Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Consider Supplemental Math Programs For Children

November 14, 2007
Washington University in St. Louis
Parents of school-aged children might want to think of giving their children an enduring holiday gift this year: enrollment in a supplemental mathematics program. While it can cost anywhere from $80 to $110 a month, the results of practicing mathematics nearly daily is rewarding and builds self-esteem.

(Left to right) Brooke Taylor, Kumon-Ladue assistant instructor and WUSTL Ph.D. student in English literature, first-grader Marley Hermann, Dan Kimura, senior professor of computer science and engineering and instructor at Kumon-Ladue and second-grader Samantha Hermann review math problems during a session at the Kumon-Ladue math program on Clayton Road in Ladue. The Hermann girls are sisters. Supplemental math programs, such as Kumon, Singapore and Saxon, are gaining popularity. Kumon math has nearly 180,000 students enrolled in the United States and more than four million worldwide.
Credit: David Kilper/WUSTL Photo

Parents of school-aged children might want to think of giving their children an enduring holiday gift this year: enrollment in a supplemental mathematics program. While it can cost anywhere from $80 to $110 a month, the results of practicing mathematics nearly daily is rewarding to both students and parents. In fact, parents might be even bigger recipients of this gift than their children. While their children gain self-esteem and confidence, the parents very likely will feel a sense of relief and pride in their children's accomplishment.

Related Articles

Singapore, Saxon and Kumon are three popular such programs. Many home-school practitioners use the first two, and Kumon, which involves daily practice and some tutoring, is popular with parents who feel their schools might be letting them down.

Dan Kimura, Ph.D., a senior professor of computer science and engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, opened St. Louis' first Kumon center in 1984, in large part because of his disappointment in the math education that his sons were getting. Mathematics is a major foundation of computer science, and Kimura, whose specialty is software programming, took action.

Begun in Kimura's hometown, Moriguchi, Japan, in 1958 by the late Toru Kumon, a math teacher who invented it to help his sons, Kumon math has more than four million students enrolled worldwide in 43 countries, nearly 180,000 in the United States. The method stresses repetition, speed, accuracy, individual pace, hard work and goal orientation in teaching mathematics.

Finding their level, then advancing

Students begin at a comfortable learning level, having been tested to determine that level, working with paper and pencil on series of calculations devised to reinforce what they learn; they master a learning phase at their own pace, pass a timed test and go onto another level. They do their problems at home daily for 15 to 30 minutes and meet weekly with their Kumon instructors for a half hour to 45 minutes. Gradually, after much positive reinforcement, Kumon practitioners gain self-confidence and, if they stick with the program, their mathematics progress invariably improves greatly, said Kimura.

Kimura said the reason that many parents are seeking supplemental help for their children in mathematics is the American method of teaching and the contents taught.

"The philosophy in American schools is a bottom-up approach, where the basic assumption is that every child has the innate ability to learn, the purpose of education is to help kids grow, that the direction they take is rooted in their DNA and that cannot be altered, and that teachers and parents should facilitate this growth process," said Kimura. "There is a sense that you can't force students to learn, that it stifles creativity. The best a teacher can do is to suggest that students learn certain things, but students shouldn't be forced."

What's missing, Kimura said, is the concept of training.

"The Kumon method is based on training, and is a top-down approach that stresses achieving goals," he said. "The process of practice and training is very painful. Top-class athletes and musicians will tell you that, too. Kids may not like it, but kids don't see the goals. They do, however, feel the satisfaction of achieving a goal. Parents are the immediate beneficiaries of Kumon math. They see the goals, and they see the progress."

Kimura runs two suburban Kumon math centers, one in a well-to-do suburb that services 350 students. A newer one in a blue-collar suburb, where schools have lost accreditation from No Child Left Behind, has about 60 students.

Thinking vs. knowing

Kimura said that there are two stages in acquiring knowledge: thinking and knowing. For example, 3+2=5. Students trained in Kumon math or exposed to the training concept in another context, once they are in the knowing stage, know that automatically. In contrast, he said the way that the simple calculation is taught in schools today is to attach icons, such as apples, to the numbers so that students supposedly grasp the concept.

"From the beginning, American students are exposed to the applications of mathematics," Kimura said. "In my humble opinion, that is not teaching mathematics, rather the applications of mathematics. The philosophy in Kumon is that you have to learn mathematics before applying it."

The transition to the knowing stage is speed, Kimura said, calling it perhaps the most vital tenet of the method.

"The Kumon method stresses the syntax of mathematics, not the semantics, which is opposite of the way mathematics has been taught in America for several decades," said Kimura. "In the schools today, learning revolves around student-centered curricula: the teacher creates a social environment that stresses education, citizenship and self-esteem, which are, indeed, worthy learning components. From this environment, the student is expected to construct his own body of knowledge. But this is like teaching a child to play tennis by telling him to create his own method. It de-emphasizes the concept of training.

"If you do not know how to read, write and compute, how can you construct your own body of knowledge? More and more parents and teachers are beginning to see that learning cannot be achieved without training."

With Kumon, the basics become as automatic as a piano player practicing the scales, laying the foundation for higher level reasoning skills.

Kumon parents marvel over improved attention spans, mathematics grades, test-taking skills and overall attitude of their children. It's not just for remedial students, either. Kimura says nearly 45 percent of his Kumon students are performing well beyond their grade levels. "It's not uncommon for elementary school children to advance into algebra and trigonometry with the Kumon method," he said.

Some even take it to prepare for the SAT and ACT tests.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington University in St. Louis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

Washington University in St. Louis. "Consider Supplemental Math Programs For Children." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 November 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071113150554.htm>.
Washington University in St. Louis. (2007, November 14). Consider Supplemental Math Programs For Children. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071113150554.htm
Washington University in St. Louis. "Consider Supplemental Math Programs For Children." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071113150554.htm (accessed January 30, 2015).

Share This

More From ScienceDaily

More Mind & Brain News

Friday, January 30, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Binge-Watching TV Linked To Loneliness

Binge-Watching TV Linked To Loneliness

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) Researchers at University of Texas at Austin found a link between binge-watching TV shows and feelings of loneliness and depression. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Signs You Might Be The Passive Aggressive Friend

Signs You Might Be The Passive Aggressive Friend

BuzzFeed (Jan. 28, 2015) "No, I&apos;m not mad. Why, are you mad?" Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com
City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

City Divided: A Look at Model Schools in the TDSB

The Toronto Star (Jan. 27, 2015) Model schools are rethinking how they engage with the community to help enhance the lives of the students and their parents. Video provided by The Toronto Star
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Man Saves Pennies For 65 Years

Rooftop Comedy (Jan. 26, 2015) A man in Texas saved every penny he found for 65 years, and this week he finally cashed them in. Bank tellers at Prosperity Bank in Slaton, Texas were shocked when Ira Keys arrived at their bank with over 500 pounds of loose pennies stored in coffee cans. After more than an hour of sorting and counting, it turned out the 81 year-old was in possession of 81,600 pennies, or $816. And he&apos;s got more at home! Video provided by Rooftop Comedy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins