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What is “Mastery” and why is it so important?

In the Kumon curriculum, mastery is defined by two unambiguous criteria – speed and accuracy.  When students are able to complete a particular packet with good accuracy and within the standard completion time (SCT), they have achieved mastery of that set.  They now have the skills and the proficiency necessary to proceed into more advanced work with confidence.


Why must my child be timed and complete assignments so quickly?

Basic concepts must truly be second nature if your child is to retain them permanently.  Kumon developed the SCT (standard completion time) as the partner with good accuracy for determining mastery.  When a student is able to meet the SCT and accuracy criteria for a particular set, they know that they have mastered that packet and are able to move quickly and consistently through the curriculum.

The purpose of timing assignments is not to rush students or create a “beat-the-clock” mentality.  On the contrary, students are able to meet the SCT naturally as they grow more comfortable with the material and don’t have to struggle for the correct answers.

If a student is taking longer than the SCT on a packet, it simply means that the answer is not coming easily enough yet.  The longer time indicates a need for repetition.  Once a student is able to easily meet the SCT, they are ready to move ahead to new and more challenging work.

Why does progress sometimes seem slow in Kumon?

Parents may sometimes feel concerned about the amount of repetition given and even request that more worksheets be assigned to their child.  However, more worksheets do not mean faster progress.  Our instructor works very carefully to assign material at just the right pace and amount for your child to move forward through the curriculum with comfort and confidence.

Please remember that each and every day that your child does Kumon, they are building, expanding, and strengthening their math and/or reading brain, regardless of whether they are working ahead of what they are doing in school or still catching up.

While progress may sometimes seem slow, it is steady and comprehensive, and always at just the right level for your child.

Why is home grading necessary?

We recommend home grading because it makes a demonstrable difference in a student’s performance in the program.  Home grading:

  • allows your child to learn immediately from any mistakes by correcting them while fresh in mind

  • enables students to correct and learn from their mistakes before they move on to the next days’ work.  They are able to move ahead with better accuracy and speed, lessening the need for repetition

  • helps parents to monitor your child’s progress and keep you in the “loop” on their progress

Answer books are available for all math and reading levels, as well as a handy home grading guide.

How can I help my child stay motivated?

Keep it comfortable. Our most important job is to make sure students are working at the “just right” level.  Because the work is not too easy, not too challenging, not too many pages, and not too few, students trust that the work will never be overwhelming or underwhelming.  Students are able to stay on track with daily study over time, which is how they build strong math and reading brains.

Parents lead by example. Your commitment to Kumon study is crucial for your child’s success in the program.  Regular center attendance, finding the 15-20 minutes of quiet study time for Kumon at home, and home grading every day demonstrate your commitment to your child.

Communicate and celebrate! Daily Kumon provides students with an opportunity to experience success on a daily basis, and parents an opportunity to praise them for their effort and achievement.

Achievement Awards. Our center has a reward system based on a student’s effort.  We also recognize our highest achievement – program completion – with $250 scholarship for reading and $500 scholarship for math.

Why is my child starting at such an easy level?

This is called the “comfortable starting point.” There are many reasons.


  1. Building on a firm foundation. Learning concepts build upon one another like bricks in a wall.  The whole structure can collapse from gaps or weak spots far below.  If it’s rock-solid from the very first layer, however, your child can safely move forward with a firm foundation to support them in more advanced work.

  2. Establishing a daily study routine. Kumon requires a great commitment on the part of each child.  We ask students to complete worksheets every day including weekends, summers, holidays, and vacations.  Getting students to complete the work is much easier if they have developed a daily study routine.  In the beginning, we want Kumon to be enjoyable and relatively easy.  This will allow the student ample time to develop a daily study routine before the work becomes more challenging.

  3. Developing disciplined study habits. Working at such an easy level in the early weeks is so crucial because it gives students the chance to build self-esteem as they cultivate study habits they will need throughout the program, as well as life skills such as concentration, discipline, and perseverance.  At this time, students learn how to solve problems independently by following directions and using the example problems correctly.  They will also learn how to locate their mistakes, as well as the proper technique for correcting their mistakes.

