Lifelong Learning

Confessions of a Kumon Mom

I confess. It’s my fault that my son doesn’t like math. Before he entered 1st grade, I thought it would be a great idea to give him the same advantage enjoyed by many successful Asian mathematicians. The media often reminds us that Americans are losing the math wars, and I didn’t want his path to Nobel laureate to be hindered by a lack of mathematical skills.

The Kumon Math program seemed like a good way to ensure that he gained those skills. Kumon started in Japan, but centers can now be found throughout the US. Students visit the center weekly for testing and to pick up a packet of worksheets that they complete daily. Based on the assessment test, they are placed at a level that they can comfortably handle. The Kumon philosophy is that repetition and success breeds math confidence and excellence.

My daughter enrolled in the Kumon program late in 2nd grade, when she started doing math fact drills in school. The Kumon practice was an extension of what she was doing in class, and it really helped to reinforce her school work. She gained confidence in her math abilities because the daily practice enabled her to shine in math class.

By 5th grade, daily Kumon practice had definitely lost its allure. The 10 minute worksheets were dragged out into hours. School math was easy, so she saw no benefit to extracurricular math practice.

Meanwhile, we saw many Asian preschoolers picking up their Kumon packets and feared that her younger brother was falling behind. We enrolled my son in the program when he was in Kindergarten. Soon, he was completing worksheets with single digit addition and subtraction. This was much more writing work than the “easy” math in school. Kumon became a dreaded exercise in “drill and kill.” Eventually, we discontinued Kumon practice for both kids.

Now I’m paying for my eagerness by having to overcome my son’s  aversion to math. He just wasn’t ready to practice math facts when he didn’t understand the concepts behind the process. My daughter, on the other hand, asked to go back to Kumon. She was in a more challenging math class at school and feared that her rusty math skills were slowing her down. (Note that at that point her schedule did not permit her to return to the Kumon program.)

Learning math is like learning to play a musical instrument or to speak a foreign language. You need to build your knowledge base, bit by bit. You also need to do your daily practice. Kumon is an excellent way to provide the daily practice, but it is not a substitute for the hard work of learning to understand the ideas behind the problems.

Find It! Kumon Centers In The Capital Region:

  • Kumon Center, 265 Osborne Road, Colonie, NY 12211, (518) 453-2393
  • Kumon Center, 1407 Route 9 Bld. 1, Clifton Park, NY 12065, 518-371-4715, Center Website
  • Kumon Center – 2080 Western Ave., Suite 104, Guilderland, NY 12084, 518-596-0150, Center Website

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