doesn't matter to me - dollar store 
workbooks, cd-rom programs, web-based programs, worksheets from 
the internet...  Having said that, it sounds like your son is 
very advanced.  You might consider the Math League Contest books, 
which start at 4th grade.  They are the exact opposite of Kumon - 
fun; rich; words in every problem.  Just search on "math league".  
Hope that helps.  

[Actually, I see the Math League material as being really only 
beneficial when done under the wing of an enthusiastic, competent 
tutor.  Otherwise, it's just "either you know it or you don't" 
review material, not learning material.  With a good tutor, it can 
be a fantastic tool getting a young mind to "think math".]  


THEE: I feel you did an ok job of explaining the basis of kumon 
(i.e. the worksheets and breakdown). However, I have worked for 
kumon for 4 years and feel that there is not "bad" parts to 
kumon. It all depends on the center and the child. Kumon is great 
for students who are capable of learning on their own but not all 
students can do this. Some students do need step by step 
instructions. Also, at the center i work at I find that i work 
with kids seperatly if they are really struggling. There is the 
number chart, number board, number tracing, and as a teacher you 
can explain doubles, and little tricks to do different math 
problems. The method is the basis for the program but is the 
instructors that make the biggest difference.  

ME: Thanks for your thoughts.  I suspect from what you write that 
you haven't gotten involved in Kumon's math levels above basic 
arithmetic.  They're killers.  I think when you refer to 
"students who are capable of learning on their own", you really 
mean those students who are fairly strong and who are still in a 
review mode in Kumon's lower levels.  I agree that "the 
instructors make the biggest difference", but working with 
students is what got me in trouble with Kumon.  


THEE: Its sad to hear that you got in trouble for working with 
the kids. The owner of the kumon I work at does have us use 
guided questioning first but when that does not work she does let 
us explain each step the the student even on the upper levels 
such as H, I and J. I guess a lot has to do with the person that 
runs the center.  

ME: I ran my center.  


THEE: Your website was invaluable in giving me an overall 
understanding of the Kumon program.  I have a 4 1/2 year old 
starting to learn her letters and phonics and was considering 
supplementing her reading development with the program.  I've 
decided against Kumon, primarily because of the emphasis on 

She loves worksheets, though, and thrives on the few little pre-K 
books I've picked up at Barnes and Noble and through our school 
supply stores.   Would you recommend using Kumon workbooks 
outside of the program?  

Thank you so much for your time and the candor of your site.  

ME: Thanks for visiting, and thanks for writing.  It might sound 
funny, but I've never seen the Kumon workbooks sold in stores.  

To be honest, you might want to reconsider the Kumon reading 
program for your child.  I didn't get into Kumon's beginning 
reading levels on my page because it's not what people mainly 
associate Kumon with; and my page was already too long.  

I had a few very young students in the reading program, and the 
results were pretty remarkable.  One was not quite 4 years old.  
Don't worry about the time limits at that stage.  If there are 
completion times on those worksheets (I forget) they would be 
very "soft".  No need to think about them at all.  

Kumon's reading program for beginners may be the very best thing 
Kumon has to offer.  My own very personal reservation is the age-
old, is it good and is it necessary to start that young?  And 
such children are the ones sentenced to a lifetime of corrected 
vision.  But people always tell me I'm wrong about that.  


THEE: Thanks for the heads-up on Kumon.  They recently opened 2 
centers near my home in AZ.  With the poor educational system 
here in the Phoenix area I was so close to enrolling my kids in 
ANYTHING I thought might help pick up where the school is 
dropping the ball.  I guess I am going to stick with  doing it 

ME: To be honest, my main purpose in writing the page was not to 
scare parents away from Kumon on my say-so.   More than anything, 
I would like parents to take me up on my suggestion that they do 
everything the student must do in Kumon, and make a decision 
based on that.  I would love to hear back from parents who have 
"done" Kumon.  

THEE: I happen to come across your article just before I was to 
make a decision to see a Kumon center being offered for resale.  
In fact, I saw your article the day after I agreed to go and see 
the site.  I haven't seen it as yet because of your article.  

I was wondering though weren't you aware of Kumon's method before 
you undertook to investing in the franchise?  I am a retired 
teaher and, of course, my first impulse is to employ all methods 
of instruction to facilitate a student's learning so in that 
respect we both agree and I want to congratulate you.  I 
understand also that a prospective franchisee must complete all 
worksheets to be familiar with the work that the student will 
encounter.  Did you do this?  If so, didn't you see that the work 
was repetitive and especially at the beginning covering many, 
many worksheets?  In other words, didn't you detect that the 
system was flawed as you intimated in that respect?  I must 
confess that I am a Junior Kumon Instructor dealing with the 
younger students in math and reading.  I agree that the sheets 
are repetitive and most of the students hate it.  As you know, my 
level must know the short sounds of the alphabet and with no 
coaxing from my employers I initiated  combining the sounds as 
they learn them to formulate a word  thus giving  them a sense of 
mastery and accomplishment.   I suppose this is unKumon.  I don't 
know because I haven't been told otherwise.  In fact, the 
students do not even know why they are studying the alphabet 
sounds unless I tell them which I always do.  

