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Kumon maths was started by Toru Kumon, a maths teacher in Japan in 1954 when his own son was struggling in school. He developed sets of worksheets to be completed within a certain time frame, but starting at the most basic levels. The Kumon philosophy is "Speed + accuracy = mastery" (Kumon UK website) Within a year Mr Kumon was sharing his work sheets with neighbours and four years later developed the Kumon institute. Which has now spread to 46 countries and also includes reading tuition.
Today I am reviewing Kumon Math Workbooks Subtraction Grade 1. This book is 96 pages in length, and as the name suggests consists of drill sheets for basic subtraction (up to 20). It does also include a very limited amount of addition, in the form a few pages of addition review at teh beginning of the book, and some equations that mix addition and subtraction at the end, such as "10 -8 + 6".
These books were designed to be used in Kumon tutoring centres, where an instructor would evaluate the child and select the correct level for the child to begin with. As a home educator, I have had to use a bit a guess work as the books use American grade levels. The American 1st grade would be for ages 6-7 and the equivalent of British P1 which is ages 5-6. In Northern Ireland though, my son is in P2 at 5-6 because of the very early school starting age, although Northern Ireland is meant to be moving towards a system where both p1 and p2 would be considered as foundation years with less academic work, in practice this seems to be very sporadic with many schools beginning serious academic study rather than play based learning as early as age 3. So basically I haven't a clue at what level he should be working but will act as if he were being educated in mainland Britain, which makes it much easier for me to figure out! At any rate we are using this book for ages 5-6, and would recommend it for about that age level for home education.
If choosing a book yourself, I believe it is better to choose a book that is a bit too easy than one that is too difficult. There is nothing wrong with reviewing the basics, but starting with too a high a difficulty level not only leads to frustration, it can leave gaps in child's learning, making future skills harder to acquire. The idea behind this series is to help a child develop absolute mastery at each step before progressing to the next. So if a child is really struggling in school, I would start with the book for the previous year. For a child experiencing difficulties in maths I would recommend this book for ages 6-7, or even older if the child has still not mastered the basic subtraction facts. It is far better to choose books by ability then age level, and again, better to review subjects the child already knows a bit then struggle along with ones that are too many steps ahead of the child.
This book is presented as paired worksheets which are meant to be completed in a specified time frame. The idea is for the child to quickly move through each set, committing the facts to memory. An average set of pages might contain as about 40 equations. I give my son 10 minutes to complete this, which usually allows for me to take a quick glance over his answers, and if one is incorrect, he can change the answer provided the clock has not run down. I personally don't believe children learn much from questions marked wrong though, so if answers are wrong, we erase and re do the equation. If he completes his pages with 100% accuracy in teh ideal time limit though - he does less pages which has proved sufficient motivation for him to work quickly and accurately. If used for a younger child though, I would recommend dispensing with the time limit.
My son of course would really prefer to play computer games to do worksheets, but he does prefer these to other workbooks because he can get finished quickly, and they are simple and easy to understand. I was hesitant to buy these at first as they are a bit more expensive then most maths workbooks. However, they also have more pages, and devote a significant amount of time to each subject rather then quickly breezing through them as many books do. At £4.27, this actually comes out cheaper per page then most of the other books we have tried, and each page is fully devoted to maths, without unnecessary illustration. It may not be as exciting, but do you really need to pay for pages after pages of brightly printed dragons or knights to learn maths?
I would really recommend that anyone home educating give these books a try, but I would also recommend them strongly for parents of children who are struggling in maths at school. I believe spending even 15 - 20 minutes a day with these books would really help children to master any basic steps they may have missed out on in class and quickly catch up to their peers. My only complaint at all with this book would be that I did not find out about these sooner. In my experience, these are by far the best books we have found.