Continually pursuing potential: The 60 years of Kumon

Concerned that her 8-year-old son, Takeshi, didn’t do as well as she had expected in a grade 2 maths test. Teiko told this to her husband, Toru Kumon, who was then a high school mathematics teacher, who then decided to make worksheets to help his son gradually improve his calculation skills.

Toru had Takeshi complete these worksheets every day and hand them back for marking. Every day, Takeshi would then have to correct his mistakes on the previous worksheet, as well as complete the new worksheet which Toru assigned him.
These were the precursors of today’s Kumon worksheets. By studying them Takeshi advanced from relearning addition in grade 2, to proficiently learning differential and integral calculus in grade 6.

“Thanks to this learning method, I didn’t have to study maths at home at all when

I was a junior and senior high school student. It was enough for me if I just listened to lessons in schools,” Takeshi once said about his experience as the first Kumon student.

“Another result of my Kumon study was the realisation that I could master unknown content that I had not been taught.”

Founding & expansion

Encouraged by Takeshi’s success, Toru and Teiko Kumon, Takeshi’s mother, started a maths centre at home in 1955 and invited children from the neighbourhood to study with them. About ten children turned up.

The Kumon Method helped all of these children learn and grow. Toru wanted to expand this method as he believed that while each and every child has great potential, they need to be taught how to harness it. Therefore, the company, Osaka Institute of Mathematics, was officially founded in 1958 in Osaka, Japan.

In 1962, the company The Osaka Institute of Mathematics Ltd was incorporated and by 1969, the total number of subject enrolments exceeds 10,000.

In 1974, Kumon made began its overseas expansion by opening its first Centre in New York, followed by Taiwan in 1975, Brazil in 1977 and Germany in 1979.

Kumon then expanded further from the 1990s through to the 2000s. In total, Kumon is now present in more than 50 countries and regions around the world.

60 years on ­– is Kumon still relevant?

Fast forward to 2018, when Kumon celebrates its 60th anniversary, one might wonder if the pencil and paper approach of Kumon is still relevant with the prevalence of technology. After all, technology has given birth to numerous apps that promises learning without the need of a face-to-face session with an instructor or teacher. However, as every child is different, so the ways to guide a student on their worksheets differs from student to student as well.

Having twice weekly face-to-face sessions allows Kumon Instructors the opportunities to observe the students doing the work, understanding their thought process and study habits. These will help Instructors gauge the “just-right” level for the students and the way to instruct them. While we embrace technology, the face-to-face interaction between students and Instructors is still an indispensable aspect of the Kumon Method and will continue to stay relevant in the 21st century today.


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