I work for a highly successful Kumon franchise and thought that 
I, too, could be successful with my educational background.  
However, your article demonstrates that Kumon is a business first 
with education a secondary goal for those  (parents) with the 
temperament, perseverance and stictuitiveness to succeed.  This 
method probably appeals to a certain segment of the population 
with education as a major emphasis.  


>I was wondering though weren't you aware of Kumon's method 
before you undertook to investing in the franchise?  

I learned about Kumon's method during training.  Note that it's 
not the Kumon method that I have a problem with.  I think my page 
makes it clear that it is the learning material itself.  When 
they first showed us some Kumon worksheets a couple of days into 
training, I'll admit my heart sank at the barrenness of it.  I 
proceeded anyway because I was into it too far; I knew of no 
other options at that time; and since I'd be there, it wouldn't 
matter how bad the study material is.  Which is what I tell the 
parents of the students I tutor.  I can actually turn weaknesses 
and errors in the study material into a great learning experience 
for the student.  

>I understand also that a prospective franchisee must complete 
all worksheets to be familiar with the work that the student will 
encounter.  Did you do this?  

I think I more or less said in my web page that in the almost 3 
years I was involved with Kumon, I did more Kumon worksheets than 
anyone on the face of the earth, bar none.  

>If so, didn't you see that the work was repetitive and 
especially at the beginning covering many, many worksheets?  

Repetitiveness, per se, is not a problem.  I think in my web page 
my only slight objection to repetition was in the long division 
section.  And a problem only arises there if the instructor is 
hard-nosed about meeting the SCT.  

>In other words, didn't you detect that the system was flawed as 
you intimated in that respect?  

The basic system is not flawed; it's great.  Public schools 
should adopt it.  

>I must confess that I am a Junior Kumon Instructor dealing with 
the younger students in math and reading.  I agree that the 
sheets are repetitive and most of the students hate it.  

That's interesting.  I had several very young students; one was 
3.  In my experience, they enjoyed Kumon the most.  

Hope that helps in your decision-making process.  


THEE: I read the kumon article/experiences on your geocities 
website. I am very interested in working/teaching kids (interest 
developed as I spent time with my kids understanding what they 
are taught, how etc) and was thinking about starting a 
afterschool learning center - looked at Kumon and also was 
looking to start my own. I was wondering if you had any 
tips/advice based on your own experience. Would appreciate any 
help/tips from you.  

ME: I'd be glad to share some thoughts.  I'd rather you didn't 
view them as tips or advice, though, just "for what they're 

One rude awakening was that even though there is a kind of 
pretense that a franchisee is an independent business owner, the 
reality is that he is under the thumb of the franchiser to a much 
greater extent than with any conventional employer.  Put more 
directly, Kumon treats you like a baby.  

Working with or teaching kids is not part of the Kumon method.  
How much you may be able to get away with that is unknown.  It's 
certainly not possible with a center large enough to generate an 
average sort of income.  I had in mind to "pull" students through 
Kumon, but I knew from the beginning that would mean a small 
center and poverty-level income.  

I now have a private tutoring business.  I live in Dover, the 
capital of Delaware.  It is the seat of state, county and city 
government.  I thought there would be parents willing to pay for 
tutoring their kids.  It looks as though there is not a resident 
of Dover willing to pay $20 per half hour.  If I had as much 
business as I could handle at that rate, I would barely make a 5-
figure income.  Even with Kumon, there was not a single parent 
who ever expressed what a bargain $80 per month is.  And that at 
a time when the *average* tuition in the Southeast was $115.  
I've heard of a center charging $150.  [Dec 2007 note: The figure 
$125 per month has been showing up in articles, such as in Time 
magazine, as the average Kumon tuition.]

Schools here have always viewed me as the enemy, whether with 
Kumon or in my private business.  

If my web page was too large to digest, the most condensed 
summary is: Kumon math is barren at all levels, and of doubtful 
merit and maliciously hard at the higher levels.  

Hope none of that scares you off.  Everybody can't have the luck 
I have! 



I'm a 19 year old college student at Texas A&M.  I just found 
your site about Kumon and really wanted to thank you for what you 
said. I was an instructor at a Kumon in my hometown over the 
summer and COMPLETELY disagreed with much of what they were doing 
there. I loved that they were trying to give kids that "sky is 
the limit" goal, but I hated that there was only one way to do 
something...and it was the "Kumon way".  

I'm a science major and I know a thing or two about math. I know 
about twenty different ways to do just about everything in math 
and I've been told I'm a good teacher because of it. But when I 
went to Kumon, I was ripped apart because of it.  The head Kumon 
instructor would CONSTANTLY talk to me about not teaching kids 
the "right" way to do something.  

For instance, I happened to be grading a girl's homework while 
she was there doing her daily work.  I was marking EVERY one 
wrong.  I asked her if she maybe wanted me to help explain to her 
what was going on so she wouldn't have to keep doing sheets over 
and over again until perfection was reached.  She gratefully 
accepted the help. I taught her the way I'd always added, 
subtracted, multiplied, and divided fractions. I even showed just 
a few little tricks that always helped me. By the end, she seemed 
SO much happier. I graded her daily work and it had only one 
wrong on it. She told me she felt so much better.  

Then when she took the work up to the instructor to check it, he 
promptly told her not to come to me for help anymore because I 
was showing her the "wrong way"... AKA the "slow way". I never 
quite understood how she was wrong for doing it that way when she 
understood where the answers came from and got all the right 
answers to boot.  

I really hated being a part of something that had no interest in 
understanding; just in time, time, time and perfection. I would 
NEVER put a child through the Hell of Kumon.  

Thanks for making me not feel so alone! 

ME: Thanks for taking the time to write.  It's also therapeutic 
from my end to hear that I'm not totally crazy.  Sounds like that 
particular Kumon instructor should be banished from any kind of 
work in education.  Keep up the great work! 


THEE: We were considering Kumon for my daughter and I found your 
comments when I googled "Kumon" and now I'm not so sure.  Do you 
have any suggestions, based on your experience, regarding 
materials that I might use at home to help my 3rd grade daughter 
with math?  I found a website that sells Otter Creek materials (a 
suggestion from Aunt Patty's website) -just wondering if you knew 
of any others.  

ME: Is your daughter already behind in math?  She's at the right 
age where Kumon may actually be very beneficial in getting her to 
about grade level.  Then you can decide if you want to continue 
with it.  The irony about Kumon is that, as barren as the math 
curriculum is, at least there's a chance a child will do it.  You 
could buy better math material anywhere, blindfolded, but how 
many children will sit down and do daily assignments based on 
parents' orders?  On the other hand, "Kumon" is like some big, 
old, omnipresent genie in the sky that has to be *obeyed*.  Of 
course, a lot of kids don't even fall for that in this day and 
age and stuff their worksheets up above the ceiling tiles.  

In summary, if you were considering Kumon, give it a try for a 
couple of months.  And, as I suggested in my web page, do 
everything your daughter has to do.  Then you will *know*.  

Hope that helps.  

THEE: A quick question. Is it possible to get one set of 
all Kumon worksheets? Thanks 

ME: As far as I know, that's not possible until you've 
become a Kumon instructor.  In case I'm wrong about that, you 
should ask the Franchise Recruitment Manager for your area. 


THEE: Hi, I read your comments about Kumon. I am 
considering signing up my daughter to go there. Do you think 
Kumon is beneficial for dislexic children or is it a waste of 
time?. I am sure you had students with dilexia. what was their 
experience like? My daughter is in 3rd grade with a reading level 
of beginning of 2nd grade. She seems to be doing ok in math. 
Would you recommend that I sign her up for math also or is it 

ME: I only had one student who had a dyslexia-like 
condition where he didn't see words right.  Sometimes I felt sure 
I was seeing improvement, other times I was doubtful.  Measuring 
the "benefits" of any educational program is very difficult, and 
there may be non-academic benefits which aren't obvious.  Sorry 
to be so noncommittal. 

As far as putting a student into two Kumon classes, I would 
really like to hear from parents who have followed my advice to 
do everything the student has to do, and tell me whether they 
think it's too much for the child. 

THEE: Thank you.  I am sure there are many types of 
dyslexia and every child learns in various, individual ways. I 
may try Kumon for six months and see my daughter's progress and 
re-evalute everything then.  Thanks for your time. 


THEE: Thanks for your candid experience on Kumon.  I can't 
say I've read every single word on the BAD part but I do agree 
with the gist of your feedback.  My 3rd grader started Kumon last 
November.  Through Kumon's assessment, my child was only a year 
behind in reading and math. I was told that in 8 months, he would 
be caught up.  Unfortunately, 10 months later, my child is still 
repeating worksheets he has completed a few months ago.  I had 
taken for granted what was taught and had believed that Kumon 
must be the best thing since sliced bread.  It seems that a lot 
of parents had great experiences with their child's progress.  It 
was just a month or so ago when I had taken the time to review 
his work to realize that he's repeating the same stuff over and 
over again.  I finally woke up to the reality that my kid will 
never move on because he will never be PERFECT in that level.  
That's just my child!!!  He just doesn't have the smarts for it.  
They will not let my child move on by simply understanding how to 
solve a problem; he will have to excel within the time limit 
given on the test.  Since he did not do well when timed, it's 
pretty much hopeless on my end to believe that he can advance to 
the next level.  I'm disappointed at my experience.  Now that my 
child has started 4th grade, he's still (according to their 
evaluation) on 2nd grade reading and 3rd grade math.  As far as 
I'm concerned, it just doesn't work for every single child.  I 
just had him pulled out of Kumon recently.  I had spent enough 
money and didn't feel that it was worth it anymore. 

ME: Sorry about your unhappy Kumon experience.  It sounds 
like your Kumon instructor operated too much "by the book".  My 
impression is that most instructors recognize the 
unreasonableness of the mastery requirements and will bend when 
they see that a student can't meet them - which is almost all 
students after the first few levels. 


THEE: i just moved here [Newport richey florida] fr the 
Philippines last February.  i just finished reading  your article 
about kumon and it was very interesting for me since I have been 
wondering whether to put my child who is a 2nd grader, into kumon 
to help her with school stuff.  I was wondering if you have any 
suggestion as to where I can put my child beside kumon.  Thanks 
so much and have a good day. 

