How to Develop Confident Math Learners

How many times have you heard someone say, “A person is either good at math or not.”  

For so long, many of us have believed this binary perspective. But in Kumon, we carry a growth mindset. Taking inspiration from our founder Mr. Toru Kumon, we believe that each child has vast potential, even in Math.  

With the Kumon Method, we aim to discover, develop, nurture, and extend each child’s math skills. Hand in hand with the proper guidance and support from parents and Instructors, here is how we hone our students to become confident in their abilities and themselves.  

Sharpening mental calculation skills   

According to the study An Experimental Study on Preventing First Graders from Finger Counting in Basic Calculations, “Some students use finger-counting to perform basic arithmetic because they have turned it into a habit or are afraid of making mistakes. Some other students count by touching or matching objects since they fear that they will not be able to count otherwise.”  

This is why, while students are still young, it’s best to not only introduce math but also hone mental calculation skills.  

At Kumon, we develop in students the ability to do mental calculations and to solve problems using basic math knowledge and skills. This is to prepare them to tackle more advanced math topics with ease. As soon as they study basic addition and subtraction, students slowly develop mental calculation skills by doing the carryovers and borrowing in their minds.  

Looking at mistakes as learning opportunities   

In a research titled Teachers and Counselors: Building Math Confidence in Schools, the researchers noted that math anxiety often stems from the traditional way of teaching math—emphasis on right answers, fear of getting wrong answers, the requirement to respond with an answer sooner than they might be ready, and potential condemnation if they perform poorly in class.  

And so, in Kumon, we ensure that mistakes are explained and taken as learning opportunities. The worksheets are marked promptly during remote instruction sessions so that children can immediately learn from any mistakes while the topics are still fresh in their minds. While checking their answers, students also have the chance to check their solutions and spot their mistakes.  

When they find the right answer on their own, they are motivated by a sense of achievement, which will make them more excited to learn new materials independently.  

Studying independently   

As the study Guidelines for Enhancing the Development of Strategies for Mental Computation shares, it is extremely important for early learners to develop mental computation strategies. This is a stepping stone towards future success.  

“Generally, students who have greater flexibility in their mental computation strategies provide a greater understanding of the underlying mathematical concepts and have higher success rates,” the study shared. 

Kumon students “self-learn” as the Kumon worksheets have strategically placed hints and examples. This cultivates their ability to learn on their own and builds their confidence as they can solve for the correct answers independently.  

Self-learning, especially for young learners, allows them to visualize and study the problem in their minds and possibly develop a more effective mental strategy for computation.  

The Kumon Method strives to ensure that students can advance and study topics beyond their grade school level by progressing through the worksheets independently and with ease. Learning this way would develop their enthusiasm to take on other challenges and build their confidence to master the next level and more advanced topics.   

As Toru Kumon once shared in Mon Magazine, “Children who have developed the habit of self-learning will surely grow to become people who can continue solving problems in life on their own. They will be able to do this by continuing to read and learn through books, even after university and as they venture out into the world. This is why I want as many children as possible to learn with Kumon.” 

Kumon is the world's leading after-school enrichment program. We offer two subjects: Math and Reading in more than 300 Kumon Centers nationwide.

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