  4. Filling in the gaps. In the school classroom, every child must progress at the same pace.  This means that some students will have to move on to a new topic even if they have not mastered the previous topic.  Through this process, students develop gaps in their education.  Because many new concepts rely on previously learned material, these gaps make it difficult for students to learn new material.  Kumon’s comfortable starting point allows us to go back to concepts that were not mastered in previous grade levels and fill in those gaps.

  5. Developing mental calculation skills. Most of our new Kumon students have never been asked to calculate mentally.  Many schools will teach them to write their borrowed and carried numbers, and often they are even taught counting methods.  Think of teaching students to calculate mentally as if you are upgrading your computer from a i3 to a i7.  We are training them to calculate more efficiently, accurately, and automatically.  This is a whole new way of processing for them.  If we are going to change the way they process, this can only be accomplished at an easy and comfortable level.

  6. Increasing speed. Today, more and more students will be taking timed tests at school and for college entrance exams.  Being able to calculate quickly will allow the student to spend more time on the math concept rather than the calculation.  The increased speed will also provide them more time to review their work in order to find and correct their mistakes.  Kumon’s comfortable starting point gives students the extra practice they need to increase their calculation speed.

  7. Building confidence. Nothing succeeds like success.  Intrinsic to the Kumon Method is the child’s discovery of their ability to succeed often and every day.  Kumon students gain confidence and independence by working on material they are prepared to tackle.  This is key to sure and steady progress.  From the very first set, Kumon students experience success each and every day.  It’s a great feeling!

  8. Getting a running start. There are many analogies that may be used to illustrate this point, but I am often reminded of the picture of two people trying to climb a steep hill on their bicycles.  The first one starts at the base of the hill and crashes half way up because he does not have the momentum to finish the climb.  The second one starts way back in the flat area and gets a running start.  The momentum built up on the flat section allows him to finish the climb.  Kumon is very similar in that we give students the running start they need in basic operations to allow them to finish the more challenging work ahead.

Now that my child is doing great in school, why should we stay with Kumon?

Many students stay enrolled in Kumon even after they catch up and move ahead of their work in school.  In fact, some parents enroll their children who are already at or ahead of grade level for advanced study. Kumon is designed to enable all students to excel, and to nurture skills that help children succeed all throughout school, and beyond.

The “big picture” of your child’s education. Kumon encourages students to remain with the program through completion – Level O in math and Level L in reading. Kumon is not tutoring and is not meant to be a “quick fix.” Kumon study is an on-going process that requires daily practice and disciplined study habits, as well as the continual acquisition of new skills and concepts.

Qualities nurtured by Kumon such as confidence, perseverance and independence continue to develop among students who remain in the program.

Why is independent learning important for my child?

Kumon does not tutor children, but rather fosters the skills and confidence they need to succeed on their own.  Kumon study helps students to become more capable and self-reliant because the work they are doing is always at exactly their “just right” level.

Independent learners are self-motivated.  The Kumon worksheets are designed to introduce concepts in a way that allows students to understand and apply them without assistance.  Through “self-learning” Kumon students develop confidence in their ability to figure things out on their own, even when they become challenging.  This confidence is crucial for developing the disciplined study habits and motivation necessary for high school work and beyond.

Can we take a break from Kumon?

If you don’t use it, you lose it.  The same idea that applies to sports, dance and music also applies to building a strong math and reading brain.  Kumon is daily gym for your child’s brain.  Every day they are building and expanding the neural pathways in their brains through Kumon study.  If they suddenly stop, those pathways actually contract and shrink.  They lose their edge and their skill.

Steady progress pays off.  Interruptions in your child’s Kumon studies can make it harder to maintain the daily routine in general, and put unnecessary bumps in what should be their smooth and continual advancement.

It’s easy to adjust your child’s work when life becomes busy and chaotic.  Simply cutting back on the number of pages your child does every day, cutting down from two subjects to one, coming to class once a week instead of twice, or taking Sundays or weekends off, can make Kumon fit more easily into your daily schedule.

Why is there so much repetition in Kumon?

As with sports and music, gaining proficiency with learning skills requires frequent practice.  Acquiring skills often means performing the same tasks again and again. Kumon enables each child to work with material at every stage until they are ready – really ready – to move on to the next challenge.

