Kumon UK welcomes the Asian maths mastery approach in local primary schools

11 August, 2016

"This movement towards maths mastery will support children in understanding mental arithmetic."

“This movement towards maths mastery will support children in understanding mental arithmetic.”

In a recent announcement, Schools Minister Nick Gibb unveiled plans for the government to proactively help schools across England follow an Asian style of maths teaching.

The approach is used by south Asian nations including Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong, who are consistently the leading performers in international maths tests.

A long held criticism of the English approach to maths teaching has been that it is ‘a mile wide and a centimetre deep’. It is hoped that by adopting the Asian approach of focussing on fewer topics in greater depth, pupils in England will be able to better compete with their international peers – recent testing has highlighted that when it comes to maths, English fifteen year olds are approximately three years behind.

Nick Gibb said: “We are seeing a renaissance in maths teaching in this country, with good ideas from around the world helping to enliven our classrooms. I am confident that the steps we are taking now will ensure young people are properly prepared for further study and the 21st-century workplace, and that the too often heard phrase ‘can’t do maths’ is consigned to the past.”

With nearly 60 years’ experience of developing fluency and mastery in maths, at Kumon we welcome these changes as a big step in the right direction.

Like Kumon, a key element of the mastery approach is to ensure students have sufficient practice at each topic before moving on. Kumon’s focus on careful planning and detailed observations means that no pupil’s understanding is left to chance. By giving students all the practice they need, whilst developing key study skills such as character, independent learning, focus and concentration, we believe students are better able to realise their full potential.

One big difference between the new approach and Kumon is that at Kumon students are not taught as a whole class. At Kumon the work is always highly individualised to make sure that each child is doing work that is at the just right level for them.

Through practice and application Kumon students develop excellent mental recall helping them to process information at speed, complete more advanced work, and most importantly become confident young learners with no cap on what they can achieve.

Timothy Corns, Kumon’s Schools Project Manager, said: “I think this could be a real watershed moment for maths learning in England. We know at Kumon that with sufficient practice, encouragement and development, there is no reason why children can’t excel in maths in the same way that children who move to a foreign country excel at the language.

“I have seen many students start at our study centres convinced that maths is something they can’t do, to eventually become equally convinced that there isn’t anything they can’t do. This movement towards maths mastery will support children in understanding mental arithmetic and fluency in maths so when they meet ‘harder’ maths they have the basics already embedded. This time spent on foundation work at Kumon is something we are very proud of in our programmes and is key to the success we see in building maths ability in children.”