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Australia • Brunei • Cambodia • India • Indonesia • Malaysia • Myanmar • New Zealand • Philippines • Singapore • Sri Lanka • Thailand • Vietnam

JAN – JUN 2018

My Kumon journey

Ashlee Claire

Kumon features

Repetition — is it necessary or redundant?

A pencil and paper approach to learning in the age of information communication technology

Editor’s note


As the number of students enrolled in Kumon continues to grow, the sharing of information with Kumon families is more important than ever. In light of this, we are proud to bring you the first edition of Potential for 2018. In this edition, we hear from parent, Jong, about how Kumon helped his daughter, Ashlee, to have strong reading skills before she entered Year 1, and the support he and his wife have been providing to Ashlee throughout her two and a half years at Kumon. We also hear from Kumon Maths and English completer, Claire, about what inspired her to complete two Kumon programmes, and how this helped her transition into high school. Our feature article shares comments from a Kumon parent who is a mathematician, about his son’s experience in Kumon Maths. This article discusses why a pencil and paper approach to learning in the age of information communication technology is still relevant. We hope you enjoy this issue of Potential as much as we enjoyed writing it. We look forward to learning even more with you in 2018.



A confident start to school Ashlee

of flow: transitioning from 04 State primary to high school Claire

KUMON FEATURES — is it necessary or 06 Repetition redundant?

08 Instructors’ quotes 10

A pencil and paper approach to learning in the age of information communication technology

Sincerely The Kumon Public Relations Team

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My Kumon journey

A confident start to school Ashlee, 9


Jong, how did you and HaeJin support Ashlee in the first few months at Kumon? In the first couple of months we supported by always reading Ashlee’s Kumon worksheets to her, and we helped her with the CD player. I thought she might not be able to concentrate on the reading, so we helped her press play, pause, stop, etc. She really enjoyed it, and I think she appreciated that we were doing her worksheets together. At first I thought it was a lot of effort, but a few months later, after the CD listening finished, she became confident to study by herself. How much English do you speak at home as a family? We mainly speak Korean at home. We try not to speak much English because we would like Ashlee to learn Korean well. That’s why we put her into Kumon, to develop her English skills. Ashlee reads both Korean and English books at home and reads twice as many English books as Korean books. Is there anything that has impressed you about Ashlee’s development? When we enrolled Ashlee in Kumon, we were attracted to the feature of daily study, as we felt it would help her develop good habits. For example, we like that Ashlee has developed a habit of doing a little bit of work each day, and we like that Kumon has improved her behaviour as well as her reading skills. She is very good at listening to what we say. When we say, ‘Let’s do Kumon’, she says, ‘Yes’; she listens to her parents very well. How would you describe Ashlee’s experience of entering Year 1? It’s really been amazing. She is a happy, confident girl, who enjoys reading books, drawing, and sometimes watching TV. Outside of school she does ice skating and plays the violin and piano. I think

When Jong and his wife, HaeJin, enrolled their daughter, Ashlee, in Kumon, one of their aims was to help prepare Ashlee for school. As the family speaks Korean at home, it was also important to them that Ashlee receive additional support with her English. One year after enrolling, Ashlee’s Prep teacher reported her reading level was that of a Year 2 student. We spoke with Jong about how he and his wife have supported Ashlee with her learning at home.

her Kumon helped her a lot when she went to school. She reads a lot and has a big vocabulary, which she developed because of Kumon. What kind of feedback have you received from Ashlee’s school? Each year, we receive feedback from the teacher halfway through the year, and each year, the teacher says her English is excellent. When she was in Prep, she was at reading level 20, which is quite high. That was quite amazing news for us! She is in Year 1 now and her reading level is still high. This year what kind of support have you given so that Ashlee stays happy about Kumon? We try to focus on Kumon every day, never putting it off until tomorrow. We developed a routine where she knows that she does Kumon first thing in the morning, even on the weekend. Now, when she wakes up, she automatically does her Kumon. In the morning she will say, ‘Daddy, Daddy, I finished Kumon’. It’s really good behaviour now. My wife and I also mark Ashlee’s work ourselves. This helps her because otherwise it would be a lot for her to have to catch up on all her weekly corrections in class, plus do her new classwork. And, by having us mark all her work on the same day, she can correct her mistakes and have 100 percent understanding each day.