Applying skills repeatedly is precisely what reinforces them and insures that they are permanently retained.  Skills are “hardwired” into the long-term memory, where they can be effortlessly drawn upon when needed.  Repetition is crucial for building strong brain power.

Why can’t Kumon be more flexible with the order of material covered?

Every part of the Kumon curriculum, from individual worksheets to entire curriculum levels, is designed to build incrementally on the foundation of learning established up to that point.  Multiplication by 2 is followed by multiplication by 3; sentence building is followed by paragraph building; and so on.  Just as you might use training wheels on your child’s bike, remove one and then the other, Kumon nurtures mastery and independence by simple and logical progression.

We are not inflexible, just uncompromising. We understand that parents may want to “jump” ahead to material that may be current at school, or precisely mirror their child’s school curriculum.  Bear in mind that material is introduced in strict sequence at Kumon because that’s intrinsic to the method by which it helps your child become a better learner.

Advancing step by logical step. Kumon is a logical and incremental progression of basic concepts.  The student must figure out, apply and fully grasp each concept before advancing to the next level.  This facilitates complete retention and ensures a rock-solid foundation for subsequent material.  Our gradual, ordered sequence of worksheets enables students to succeed on their own step-by-step.  It is not arbitrary; it is thoroughly worked out and proven in practice time and again.

A deliberately linear approach. Our program is designed to supplement, not mirror, your child’s school curriculum.  Schools may take a “spiral” approach, exposing children to various topics that appear and reappear before being addressed in their full depth.  Our “linear” approach introduces topics sequentially to be mastered by the student at that time in the program.  Gaining a thorough understanding of concepts in this manner gives students a leg up with schoolwork, however, and whenever those concepts may be covered in school.

Why are some school topics not covered in Kumon?

Kumon is streamlined to nurture essential skills that will help your child succeed throughout school.  In math, computational and arithmetic skills are stressed because they are essential to subjects all the way through calculus.

Likewise, Kumon Reading stresses comprehension because such exercises naturally develop good grammar, writing skills and critical reasoning ability.

Building a strong foundation of core skills maximizes your child’s potential for success within and beyond the subjects of math and reading.  Little by little, your child builds a foundation of knowledge and a command of essential skills that have almost universal applications.  In this way Kumon develops sharp, agile minds equipped for tackling even complex abstract concepts.

How long will it take for my child to catch up with what she is doing in school?

All parents want to know when their child will catch up to grade level, but the answer is not simple.  The Kumon curriculum was not created to mirror the concepts that children are learning in school.  In fact, there is no correlation between the Kumon curriculum and school grade level.

Kumon is a mastery, skill-building program.  The school math curriculum tends to be a “mile wide and an inch deep”, hitting on many different concepts for brief amounts of time. Kumon students, on the other hand, work on one concept and one concept only until they achieve mastery and then move on to the next.  Students advance only when they demonstrate an independent command of newly acquired skills.  In school, the class moves forward regardless of whether a child needs more practice.

For advanced students, they are able to move ahead through the curriculum at their own pace, regardless of what other students of the same age or in the same level are doing.  Students are never held back if they are ready to move ahead, and they are never moved ahead if they need more practice.

Advancing at a just-right pace. Because Kumon is fine-tuned to each student’s individual ability, no child advances too fast or too slowly.  It takes exactly as long as it needs to take for students to build, strengthen and master crucial skills, with a full grasp for the material to date and a rock-solid foundation for further advancement.

What’s the hardest part of Kumon?

The hardest part is that part which makes the program work: the daily practice. For Kumon to be the most effective, it must be done daily. The daily work is not onerous: only about fifteen to twenty minutes is required per subject per day. But just as in brushing teeth or eating vegetables, a little bit of something good for you each day is optimal. You can’t expect to eat a week’s worth of vegetables on one day and have nearly the benefit you would have from a little each day. You wouldn’t brush your teeth really hard two days a week and expect the same benefit you get from daily brushing.

Kumon is about discipline. And part of that discipline is doing the work each day, and grading and correcting it the same day, preferably at the same sitting.

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              Sunnyvale . Santa Clara . Cupertino                            

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