My child (6 nearly 7) seems to enjoy maths, but hates Kumon maths. They seem to enjoy (or used to enjoy) an online tool called mathletics.

Kumon maths (at this stage) seems to focus on repeating number sentences (7+9=...; 9+7=...; 8+8=...;). My child struggles to complete these (I personally think they are bored). They cry, and take a long time, rather than get the questions wrong.

If I ask them similar questions verbally as part of a game, they seem to have little difficulty (although it is obvious they are working it out in their head).

I was not worried about their maths at normal school, but am worried the Kumon style could put them off the subject in the long run.

Is there any value in continuing with Kumon maths?

Any evidence or experience either way would be much appreciated.

  • 3
    I don't feel that this is suitable to put in an answer but I strongly advise you to look up and read a story/article called "Lockhart's Lament". It is about how math is so much more than rote numbers and whatnot. Reading it made me realize that I don't dislike math, I dislike the way math is presented to society. Math itself is really fun. Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 16:07
  • @BunnyKnitter Agreed. Real math doesn't even look like register as math to most people and surprisingly might involve very few actual numbers. It's more about structuring abstract concepts and ideas in your mind (or I suppose doing your taxes depending on where you stand but doesn't sound like the number sentences would help with that)..
    – DKNguyen
    Commented May 27, 2020 at 20:13

4 Answers 4


When they were quite young, I signed my kids up for some sort of tutoring service (I thought it was Kumon, but it was in a separate retail space facility, not at home, so I might be misremembering the exact company). My boys really enjoyed playing video games, and this company used on-line games to teach concepts, so I thought it was a great way to sneak a bit of learning into the mix without them noticing. Alas, they HATED the program, and complained every time they had to attend, and we gave it up after about a month. By their senior year in high school, both of them were taking advanced placement classes in literature, and pre-calculus or calculus in math. So, dropping out of the tutoring program doesn't seem to have hurt their ability to learn the skills they needed to learn.

It is not clear to me why you have signed your child up for Kumon. Does s/he need support/remediation in math skills, or is this for enrichment purposes? In either case, I believe there are lots of different options you can explore with your child--as you stated, particular styles work better with certain people, and it sounds like rote memorization/learning/practice is not a good fit for your child.

There are lots of other options for learning even rote items. I would recommend googling something like "resources for teaching beginning arithmetic." You will find a lot of resources for education in general, with many focused on homeschoolers, who are constantly looking for tools to help teach concepts outside of using expensive textbooks and/or learning systems. Dig through what you find and look for resources that might be more fun and interesting. I spent about three minutes and found this worksheet (and lots of others) on this site:

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This type of puzzle game can make things much more interesting to a kid, while still practicing their beginning addition skills. If you can find out the name of a specific skill your child is working on (or will be working on) you can make your search even more focused to practice exactly those issues with him/her.

This is obviously a useful option when you are trying to enrich a child's math learning, but even in the case of a child who needs remediation, you can use this and other tools. Use this as a starting point and make your own version of this worksheet using only the equations that s/he is learning at the moment.

You can also think about the different modes of learning--visual, aural (via hearing) and kinesthetic (tactile/feeling). Try showing your child the equations on the worksheet, but actually read the problem aloud for him/her, and have him/her respond aloud and then write down the answer. S/he could have an underlying visual processing issue that makes these worksheets difficult to decipher, and using this type of practice this might lead to early discovery and intervention.

You can also provide him/her with physical items that will help to respond to the questions. If you have a collection of buttons, or checkers, or grapes, or?, they can look at what is written on the paper and then use the items to "build" each of the elements of the equation. If you child really likes arts and crafts, s/he can create his/her own abacus by stringing buttons of one color on a string to match the first numeral in the equation, and then buttons of another color for the second numeral, and once s/he has solved the equation, you can tie a knot in the string to make a necklace.