How have the staff at the Kumon Centre supported your family? Kumon Underwood staff really are very kind and helpful. They are very flexible to our needs. For example, if we can’t attend one particular day or are running late, they say, ‘Okay we will leave the books on the bench and you can collect them any time’. This is really helpful, as it means Ashlee doesn’t miss out on any work. Do you have any advice for other Kumon parents? I think the best thing parents can do is support their child a lot in the first few months especially. We took this approach with Ashlee where we did the work together, so she could get used to the daily study. I think it’s sometimes quite hard for parents to have time to take their children to Kumon—there’s the travel to the centre, the 30-minute wait, and the travel home, twice each week. However, we really don’t mind and are quite happy to do it, because we know it will help Ashlee improve her English skills. having us mark all her work on the same day, she can correct her mistakes and have 100 percent understanding each day.

My Kumon journey

Claire, 14



laire is an accomplished 14-year-old. In Year 7 at school, she has already completed her AMusA1 in violin and has twice competed in the Australian Nationals for swimming, in Year 5 and then Year 6. But it was her progress in Kumon English and Maths that helped Claire achieve a comfortable transition from primary to high school. Thinking back to the start of her Kumon journey, the main reason why Claire enrolled was to improve her English skills: ‘At first, my vocabulary and my reading comprehension were both very weak. As I completed each level, I improved a lot and I became much more confident in my English skills’. When she discovered there was a maths programme, Claire decided then, that she really wanted to complete it. ‘I saw it as a race – English was one race and maths was another. I felt that if I only completed English, I would only have done half the job. And, even though my maths skills were pretty good, I wanted to enrol in Kumon Maths to prepare for high school.’ This decision definitely helped Claire achieve her goal of being prepared. She says, ‘Kumon has changed me because it has made me more mature. From very early on, I had to find a balance between school homework, violin practice, swimming training and Kumon, and it taught me a lot about prioritising my time and time efficiency.’

I wanted to enrol in Kumon Maths to prepare for high school. With reports of declining participation rates in calculusbased maths in high school, there is concern among parents and educators that children aren’t being provided with the right support and opportunities to develop the skills necessary for STEM-based careers. However, having completed Kumon Maths in Year 7, Claire is well on her way to mastering calculus. She says, ‘In maths, we learned factorisation at the end of Year 7, but I already knew how to do it because of Kumon. I wasn’t confused at all, unlike many other girls in my class. For me, the learning process flowed, kind of like a river, and the prior learning helped me avoid being stressed’. The transition to high school can sometimes be challenging, bringing increases to student workload and changes in class formats and structure, not to mention the social and extracurricular demands. Claire says that upon entering Year 7, ‘I noticed a difference in the volume of homework compared with primary school and in the amount of time it took. Kumon helped me with that a lot.’ No significant achievement comes without a few challenges along the way. When Claire encountered a problem she couldn’t work out, her strategy was to skip that

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question and go on with the next few questions. ‘After I finished the worksheet I would go back and see if I could solve it. If I couldn’t, I would do the previous questions again to clarify the steps and see if I could figure it out from there’, she says. In times when her motivation was failing, Claire says her mum was her biggest support. ‘It is because of her that I did Kumon. When I struggled, Mum would reassure me, saying, “After you finish this level there will only be three levels left”, or, “You’re nearly finished, you can do it”. She would sometimes bring me snacks to keep me motivated’, Claire says. For Claire, learning is an exciting process that is made easier with the right support network. ‘On your first time riding a bike, you might be scared of falling off, but it is okay if there’s someone at the back to support you. Learning something new is like an event for me. I actually really like learning new things. If I get a new maths problem that I don’t know how to solve, I won’t stop until I solve it.’ Claire also takes motivation from her idols, Olympians James Magnussen and Cathy Freeman. She says, ‘They have to practise and train so hard: the amount of practice they do really motivates me. Just thinking

about it makes me wonder how they deal with it and keeps me motivated for my own goals and my academics’. According to Claire, there are two different types of marathon runners in the world, those who do half of the race and give up, and those who complete the race. ‘Kumon is like a marathon that requires patience and determination. My advice is that no matter how tired you are, you should always complete the race!’ Looking ahead, Claire would like to make a contribution towards bringing equality in education. ‘In some countries, girls aren’t allowed to receive an education because of their gender. I want to change that. I think anyone is equally entitled to receive an education no matter what gender they are, or whether they’re poor or rich. They should all get an education no matter what.’

The Associate in Music, Australia (AMusA) is a diploma awarded by examination to outstanding candidates in the fields of musical performance and music theory by the Australian Music Examinations Board (AMEB). https://,_Australia


Kumon features

N O I T I T REPE it necessary — Is

The Kumon Method of learning is founded on a belief that young children by nature enjoy learning if given sufficient practice of material that is matched to their current ability. But, what do we mean by ‘sufficient practice’ and how do Instructors determine what level will best develop each child? Furthermore, why do some students progress, while other students are given the same worksheets to complete again? We explore the case for repetition and the criteria an Instructor uses in order to determine whether a student is able to progress.

t? n a d n u d e or r

increase their workload and develop their ability to complete things. When asked by Instructors, back in the 1980s, if repetition was necessary, Mr. Kumon said that concentration and work skills lead to the desired outcome of better comprehension and the ability to think. While not the main objective of the Kumon Method, repetition will inadvertently improve the memory as a by-product of repetition, as illustrated by the diagram on the right.

THE CRITERIA TO ADVANCE In general, an Instructor will have a student repeat a worksheet because they feel the student has not consolidated their learning sufficiently in order to move on. This is often because they have not met Kumon’s criteria to advance. The criteria for a student to progress are being able to correct any errors, and completing the sheet within the prescribed Standard Completion Time (SCT). In some circumstances, a student can advance to the next worksheet without meeting both criteria, based on the Instructor’s evaluation. This approach ensures that students are proficient and confident in each concept before they move on. For example, when building a house, the foundation is important to ensure the stability of the building. Similarly, Kumon seeks to build a strong foundation in students before moving them on to more complicated topics.

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CONCENTRATION AND STRONG WORK SKILLS ARE THE FOUNDATIONS OF LEARNING Strong work skills, and the ability to concentrate, go hand-in-hand. If a student possesses both, they possess a lot of power on which they can rely to reach their potential. Toru Kumon, founder of the Kumon Method, described concentration skill as ‘the skill to be able to concentrate for a set period of time in order to finish one specific piece of study (be it worksheets or supplementary learning materials)’. This suggests that students will do well if we 6


REPETITION BEGETS MASTERY Sportsmen, dancers, musicians and many other professionals require practice and repetition to perfect their craft. Mastery does not happen by chance. Through daily practice and repetition, our students are able to internalise concepts and apply them when they move on to more advanced concepts. The repetition of worksheets enables students to practise solving questions with the guidance of the Instructor, providing building blocks for future learning. As basketball legend Michael Jordan said, ‘You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.’ Someone who has benefited from a lot of repetition and practise, and of correct techniques, is Portuguese footballer, Cristiano Ronaldo, who is widely regarded as one of the best footballers of his generation. But how did the four-time Ballon d’Or winner become one





of the deadliest free-kick specialists in the world? The answer is practice. Ronaldo puts in extra time and effort after training each day, practising one freekick after another.

CONFIDENCE BUILDING: HOW PARENTS AND INSTRUCTORS CAN HELP As students become more proficient in foundation concepts, they become more confident when facing concepts and solving problems they have not previously encountered. But foundational proficiency can only come through repetition. Parents can help by encouraging their children, monitoring their motivation levels. They can also support their children to be aware of their goals and help them work to achieve them, rather than doing the worksheets aimlessly. Instructors also monitor student motivation levels, support students to set goals and reach them, encouraging them along the way.

FINDING THE ‘JUST-RIGHT’ LEVEL OF STUDY As with other aspects of the Kumon Method, repetition helps in our continuous pursuit of finding the ‘just-right’ level of study for each student. As an organisation that continues to learn from our students, Kumon consistently improves our worksheets too, so that our students can learn and advance without unnecessary repetition. Advancing the students is one of our goals, as Kumon intends for students to reach high school level materials as soon as possible. As described in Kumon’s longstanding publication, Yamabiko, ‘Even once students have been listed on the ASHR, we need to remain determined to advance them even further by giving less repetitions than we would previously have given, and then see how they progress. If they have difficulties, it is only a matter of taking them back to a much lower point in the worksheets and doing repetition. Especially for high-ability students, when in doubt, we should let them advance and see how they fare. In this way, we will be helping them reach high school level materials as soon as possible’ (Yamabiko 74, 1982). Speaking to Instructors, ‘When in doubt, let the students advance,’ was Toru Kumon’s advice. With the right amount of practice and repetition, we can all achieve our goals. As Mr. Kumon said, ‘There is never good enough, there must always be something better’.


Kumon features

Instructors’ quotes Repetition is sometimes seen as redundant in today’s world of modern learning. However, Kumon’s experience across the world shows that repetition is essential for mastery. In this issue of Potential, we talked to our Instructors across Kumon Asia-Oceania about why repetition is essential, and how they use this tool to help students.

Repetition is given so that learning sometimes difficult content eventually becomes easy for children. We all have to practise drill and repetition in order to master something. Repetition also helps children connect the dots in their learning, showing them how one topic is related to another. Furthermore, their brains’ neural pathways become stronger. If done well, and with the right support from the Instructor, repetition can put smiles on children’s faces as they realise they’ve gained mastery by effortlessly completing their worksheets.

Instructor Yasmin Kamal Kumon Australia

As a Kumon Instructor, I have seen many children transformed from being scared of mathematics and English to enjoying the Kumon worksheets and doing well in school. I have realised the importance of ‘just-right’ level and what a big difference it can make in children’s confidence levels. Being a part of such journeys, where children progress from shy and scared to confident and independent individuals, and knowing that I played a part in their journeys, is the most rewarding aspect of my job.

Instructor Navatha Meka Kumon India

Personally, I hate the word ‘repetition’ — it contributes to the public’s misunderstanding of the Kumon Method. Far too often, I have heard school teachers warn parents against Kumon as they think we promote rote learning and turn children off maths. The beauty of the Kumon Method is our ability to tailor the programme for each child. We seek to understand the child’s educational background, the intention of the parents and work together to achieve the goals that we have set. When a child is confident, we are ready to challenge him or her further. When a child is unsure, we are also able to slow down the programme and ensure the child gains confidence through more practice and the right encouragement, before progressing to the next new topic. When parents complain about repetition, we may not have understood their intention for their child or explained our plans in a way that makes sense to them. I always say, ‘Why would I want to bore a child by doing the same thing over and over?’ Children benefit most when parents and Instructors work together to agree on goals, and that is why three-way communication (child-parent-Instructor) is the key to smooth Kumon progress.

Ms Caley Lim Kumon Brunei


Kumon is a mastery and skill-building programme. Applying skills repeatedly helps students to build strong brain power. Throughout my Kumon journey, I had learnt that every child has a different level of ability and work habits. As such, repetition should be assigned at the ‘just-right’ amount and pace for each student to move forward with comfort and confidence. Observation and being open to each student’s potential is essential to gauge whether he/she needs repetition.

Repetition helps students master the contents sufficiently, develops work skills and comprehension, and enhances the effectiveness of study. In addition, it builds up students’ motivation and confidence to be able to complete the worksheets by themselves. In consideration of providing ‘just-right’ Repetition to the students’ current ability without affecting their motivation, Instructors consider students’ enthusiasm through using Standard Completion Time, observing students doing worksheets, and communicating with students consistently.