ME: I really can't make a suggestion because there are so many 
options out there that it's impossible to know them all.  For 
that matter, it takes years to get familiar with just one!  Also, 
it would depend on your child's particular situation. 

If you were considering Kumon, I would rather you didn't reject 
it based on my web page.  At your child's age, it may be a very 
good thing, particularly, for burning in basic arithmetic.  If 
you accept my advice to do what your child has to do, you will 
know if and when it's time to drop Kumon. 


THEE: I found your comments on Kumon when looking for the 
nearest center, hoping that they would take my son, who is 23!  
He needs to be strong in Math in order to enter College (after 
getting first his GED).  He happened to say yes to my suggestion 
and I was thrilled about it..... 

Nevertheless, your comments did not surprise me at all.  When he 
was a little boy, back in my country (Colombia), I was about to 
register him.  I guess I didn't make all the effort - distance, 
price, and so forth, because there was back in my mind all those 
things you said about the program.  I follow my 
intuition...consciously and some times unconsciously. 

I mainly thought it could be good for him now, since he complains 
that I did not teach/gave him discipline habits.  I raised him 
under the Summer Hill's philosophy.  And I don't regret it. 

Any suggestions about his Math obstacle?  He is an avid reader, 
and he writes beautiful poems, and he can talk very smart about 
most any thing. 

ME: I have heard of older students who made good progress 
up through Kumon's middle levels.  I think you know already that 
it's not going to be a "quick fix"; that there's a *lot* of work 
to be done.  If your son is highly motivated, and the instructor 
will allow him to do much greater workloads than the typical, 
younger student, Kumon may give him a good jumping off point for 
tackling the GED.  Best of luck. 





ME: It's a very difficult thing to say what's "best" for 
students.  There are more options out there than anyone can get 
familiar with.  In your case, I would repeat what I say on my web 
page: do the Kumon assignments before your children so you can 
gauge how beneficial they are.  For example, have your children 
reached a point where they are just "spinning wheels"?  I think 
you can easily find a better math curriculum than Kumon's, but 
can you or the tutor get your children to work through it?  As 
far as reading is concerned, I suspect the children's version of 
Time magazine (Time for Kids) and National Geographic would be a 
lot more interesting and valuable than the Kumon reading 


THEE:  subject  Looking for a tutoring service 

With great interest I read your paper and as a parent, I very 
much appreciated your blunt honesty. 

We have a 4.5 year old daughter in public school and though the 
government has mandated smaller class sizes in Kindegarten 
(1:20), I see that the teacher simply does not have time for one-
on-one interaction with her students.  That said, I would like to 
look into a reading (and perhaps math) tutoring program in order 
to assist my daughter in getting ahead in school. 

The three main programs that I have been looking into are Sylvan, 
Oxford and Kumon.  Most important to me is that my daughter see 
this tutoring program as FUN.  I don't want her to be at a desk 
being talked at (she has years of schooling ahead of her in which 
will be taught in that manner). 

Can you perhaps suggest a service which you know to be a good 
one, while it also respects the young age of my daughter and can 
teach with that in mind? 

P.S.  It may be important to note that we live in Ontario Canada. 

ME: This may come as a surprise, but if you think your daughter 
should be in a reading program, I suggest you give Kumon's a 
chance.  I've seen remarkable results with some very young 
students.  I think Kumon's program for beginning readers may be 
the best thing it has to offer.  I didn't discuss it in my web 
page because I don't think it's what Kumon is mainly associated 
with.  I think your daughter will find the worksheets fun. 

THEE:  Thank you for your surprising answer. 

I will look into Kumon.  Do you feel that the classes for very 
young children are fun as opposed to more of a classroom-type 

ME: For the very young children, there are two slightly 
different possibilities.  If your center runs the formalized 
Junior Kumon program, your daughter will sit at a table with a 
small number of other students.  My own feeling is that, while 
we're supposed to believe in the miraculousness of a small 
student to teacher ratio, one teacher can't really accomplish 
much with a small group of 3, 4, or 5, say, working on different 
assignments.  But just because something's not great doesn't mean 
it's bad.  I think the attention would be more enjoyable than a 
classroom situation for most students.  (I was the exception who 
would rather "hide" in a big class than be exposed in a small 

And we're only talking "center" days.  A student does Kumon every 
day, but only goes into the center twice or once a week.  You 
will be the one working with your child on a daily basis.  That's 
not a scam - you're paying for Kumon's program. 

So the other possibility is a center that has not implemented the 
formal Junior Kumon program, but accepts young students.  In that 
case, you will work with your child at the center on center days 
just as you do at home. 


THEE:  subject  Kumon alternative 

I just read (most) of your critique on Kumon and am glad that I 
did. Though I am not gullible enough to make my decisions based 
on random opinions on the internet, I felt that there was enough 
passion in your prose to convince me, or at least make me 
reconsider, my thoughts of sending my child to Kumon. We have not 
committed to any extra curricular help programs but I feel that 
the time has come. 