If, as I am guessing, a main goal of these exercises is for your child to begin memorizing simple arithmetic equations, as long as you are presenting your child with a piece of paper that shows the equations, the repetition of seeing the problem written down, will help them begin to develop that memory, no matter what process they use to solve the equation. The nature of most schools is that they cannot serve the exact needs of all the children at all times--but in your situation you can begin learning more about your particular child to understand what best works to spark her interest.

As for those who suggest that it is important that a child learn that you have to persevere through boring activities, at ages 6-7, the lesson can be that even fun things might take perseverance to finish them.

The reality is that life experiences are going to make it clear to our children that sometimes you have to do stuff that you don't like to achieve what you want to achieve. I doubt that many children out there will miss out on learning that lesson if their parent's don't work to teach it. In fact, I think you are providing a gift to your child if you can show them that by thinking differently about a concept or approach to problem solving, you can make even boring activities more enjoyable and entertaining.

  • 2
    I upvoted your answer, and like it very much. If you look at the studies, though, if you drop the most boring part of math - the rote memorization, the flash cards, the work - kids grow up less proficient in math. This is fine if your kid wants to be, I dunno, a fireperson or a doctor (most doctors only need basic math). I suspect this is one reason we have a serious shortage of engineers. Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 3:13
  • @anongoodnurse, the trick is to sneak the boring parts in as part of something else. For my little brother, it was a game of "guess the shopping bill", which made for pretty good practice of multi-digit addition.
    – Mark
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 6:21
  • Personally I think it's a flaw to say these things are objectively boring. As a kid, I really enjoyed the straight up memorization. Not everything has to be a game. Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 19:16
  • The talk about boredom is a result of the OP mentioning it as a possible reason for his/her child's unhappiness with these exercises. But @ArthurDent, I think you bring up a good alternative viewpoint for consideration. As I mentioned, there could be a host of other issues that are causing the child's unhappiness--I jumped to a potential visual processing issue, but I sure there could be many others that are worth investigating. And, more power to you--I sure wish I enjoyed memorization even the slightest amount.
    – magerber
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 23:17

I am not an expert on the Kumon style of teaching, but it looks like it has little to do with the actual problem at hand.

You say that your child doesn't like (or gets bored by) numerical expressions compared to verbal ones.. unfortunately these numerical expressions are a core "feature" of how we do maths and will be part of pretty much any teaching concept no matter what (especially the conventional ones), sooner or later. Same goes for the entire setting (having to answer to repeating questions that look almost the same compared to questions as part of a larger game): At some point, your normal school maths will mostly turn into "plain" repetition instead of games, too. There is nothing much you can do about that.

If the problem instead is the (lacking) difficulty of the questions, you have to consult your child's teacher. No matter the method they use, they ultimately are the ones that set the bar and thus are able to raise it if needed. As in every subject, your child's motivation will largely depend on how well their teacher can spark excitement about it, not how their material exactly looks like (you can help in that matter if you continue doing maths the fun way at home).

  • thanks. Kumon is mostly done at home, so any time spent on it takes away from doing it the fun way at home. I've also been instructed to not talk to my child whilst doing the homework.
    – Kel
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 12:33
  • Oh, I see. Still, who gets to make the choice about the tasks? You, the child, a teacher?
    – Annatar
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 12:58
  • In any case, it's difficult to entirely avoid doing maths this way in most countries unless you 100% home school. Even then, you have to prepare the child to face "boring" type questions in their final exams. Better start early, imo. The large majority of children gets used to it relatively painlessly as part of growing up (life is not all games and fun forever). Then again, maths usually is not a favourite subject for most..
    – Annatar
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 13:03
  • 1
    I used Kumon with my children and (I teach maths) looked up the detail of joining as a tutor. The system is extremely prescriptive - you give the learner a test at the start, then give them a worksheet according to a point system, and they have to do a (big) number of identical worksheets until they can be fast and error-free. They then move to the next set of worksheets, rinse and repeat. Kumon claim that children who do this for years are very successful, but the experience with my children is that they reverse cause and effect - children who are able (stress tolerant, speedy) do well at it.
    – boisvert
    Commented May 10, 2023 at 11:44
  • 1
    @boisvert I mean exactly the opposite. You do seem to know the Kumon system. The current answers generally appear not to. Their knowledge is lacking.
    – ojchase
    Commented Jun 2, 2023 at 17:27

My daughter loved maths in her preschool. She picked up basic topics so easily that I thought she would love to explore this more. I enrolled her for an abacus class as soon as she started school.

She enjoyed it for an year or so before she started getting more and more confused with the differences between the method taught in school and the way it's done in abacus. After an year of this, she started losing interest in Maths all together. Finally, we stopped abacus and she's friends with maths again !

So from my experience, if your child is not interested in a kumon style class, there's no much value in continuing it. Kids learn best when they enjoy what they are doing so if any app or tool is helping them with maths, then go for it. You can also take the help of online tutorials if they are not able to grasp any particular topic.



  1. if your kids enjoy Kumon, are quick and progress -> go for it
  2. if not -> work out why, work on it
  3. after working on it -> return to step 1, or decide Kumon is not for them

My children used Kumon for a while and as I teach maths, I looked up the detail of joining as a tutor.

Kumon is extremely prescriptive - you give the learner a test at the start, then give them a worksheet according to a point system, and they have to do a (big) number of identical worksheets until they can be fast and error-free. They then move to the next set of worksheets, rinse and repeat. This can go on for yours (there are Kumon worksheets for algebra, trig, calculus), always based on becoming fast and error-free on the basics, not on why you should use Maths etc.

Kumon claim that children who do this for years become very successful, but the experience with my children is that they it's the other way round - some children can do this for years because they are able in the first place (they are stress tolerant, speedy...). More about their experience:

  • My eldest has visual impairments and this affected her handwriting. Kumon worksheets are on paper, a specific size, and success is based on your speed writing answers down. As she never got the speed, she never moved on from basic sheets repeating elementary number facts. That was stressful, and soon, pointless, because her understanding went far beyond the worksheets prescribed, but by the rules applied in the Kumon centre, she could never progress.

  • My youngest - also different - got on a lot better, though her writing was also difficult. She was good enough to progress and Kumon helped her drill adding, subtracting numbers in the three figures, as well as multiplying smaller ones. But the focus on numerical operations, that calculators can do, as opposed to symbolic or geometric reasoning, made it difficult for her to accept - why learn to do slowly what a machine does fast?

Overall, based on this and my Maths teaching experience, I would say use Kumon if your child enjoys it and as long as they do. They say it should take a few minutes every day. If they cannot get in flow, if it takes much longer, if they become avoidant, find something else (don't allow them to give up - but don't make Maths a torture!)

Watch your child if they are doing Kumon, and use their sheets as a diagnostic tool. If they are doing well, enjoy the ride, it's money well spent. If not, why? Are they struggling with a new concept (if so, they should get over it soon)? Are they making a consistent error, e.g. a misconception? If they are always making the same errors, then they may have misunderstood the rules that apply. At this point Kumon doesn't help. Ask them to explain what they are doing, listen very patiently, to work out what is causing the trouble. Work an example with them - preferably not one from the Kumon sheet, but a similar one - to show them the idea. Then, remember it's minutes every day: if you've been at it together 15 minutes, that's it - more sheets tomorrow. No torture.

If your child is not doing well, but not for mathematical reasons, look the reason. For mine it was handwriting. No amount of Kumon sheets was going to change that; in the end my children needed a computer to progress academically, and Kumon is very conservative here: if your children are fit and healthy, it's good for them, otherwise, ignore their marketing and find what's adapted to them. Young people could learn Maths concepts through spreadsheets and coding if the curriculum allowed; programming my homework saved me from dropping maths in my teens.

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