Instructor Haslinda Che Ismail

Ms Patramon Srisurapol

Kumon Malaysia

Kumon Thailand

Repetition is one of the many features of the Kumon Method that I like the most. As each individual child is unique, the learning program needs to be tailored to the ability of the individual child. Repetition is good, because the learning materials are also related to each other. It is necessary to consider the learning programme very carefully so that the smoothness and independence of their learning process is maintained. When assigning repetition it is important to consider the observations of the students while they work as well as the character of both students and the parents. When conducting a Parents Meeting (PM), I collect a lot of information about the character of and relationship between parents and children. Also, when giving feedback and during PM, it is necessary to educate parents about the repetition. When in the classroom, both Instructor and assistants should give a positive impression to the children about repetition.

Ibu Dina Kumon Indonesia

‘Huh? This one again?’ That’s the common reaction from students when I give them worksheets they have done previously. Many of them, as well as some parents, do not understand the reason. Study is just like sports and music; repetition is fundamental in mastering the basics. Sportsmen go through the routine every day over and over again until it goes into the subconscious. It becomes part of you. It is the same with worksheet practice. When that happens, the students will know the answer with speed and accuracy. That gives them confidence to learn abstract concepts and the ability to solve complex problems as well as a solid foundation to think outside the box.

Mr Yang Waye Kumon Singapore

Repetition is an essential element of the Kumon Method. Though sometimes misconstrued, repetition is necessary for a student to achieve mastery of a learning focus. Not everyone is skilled or lucky enough to get 100 percent and meet the target completion time on his or her first try, especially on advanced materials. Repetition gives a student the chance to try again, and again, and again, until he or she acquires the vital skills to accomplish the worksheets accurately and quickly and to eventually say, ‘Yes, I did it!’ It also provides an Instructor the opportunity to nurture a student one skill at a time.

Teacher Ria Munar Kumon Philippines

Kumon aims at helping students go beyond knowing and understanding how to solve a problem to reach the level of mastery. Hence, if they don’t achieve two criteria of speed and accuracy while doing worksheets, we will consider to assign appropriate repetition to them. Learning the same contents many times enables students to perceive clearly their progress as they shorten the time spent and get more correct answers as well. Their reflexive competence is certainly increased, enabling them to advance to further contents smoothly. Moreover, with repetition, students can finish all this worksheets without instructions, which results in developing independence and perseverance.

Ms Phan Thi Ni Na Kumon Vietnam


Kumon features





umon has experienced a yearly increase in enrolments in Australia and New Zealand since 2009. Thousands of parents choose to make the daily study of Kumon worksheets part of their children’s mathematics and reading education. We listen to parents to understand what elements of our service in particular they value. Why do they enrol in the first place? Why do they stay? What makes a 60-year-old pencil and paper programme relevant for 21st century families? Recently we interviewed a Kumon dad in Sydney, named Robert. He holds degrees in telecommunications engineering and physics. His career has been in fields involving mathematics. He chose to enrol his son in Kumon when he was in Primary 3. We wondered what influenced him, an accomplished mathematician, to choose Kumon mathematics over the many other


offerings available. His responses surprised us.

Always available The first aspect of Kumon that Robert said he liked was that Kumon was always available, even in the school holidays. He had read research that found when children stop learning altogether for six weeks over the summer holidays, or even longer in most OECD countries, they forget so much and lose the rhythm of daily study. It then takes them longer to get back on track in the new school year. He appreciated that he could have access to Kumon worksheets all year round for his son to complete at the Kumon Centre, at home, or even away on holiday. By studying just 30 minutes a day, which he believes hardly impacted at all on the enjoyment of the holidays, his son continued to make progress in his mathematics. He felt his son progressed the

most in the holidays because there was hardly anything else going on and he had more energy. He did the worksheets first thing in the morning and then went off and had fun for the rest of the day. Robert said he valued the structure and consistency Kumon provided. In four years at Kumon, his son took only a couple of weeks off from studying the worksheets.

