How is Kumon Different from School Math? - Student Resources

How is Kumon Different from School Math?

Boy stands in front of blackboard with a magnifying glass

Dribble, pass, shoot! Young soccer players complete endless drills learning these core skills before ever using them in a game. When it comes time to apply them in an actual competition, the moves come automatically. Similarly, many violinists learn proper hand positioning before they ever pick up a bow. When they begin to play, they’re simply stringing together the basic skills they’ve already mastered.

Kids practicing soccer

What do soccer and the violin have to do with Kumon? Just as athletes and musicians learn skills before applying them in games or performances, students in Kumon learn math skills before applying them in real-life situations. This is a key difference between Kumon Math and the math that is taught in most school systems in North America. It’s also what makes Kumon the perfect supplement to school math.

Mathematics vs. the Application of Mathematics

While school curriculums can vary significantly, most school math programs teach the application of math. That means that students learn math as it is used in the real world. For example, students might learn addition through scenarios like, “Emma has one apple in her basket. She adds one more apple to the basket. Emma now has two apples.” This may seem like an intuitive way to learn math—after all, that’s how most of us were introduced to adding. And what’s the point of learning math if you can’t use it in the real world?

As the math concepts get more difficult, the real-life application gets more complex, compounding the problem. A naturally talented soccer player may be able to excel on a recreational team without having honed her skills, but as the level of competition gets more difficult, her skill gaps will become more apparent. Similarly, a math student may be able to grasp basic concepts with little practice, but as the math gets more challenging, the gaps will begin to show.

Kumon Math

two students do math work in a Kumon CenterUnlike school, Kumon teaches strictly mathematics. In Kumon, it is not technically necessary to understand how to apply 1+1=2 in the real world. Students simply must learn that 1+1=2 is a true statement. Students then learn that 2+1=3, 3+1=4, and so on. Math is taught incrementally, with students progressing step-by-step from counting all the way through calculus. As students do not need to have real world experience to learn what is strictly mathematics, even elementary school students can progress to algebra and beyond. Eventually, as students’ number sense and real world experience come together, they are able to apply what they’ve learned in different contexts.

Some might find it counterintuitive to learn mathematics without its applications. After all, why learn what one plus one equals if you can’t make the connection that adding one penny to another equals two cents? However, once a student has learned a math concept, they then have an easier time learning how to apply it. Some math application is included in the Kumon Program, but it is only introduced once a student has mastered the mathematical concepts. Without a strong base in the necessary math skills, students will reach a point where applying math is too difficult.  Just as a soccer player learns how to dribble the ball before applying that skill in a game, students should learn math skills before applying the concepts in real life situations.

Learn more about the Kumon Math Program.