I have a seventh grader who is a "gamer". He struggles in school 
but never gives up. His two older brothers seem to him to be able 
to get along in the school environment with ease. I know this 
makes him feel inferior and that he wants to work to be like them 
in this regard, but our study sessions are getting more and more 
contentious. We are both losing patience with each other. 
Obviously, I don't want him to give up his fight. I feel that he 
is getting more reluctant to ask me for help, yet I feel he still 
needs it. This is a kid who can do mental math much better than I 
can (very intuitive with numbers), but can't organize the steps 
to reduce an equation to get an unknown by itself on one side of 
the equal sign. 

It seems to me that you have a deeper knowledge of these extra 
help organizations, and certainly hands on experience with at 
least one of them. Are you aware of any programs that you feel 
may help us in any way? I will of course do my own due-diligence 
and will not take your recommendations at face value. You seem 
like a person committed to education, and any insights would be 

ME: While I really don't want anyone to reject Kumon based 
on a reading of my web page, it really sounds like Kumon is not a 
fit for your son.  If you said he was "nowhere" with math, I 
might've suggested a few months of Kumon to review basic 
arithmetic.  But that's not the problem, and, in any case, it's 
*very* difficult for any student in the middle grades to get up 
to grade level in Kumon - not that there's much correspondence 
between Kumon levels and grades above 5 or 6. 

I'm fascinated by the specific problem you mention - not being 
able to whittle away all the chaff to leave the unknown all by 
itself on one side of the equation.  I've probably heard myself 
say, "Whatever you do to one side of the equation, you do to the 
other," a million times by now.  If a student can't "get" 
something that simple and straightforward, it would have to 
indicate a weakness in more basic material.  In this case, I 
would say the direct predecessor is evaluating involved 
expressions, what Kumon calls "4-operation problems".  Those 
problems make the order of operations second nature.  Then, when 
you get to solving equations, you find yourself naturally peeling 
everything away from the variable in the inverse order - like 
pulling thugs off a friend from the outside in.  When you say, 
"organizing the steps", I would say they organize themselves; the 
equation calls out what to do next.  Unfortunately, you can't go 
to Kumon and say, "I want to start with the 4-operation 

Besides tracking down a workbook of 4-operation problems, the 
only other suggestion, or question, that comes to mind is, do you 
think he would work better with someone outside the family, 
meaning a tutor?  Might that eliminate the contentiousness? 


THEE: Thanks for your insightful opinion regarding the 
Kumon Franchise program. I have my 11 year old daughter now a 
year in half involved in the Kumon program presently in E level. 
She hates doing the monotonous and tediousness of the sheets. I 
emphatically persist the benefit of repetitive math to improved 
skill level. 

I was raised on a method similar to Kumon prior to entering the 
US educational system. The paper used and problems given by Kumon 
reminded me of my Latin schools which incorporated very similar 
rigorous methods long before Kumon arrived on the shores of the 
USA. My husband himself raised on the exact methods used to fall 
asleep in the American 9th grade Algebra classes due to low level 
of education given to American high schoolers in contrast to his 
classes obtained in a public school from his country of origin 
which would have taught this math in 7th Grade equal to 9th 
Algebra I. 

It disappoints me to think you offer no other options in doing 
nothing instead of something.  The only barrier faced by an 
immigrant child entering the USA would be language rather than 
numbers since my earlier experiences have taught me well. My 
initial deficiencies in education primarily dealt with language 
writing & communication. Math was my panacea since obviously math 
is a universal language. It saved me from failing grammar school 
until I adopted the US level of math which was low in comparison. 
My 9th grade Algebra I teacher never taught that year since 
became ill; therefore, half my Algebra I was computer science to 
my own detriment it effected my future in math until my 
graduation - since I never recovered from not learning the 
basics. To my own regret, it prevented me from pursuing a degree 
in science due to lack of confidence in mathematics. 

Ironically, I excelled in everything in school with the exception 
of Math which had been my savior in middle school against the 
English and reading classes. Would you know, I obtained a degree 
in English. I entered the military and was unfortunately told my 
talents were in math and science even more humorous. 

I told my daughter who wants to become an mechanical engineer to 
focus on  math since it is arduous and incredibly puzzling, but 
worth all the efforts due to benefits of the challenge in 
obtaining the solutions to every day problems in science and 
everything around us. In fact, it is the true language of man no 
other language will succumb to its ability to supersede 
boundaries of any language 

ME: Thanks for your thoughts on math education.  I think I 
am being fair to Kumon in my web page.  I feel that it could be 
much, much better than it is.  I think Kumon makes it very 
difficult for even the best students to progress through its 
levels.  I agree that the material taught in Level E is 
important.  Is it making your daughter miserable because she 
doesn't have a good grasp of it yet?  Or can she keep her pencil 
moving through those problems and get the right answers, but the 
instructor repeats her because the time isn't "good enough"?  I'm 
guessing the former, and one of the shames of Kumon's "self-
study" approach is that a teacher or tutor may be able to explain 
things in a few sentences that make everything clear.  Before 
adding and subtracting fractions, a student has to be a whiz at 
breaking numbers into prime factors, and I don't think Kumon does 
enough in that regard. 

Regarding your husband sleeping in Algebra class, I have heard 
that story a hundred times and I will never be sympathetic to it.  
That should be an opportunity for a student to shine above all 
his classmates.  What a wasted opportunity.  I hope in the work 
world he doesn't sleep his way through a job just because it's 
too "easy". 

As far as offering other options to Kumon, I'm not qualified to 
do that.  It took me a couple of years just to get fully familiar 
with Kumon, and there are surely hundreds of math programs out 


THEE: Hi, I was in the process of checking out Kumon 
center opportunities near my home in rural west central Florida 
when I saw your listing on my google search page.  Interesting 
info, particularly for someone (me) who is about ready to go to 
Chicago for training. I was intially looking to purchase an 
existing center but have been having 2nd thoughts for a number of 
reasons - some of which were brought up in your discussion.  I 
would be interested in speaking with you more abour your 
experience! Thanks! 

ME: I'd be happy to try to answer any questions that I 
can.  If you meant jumping right in with a phone call, I think 
I'd be more comfortable with the first round being a list of 
questions by email.  If it's too much to say in email, then we 
could talk. 


THEE: Is there a supplemental math program that you would 
recommend over Kumon? 

ME: I don't know Sylvan or Huntington - they're as secretive as 
Kumon and I suppose you have to join up to see what you're 
getting.  I'd imagine almost any math curriculum would have to be 
better than Kumon's.  But whereas your child would not likely do 
20 minutes of extra math a day on your say-so, he might do Kumon, 
for a while, at least, since Kumon has the aura of something that 
is "big" and "official", and costs money. 


THEE: Thanks so much for the candid insider's perspective 
of Kumon. I wish you lived in the Atlanta area so I could hire 
you to tutor my kids in Math. I'll probably start them w/ Kumon 
for extra practice and mainly to keep them off of the computer 
games, which is a considerable lure to kids these days. If you 
have any other suggestions, let me know. Sylvan Learning Center 
seems too commercial, and is quite expensive. I'm open to hear 
any other thoughts you may have. 

ME: Your plan sounds good to me.  Just keep close tabs on 
the Kumon so you'll have a good idea when it's "done it's job."  
I was in an educational book store just today and saw lots of 
math workbooks that would make nice complements to Kumon - not 
that your kids want even more!  But they might be something to 
try after Kumon is done.  Some that looked pretty good to me, at 
a quick glance, were "Daily Math Practice" (Evan Moore), "Daily 
Math Warm-ups" (Carson Dellosa), "Real-World Math" (word 
problems), "Word Problems" (Kelley Wingate), and "Jump Into 
Math".  Good luck! 

P.S.  About keeping kids off of computer games, what about 
softball or kickball? 


THEE: I've just read your information about Kumon. I now 
have tears in my eyes.  This was my plan to help my child.  The 
Kumon center is the most affordable of the supplemental centers 
in our area.  After reading what you wrote, I don't know where to 
turn.  I just want to help him.  He is 8 in the 4th grade and 
struggling.  Do you have any suggestions? A very distraught mom. 

ME: If Kumon is nowhere near as good as it could be, that 
doesn't mean it is necessarily bad or valueless.  Students in 
mid-elementary school are probably the best candidates for Kumon.  
At those levels, Kumon is pure arithmetic.  That's only 40% of 
what's taught in elementary schools nowadays, but it's the most 
important thing.  Obviously, your son needs to be drilled in 
basic arithmetic, and that's what Kumon will do, even if it could 
do it much better.  Nobody else out there does it at all.  Give 
it a try; keep very close tabs on what your son is going through; 
and don't give any thought now about the higher levels. 

Don't worry! 

P.S.  Isn't 8 mighty young for the 4th grade? 


THEE: I have just visted your site concerning Kumon.  I am 
desperately looking for something to help my boys get through 
school.  My oldest is 8 and is the kind of kid who thinks outside 
the box.  Which makes school tricky.  I saw an ad about Kumon and 
started to search it when I ran across your web page and I am 
wondering if you have found a program you like better.  I really 
would just like something to supplement at home with.  Do you 
have any suggestions? 

ME: That's a good question, and almost impossible for me 
to answer.  There are probably hundreds, or thousands, of 
programs, and it took me a year or so to really get to know 
Kumon.  If your son is motivated and will do work on his own or 
on your say-so, I would just suggest going to the nearest 
educational resources book store and pick out some work books 
that look reasonably fun.  If you're saying your son thinks *too* 
far outside the box, *too* much of the time, perhaps Kumon is 
just what the doctor ordered for getting him to do a little 
thinking *inside* the box.  I would argue we need both skills.  
At his age, he'd be looking at a couple of years of plus, minus, 
multiply and divide, buy you could pull him out before it kills 


THEE: Here is a question from a Kumon Parent. My son just 
started Kumon reading and has been completing the 2a1 level 
within less than 1 minute to 1 minute window for each sheet with 
a 100 percent accuracy. His teacher assigned him the same work 
sheets over again to work on for the whole week which I found 
baffling. And I asked why, her answer was that Kumon suggests 
repititions. But I thought Kumon encouraged a student to go at 
his own pace. Should I consider moving him to another center that 
would allow him to move at his pace? I hope this e-mail finds 