Learning by writing out problems When investigating the options available for his son’s mathematics development, Robert found that many other programmes are computer based. But he was certain he did not want more screen time for his son. He had also read that students’ performance in mathematics in the long term is not enhanced significantly by computer-based learning. As a mathematician,

Kumon features he believes that children should practise maths problems by writing them out, erasing their errors, and writing them out again until they get them right, without relying on calculators or computers. ‘Kids are overdosing on computers anyway,’ he remarked. Thus, he chose Kumon because it is a pencil and paper method. In hindsight, he believes he chose wisely. His son can now solve advanced mathematical functions even though he doesn’t know how to use his dad’s calculator.

An emphasis on continued progress Robert appreciated an uninterrupted structured programme because he values continued progress. Kumon has conducted two national surveys of currently enrolled and past Kumon families, most recently in 2017 and previously in 2013. Overwhelmingly, parents’ feedback was that they, like Robert, value progress, and expect it. A Grattan Institute Report1, published July 2015, stated: ‘The best schools in Australia are not necessarily those with the best ATAR or NAPLAN scores. They are those that enable their students to make the greatest progress in learning. Wherever a student starts from on the first day of the year, he or she deserves to have made at least a year’s worth of progress by the end of it. Any less and our students will fail to reach their full potential. Sadly that is too often the case.’

Computers and learning maths Robert’s conviction that computerbased programmes are not better than pencil and paper is supported in the 2015 OECD report, Students, Computers and Learning2. The report finds when computers are used

in the classroom, their impact on student performance is mixed at best. Students who use computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in most learning outcomes. The results also show no significant improvements in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that have invested heavily in information communication technology for education. On the contrary, Shanghai, China and South Korea are the lowest adopters of computers at school among OECD nations, but the highest performers in digital reading and computer based mathematics PISA tests (OECD 2015). They don’t rely heavily on computers to learn reading and mathematics but they still ace online international tests.

Individualised instruction and engagement is highly valued The report also proposes that technology sometimes distracts from valuable human engagement between educator and student. Robert valued highly the role of his son’s Kumon Instructor. He felt that she was across every single one of her students’ progress, and knew exactly what worksheets they needed to study, and when. He noticed his son’s cousins and friends enrolled at the centre each progressed in a subtly different way. She knew exactly how to structure the programme for his son, according to his progress and individual needs. If his son ever got stuck, he would sort it out with his Instructor. This degree of

individualised instruction and level of engagement between educator and student is valued highly by parents in an increasingly online education environment. Developments in information and communication technology have revolutionised virtually every aspect of leisure, education and work. Its benefits are immense and its impact will continue to expand. But it doesn’t look like it will be replacing pencil and paper for mathematics and reading education soon, or engagement between educator and student. In fact, the trend seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Robert articulates it simply. He wants the just-right content for his son. He sees it as the role of the instructor to provide it, based on detailed understanding of his son’s individual needs and progress. He wants a little each day, all year round, so his son continues to progress and realise his potential. He wants pencil and paper, because it is still the best way to study mathematics. Since the interview with Robert took place, his son successfully completed Kumon Mathematics in August of Primary 6. The final level contains differential calculus. Grattan Institute, Targeted teaching: How better use of data can improve student learning


OECD (2015), Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection, OECD Publishing, Paris.





Andorra, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, U.K.



Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Taiwan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam


Canada, Mexico, U.S.A.

Bahrain, Qatar, U.A.E.

AFRICA Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Zambia, South Africa



Australia, New Zealand

SOUTH AMERICA Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia

Potential 201 - Australia & New Zealand (Issue 1 - Jan to Jun 2018)  
Potential 201 - Australia & New Zealand (Issue 1 - Jan to Jun 2018)  

Read our inspiring student stories, Instructor quotes and informative feature articles in this issue of Potential!