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Topic: Number Sense and Computational Fluency
Replies: 92   Last Post: Jul 24, 2008 5:09 AM

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Wendy Gulley

Posts: 39
Registered: 12/3/04
Re: Kumon Math
Posted: Mar 30, 2000 3:51 PM
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I used to teach middle school math in the Boston area, and several of
my seventh grade students did the Kumon program outside of school.
Kumon math appealed to students who were well-organized and who liked
neat, tidy rows of computational problems with one right answer per
problem. Unless the Kumon program has changed in the last few years,
it involves worksheets of computation problems that get progressively
more difficult. When you get a high percentage of problems on a
worksheet correct in a certain time period you can progress to the
next worksheet. Working fast is definitely stressed. I do not know if
any particular strategies for solving the problems are advocated or
taught, but I'm definitely curious, if anyone can answer that
question.

TERC definitely advocates the development of efficient strategies for
computation-- I think the question is WHEN. I would try to explain to
parents that it's important for students to have a certain amount of
time and practice in their development towards efficiency. Kumon's
emphasis on speed could cause them to jump to Mom's method without
real understanding. But maybe Kumon Math wouldn't hurt if they need
practice on what should have been learned long ago. For instance if a
third grader takes too long to come up with addition facts or a fifth
grader with multiplication facts the practice and the need for speed
on Kumon worksheets might push them to master quick recall.

I would be extra concerned if students are doing Kumon-style
worksheets on the topic of computation with fractions and decimals. My
experience teaching math at the middle school and high school level is
that when students don't have a good conceptual understanding of
rational numbers (fractions, decimals, percents) they cannot succeed
in algebra and beyond. It's so important to do the conceptual work
around fractions and the Investigations fraction units do this
brilliantly.
Parents might be interested to know that in France they don't teach
adding fractions with different denominators until 8th grade! They
don't think students are ready developmentally for the difficult
concept of finding a common denominator until then. (French schools
teach a lot of simple algebraic ideas at younger grades than the U.S.,
but that's another story.) In other words, what's developmentally
appropriate to teach at a certain grade is certainly not commonly
agreed on. But parents often think math skills should be taught on the
same timeline as when they were kids. So Kumon Math is attractive to
them if their kids' teachers don't agree with their timeline.

Try to get the parents to give students a year later than they are
used to to master computational skills. They should understand that
doing more work with the concepts first takes time (but this is
problematic if you're facing middle school teachers or standardized
tests that don't agree.)

good luck,
Wendy Gulley




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