ME: I'm really not in a position to say whether the reading 
repetitions are necessary or unnecessary.  In fairness, 
repetition is a fundamental component of Kumon, and by signing 
up, one is showing one's acceptance of that.  I would recommend 
against moving to another center in the blind hope that the pace 
will be "better" there.  That's an unknown, and the instructor 
certainly can't make any guarantees upfront. I will say that, as 
a Kumon instructor, the parents who demanded that their children 
just blast through everything, one time, made things *very* 
difficult.  Kumon is "slow and steady wins the race."  My own 
belief is that *everything* benefits by being read twice.  You 
always see something new the second time around.  Knowing how a 
story, for example, ends makes clearer things that lead up to the 
ending.  All this is to say that I always assigned the reading 
worksheets twice, even if a student did a so-called "perfect" job 
the first time.  But my technique was to send the student all the 
way through the level, and then all the way through again.  That 
way he isn't rereading something he just read a few days ago, 
making it somewhat fresher.  If that sounds more agreeable to 
you, you might ask the instructor if she would go for that plan. 


THEE: I read every word of your Kumon pieces (G/B/&theU), 
as my wife is hot-to-trot on us purchasing a Kumon franchise.  
I've been reluctant from the beginning, as it has just "seemed" 
to me that it's a whole truck-load of work (for an educated 
ageing boomer like me) for the amount of salary the center-
owner/instructor would be able to pay him/herself from the 
average sized center.  Of course, we couldn't get any specifics 
out of the local center we interviewed (in San Antonio); and you 
know what the Kumon company "line" is on anticipated profits. 

I was wondering if you'd be kind enough (and willing) to give me 
the "low down" on center ownership profitablity.  When I, myself, 
put the numbers to it (at $100/student/month) it seems like one 
would need a proverbial truck-load of students to pay oneself the 
kind of money we need to keep our lifestyle afloat (>$120K/yr.).  
I'd be grateful for whatever light you'd be willing to shed on 
Kumon profitability (for serious lookers like us). 

ME: It looks to me like you've crunched the numbers 
correctly.  I've never even *thought* what it would take to net 
$120K/yr - probably two large centers!  It sounds to me like 
you'd have to have 100 students at $135/mo. - and a rent-free 
business space. 

If it's hard to get rich in Kumon, keep in mind it's only about 2 
days of work per week after you find your groove.  I went into 
Kumon just looking to net in the mid to high teens. 


THEE: Thank you so much for your comments about Kumon. I 
am thinking of putting my 4th-grade son in a program that will 
help him develop focus, and I think Kumon may do that, but so 
might other programs that are more supportive. I will be 
investigating Huntington and other options (some locally based). 
Glad you are encouraging parents to do the worksheets to see what 
their children are being asked to do. 

ME: Thanks for the kind words.  So far, I've gotten almost 
no feedback from parents who have taken my suggestion to do the 
Kumon assignments, which disappoints me somewhat. 


THEE: Your complaints about Kumon seem odd. Did you not read 
about Kumon before getting involved. As a person in business you 
know the risks and responsibilities for all persons involved. A 
franchise is a business. (A COOKIE CUTTER BUSINESS) Perhaps if 
schools taught children PERFECTLY there would be no need for 
Kumon. Kumon does not replace the classroom, the teacher and the 
one on one attention the school provides.  Kumon provides a 
service. Demanding that a child maintains a discipline in a 
subject. Frankly many parents and teachers sadly lack self 
discipline and the need for a Kumon environment can be useful. It 
is not a touchy feely place. It is rather task master. I think it 
is actually nice for American children to experience this.  Our 
counter parts in Japan, Taiwan and other countries are a lot less 
interested in the individual.  They stress education far more 
than we do.  They have much higher expectations as well. I 
personally don't agree with their priorities but I do think 
giving our kids a taste of that can benefit them in many ways. A 
balance in education. Parents need to provide all the options 
based on their child. Not on one opinion, but the many needs of 
the child. A child's temperment, health, previous experience and 
the parents ability to provide what is needed. Although not for 
everyone. Kumon can be used very successfully.  Hope your future 
experiences are better.

ME: Thanks for your thoughts.  My students got the most demanding 
form of Kumon.  For the most part, they got everything on the 
first shot, without all the floundering about students experience 
in other Kumon centers.  


THEE: Great Article re: Kumon !! 

I'm a Kumon parent with a 5th grader in Level I (math) and a 
first grader who's just starting.  

I totally agree with your observations regading the Kumon method.  
My 5th grade daughter who started Kumon in 1st grade hardly 
stepped inside a Kumon center.  The only time we go there is to 
drop off and pick up the worksheets.  The reason being is that we 
(my daughter and I) find the center hot, crowded, noisy, and 
extremely unorganized.  

Anyway, I personally help my kids through their worksheets 
especially when they get stuck on a particularly tricky question.  
There have been so many times that I would curse Kumon on their 
method of approaching math problems.  The latest case for 
instance was last week when my daughter approached me for help on 
a factorization problem.   It goes: 

   2(x+y)^2 + 7(x+y) + 5     ,    ( ^2 = squared.) 

