E-mails and comments welcome from teachers and learners of all ages.  
November 27, 2002
More about Kumon

I mentioned my brief involvement as a Kumon helper, in this post last week. Anyone wanting an outsider's view of the Kumon maths system that doesn't take too long to read, and which emphasises both its methods and effectiveness, and the wider implications of that achievement for education as a whole, may find this helpful. It's part of the Adam Smith Institute "Around the World in 80 Ideas" project, which looks very good, both literally in the sense of looking good on the computer screen and (it seems to me) being well organised and easy and intuitive to use, and in the sense of covering a wide variety of subjects briefly and interestingly.

Sample paragraph:

Kumon's individualist approach overcomes the problems of the collectivist grade system. It allows pupils to move at their own speed: slower pupils are able to move at a pace which does not intimidate and discourage them, and faster pupils are able to move at a pace which does not frustrate and bore them. The method thus allows people to acquire a skill to the maximum level, which their own abilities allow, which will be of enormous utility for the rest of their lives.

Oh, I didn't spot this until now, but I get a mention! Much more important fact: Kumon are now getting seriously stuck in to the teaching of basic literacy. This is a more complex task than maths, but they believe that the same basic methodology applies. I wouldn't dare to differ.

Yet more evidence of the continuing importance, global influence and general vitality of Japan and its culture. There's more to that place than electronic toys.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:07 PM
Category: Free market reformsMaths

Unfortunately the Kumon English programme doesn't use a synthetic phonic approach but starts from a whole word base. A missed opportunity - what a shame!

A major difficulty as I see it, with teaching a sound code through mostly self-learning and worksheets is that the important aural element is missing.

Comment by: Susan Godsland on November 27, 2002 02:36 PM

We use a spelling program (programme?) that is based on a very similar concept. The authors have collected the 5000 most-used English words. Each day the kids have a list to study for a few minutes. They are then tested on the list with immediate feedback/correction. When they miss five words, the test is over. The next day, the new list has the five missed words and then picks up where they stopped the previous day. Thus, each student has a different spelling list. It would probably be difficult to implement in a classroom with 30 pupils but works wonderfully in a homeschool setting.

Comment by: Daryl Cobranchi on November 27, 2002 05:18 PM

We have a really original way of learning to read. We find a book he finds interesting and we read it together. When we get to a word we don't know, I tell him what it is and we carry on.

No failure, no testing, just good old fashioned enjoyment.

Oh yes, and we read the lyrics on CD covers, spiderman comics, the Sunday papers etc etc.

Guess what? He learns all the words he is ever going to need. Not sure if we will win any spelling bees though. What is one of those anyway?

Comment by: Mike Peach on November 27, 2002 10:40 PM

Mike, I suggest you have a read of this

Comment by: Susan Godsland on December 2, 2002 05:50 PM

I agree with the author.

Comment by: whois on August 23, 2003 03:49 AM
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