Geared both to children who are struggling in school and children seeking enrichment, the Kumon Math and Reading program is now operational at the Rend Lake College MarketPlace in Mt. Vernon.

The Kumon Center of Rend Lake College is the only one of its kind in the Mt. Vernon area and the first Kumon Center to partner with a public community college. Former school principal Susan Cunningham operates the Center, which is open from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays.

Kumon is an after-school math and reading program available for ages ranging from preschool to the college level. Founded in Japan in 1958, the learning method uses a systematic approach which helps children develop a solid command of math and reading skills. Through daily practice and mastery of materials, students increase confidence, improve concentration and develop better study skills. Worldwide, there are more than 3.6 million students studying at more than 24,000 Kumon Centers in 43 countries. Kumon North America is headquartered in Teaneck, N.J.

Kumon can help children master the basics of math and reading, improve study habits, strengthen concentration, increase self-confidence and self-discipline, cultivate independent learning skills and develop critical thinking and analytical skills.

At the heart of the Kumon Method is a curriculum of more than 20 clearly defined skill levels and hundreds of short assignments spanning materials covered from preschool to college level. With each assignment, a child advances in small, manageable increments. The goal is for all students to begin studying above their school grade and to always have opportunities to reach their full potential.

SUCCESS FROM THE START – Students begin at a comfortable starting point determined by a placement test. To ensure that students experience success from the beginning, the starting point is typically set lower than the child’s current level in school. This helps students get accustomed to completing the daily assignments and developing momentum to advance to more challenging work ahead.

ADVANCING STEP BY STEP – Kumon uses a “learn-by-doing” approach. Worksheets assigned by the instructor provide an example illustrating a concept to be learned. Then a simple exercise modeled after the example is given. Each new assignment is slightly more challenging than the last. The progression is so gradual that students are able to acquire the skills needed to advance independently.

SPEED + ACCURACY = MASTERY – Before a Kumon student advances from one assignment to the next, the material must be completed with a near-perfect score within a suggested time. All work is graded and timed, and the results are recorded so the instructor can determine when a child has total command of the materials and is ready to move on to more difficult concepts.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT – An assignment which takes too long or is completed with too many errors demonstrates a lack of comprehension and needs to be repeated. Brief periods of daily practice help ensure optimal comprehension and retention of concepts and also helps establish the strongest possible foundation to be able to study more advanced material. Students complete the Kumon assignments everyday, with bi-weekly visits to the Kumon Center.

REALIZING EACH CHILD’S POTENTIAL – The Kumon Method allows a child to advance steadily at a comfortable pace determined only by the child’s ability. The instructor creates an individualized program that is never compromised by the needs of a group. The first priority of the Kumon instructor is to enable each and every child to perform and progress to his or her full potential, including advanced study whenever possible.

Parents have grown increasingly aware of the importance of having their children acquire good reading skills at an early age. This can often mean the difference between a child excelling or having difficulty at every phase of learning that follows. Not surprisingly, Kumon Reading is the organization’s fastest-growing program.

Kumon Reading is a balanced program representing the best documented practices in reading instruction. It covers skills from understanding the sounds that make up words to the summary and critique of complex reading passages.

Good writing and speaking skills are fostered as a natural outgrowth of the Kumon Reading curriculum. Kumon students at every level read daily. That alone confers enormous benefits. Areas covered by Kumon reading include pre-reading skills, phonics, vocabulary building, grammar and punctuation and reading comprehension. The program is perfect for those wishing to enhance vocabulary and comprehension, children having difficulty acquiring reading and writing skills at school and pre-readers or early readers who want a head start or supplement.

Kumon’s founder was a math teacher, and the original study plan he developed was in mathematics. While that program has evolved considerably, Kumon Math remains the organization’s most widely attended and recognized program. Kumon Math is a comprehensive program which develops the necessary skills to help a child progress from counting to calculus.

Children often have trouble simplifying fractional expressions in algebra because they have not mastered basic calculations. The Kumon Method develops proficiency at every level, so Kumon students build the solid foundation they need to advance more successfully and confidently through their schools’ math curricula.

The ease with which Kumon students routinely learn to perform basic operations and solve problems is perhaps the most dramatic testament to the effectiveness of the Kumon Method.

Learning skills that last a lifetime aren’t developed overnight. Just as a child needs to practice daily over time to become adept at a sport or musical instrument, so too does he or she need daily work in order for academic skills to develop and flourish. Most Kumon students attend a Kumon Center twice a week. That leaves five days when work must be completed at home. This usually takes about twenty minutes each day. Kumon parents generally find that their children end up with more time to pursue other interests because they’ve developed far more efficient study habits, along with the skills to do both Kumon assignments and schoolwork quickly and accurately without wasting time.

The goal is for Kumon students to assume most – if not all – of the responsibility for their own study. Some parental involvement, particularly in the beginning, helps to establish the routine and get the whole process off to a good start. Kumon is most successful when the student, parent and Kumon instructor work together to ensure that the child advances continually to the best of his or her ability.

An engaged Kumon parent will set a regular study time for the child, check that assignments are timed and graded accurately and completed daily, know what the child is studying and why, and discuss the child’s progress with his or her Kumon instructor.

Some children progress very rapidly; others take longer. Kumon views education as an ongoing process, and Kumon is not meant to be a “quick-fix” solution. Parents are encouraged to keep their children enrolled for six months to a year before judging the effectiveness of the program. Many children stay with Kumon for years thereafter. Few students are as well prepared as long-term Kumon students for major standardized exams like the SAT.

In 1954, Toru Kumon, a high school math teacher in Japan, began developing materials to help his second-grade son, who was struggling in math. As an educator, Kumon realized that a strong foundation in the basics was needed for success in higher-level math. He also believed learning occurs most efficiently when the level of material being learned corresponds to the student’s level of ability; the rate of progress is determined by the student, not by the teacher; and the material to be learned is organized into a naturally coherent, logical progression.

With these principles in mind, Kumon created a series of carefully sequenced materials for his son to complete after school. Through daily practice and a commitment to mastering each concept, the young boy improved his math skills and gained the ability to solve math problems well beyond his grade level.

Kumon’s neighbors heard about the success of his son and started asking him to work with their children. To meet this spontaneous demand, the first Kumon Center was opened in Kumon’s home in 1956. For two years, this new approach to education was refined and formalized. In 1958, the Kumon Institute of Education was established with the objective of helping students excel in math and gain a love for learning.

Kumon expanded rapidly through the 1960s. In 1974, the first Kumon Center in North America opened in New York. Canadian operations began six years later with the first center opening in Toronto in 1980. The reading program was established in North America in 1991.

Tuition is $80 per month per student, and there is an initial registration fee. Kumon will conduct the child’s placement test free of charge. For more information, contact Cunningham at (618) 242-4957. Additional details also are available at

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