Instead of encouraging the student to step back, observe, and 
realize that the above polynomial is actually in the form of  x^2 
+ 2xy + y^2,  what followed was a fill in the blank polynomial 
which is simply a template to be memorized.   There is no effort 
at all to show the students a "number sense".  

If it weren't for my wife's and my extensive background in math 
(we're both engineers), I don't know who would show our kids a 
balanced way of learning math.  Definitely not Kumon.  Though our 
daughter excels in Kumon math as well as in school, I wonder how 
she will do if my wife and I do not have the math background to 
help her.  If we follow the Kumon method strictly which means, 
she does her worksheet, we correct it based on the answer book, 
and not coach her (probably like some parents who are not as good 
in math), what would her progress be like?  

I would even dare say that those Kumon students who really excel 
in Kumon math do so because their parents or guardian have good 
math knowledge themselves and are helping their kids with the 
worksheets and not just checking them.  I just don't see any way 
these kids excel in such short time in a Kumon center where they 
hardly get a chance to talk to the Kumon teacher.  

And yet, we must admit that we just started our 1st grader in the 
program.  What we really wanted from it is the discipline; the 
setting aside the time each day for work;  the study habit.  

We both are busy professionals with 3 kids.  The daily system 
that Kumon provides has been our only solution.  We are open to 
other solutions but as of now we haven't found one that caught 
our attention.  

ME: Thank you very much for your comments on Kumon.  It has 
occurred to me since writing the page that I forgot to mention 
the "side" benefit of Kumon - which may actually be its main 
benefit - the fostering of discipline and good work habits.  
Still, there *must* be better, more valuable, and more fun ways 
of getting that.  

For what it's worth, do you know that there is no factorization 
whatsoever on the SAT - never mind the high-wire, acrobatic stuff 
Kumon puts you through?  (I don't mean to imply that Kumon should 
teach to the SAT, which has nothing on it I didn't learn by 7th 
grade, and passes over much of what I did.) 


THEE: I have been sending my eight year old daughter to a Kumon 
Maths centre in Bishop's Stortford, UK since March 2006.  She has 
always been pretty good at maths, but we felt in basic arithmetic 
she was just a bit 'lazy'. So my husband and I felt that Kumon 
would be good for her.  

However, after a good start we have now, 7 months in, reached 
crisis point. She hates Kumon with a passion. We have tears every 
single morning. She is taking 25 minutes to do level A '10 
minute' worksheets and she is thoroughly bored to a point where I 
do believe she is starting to hate maths as a subject at school 

I wish I had never started the Kumon programme. However, I am not 
sure what to do now. Surely to let her (and me) stop, would be 
like admitting defeat and sending out the message that she can 
give up anything in life that she finds difficult or boring. Am I 
being to melodramatic considering she is only eight years old?  

I suppose the reason I am writing to you is to ask whether you 
think that Kumon is really beneficial enough to go through all 
this heartache every morning. I don't know whether to give it up 
and let her enjoy her maths at her own pace, or to struggle on 

ME: I'm guessing the situation you describe has played out in 
millions of Kumon homes to date.  My strong suggestion is that, 
when a child starts Kumon, a very reasonable goal should be set.  
I don't mean Kumon's on-going and ever-receding goals, but a 
definite stopping point which earns the child a year off, say, 
from Kumon.  The goal might be a Kumon level about one year above 
the child's current level.  That should take a year or so to 
reach, and would get the child to about grade level at his 
stopping point.  Of course, if he's enthusiastic about 
continuing, that's fine, but my point is, there is a world of 
difference between having to do something slightly distasteful, 
and having to do something slightly distasteful with NO END IN 
SIGHT - the latter situation describing Kumon precisely.  Parents 
don't think about this when they sign up because, for one thing, 
they have no idea how unreasonable Kumon's higher math levels 

Of course, your daughter has gotten nowhere near those higher 
levels.  I'm not clear about whether her long times for the level 
A work are strictly due to stubbornness, or whether she still 
needs to improve.  Keep in mind that Kumon's "standard completion 
times" are *very* coarse (which is completely inexcusable.) I see 
that in Level A, I did some of the sets in 4 minutes, but a 
couple took 9 minutes, and one took 10 minutes.  I'm sure your 
Kumon instructor is not aware of this variance from set to set 
within a level.  If your 8-year-old is doing an assignment in 20 
minutes that takes me 10 minutes, that is very, very good.  I 
might even be skeptical of her recorded time! 

Here's how you might save face.  Rather than surrender, set a 
goal as mentioned above.  It might be the end of Level C, or even 
Level B.  Based on what you've said, it would make sense to let 
her off from Kumon forever at that point.  It just doesn't sound 
like it's right for her.  

Another thing: if she's doing Kumon assignments 7 days a week, 
knock it back to 6, or maybe even 5.  Even grown-ups get weekends 
off from work.  

Also remember my suggestion that you, the parent, do every Kumon 
assignment the child has to.  Revisit my page for all my reasons 
for that.  If I didn't mention it there, you will know even better 
than the Kumon instructor how well your daughter is *really* doing.  


Contact Donald Sauter: send an email; view guestbook; sign guestbook.
Back to Donald Sauter's main page.
Rather shop than think? Please visit My Little Shop of Rare and Precious Commodities.
Back to the top of this page.