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Using The Kumon Method To Revitalize Mathematics In An Inner Urban School District

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Developing Young MINDs

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1262.1 - 8.1262.13



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Paper Authors

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Doreen Lawrence

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Broderick Boxley

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Chris Kobus

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Barbara Oakley

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1170

Using the Kumon Method to Revitalize Mathematics in an Inner-Urban School District Barbara A. Oakley†, Doreen Lawrence††, Walter L. Burt†††, Broderick Boxley†††, Christopher J. Kobus† † School of Engineering and Computer Science, Oakland University/ †† Kumon, North America/ †††School District of Pontiac


It is a compelling challenge to provide inner-urban K-12 students with the skills necessary for a career in engineering. A solid grounding in mathematics is the most valuable such skill and also the most difficult to develop. Many inner-urban programs meant to revitalize or strengthen mathematics education focus on students in middle or high school. At this grade level, many students already feel they have no skill with mathematics; they have a correspondingly poor attitude towards mathematics that makes any attempt to improve the mathematics curriculum more difficult. A more useful, if longer term, approach is to implement change from the bottom (elementary school level) up, rather than middle or high school, where ultimate change is so strongly desired. The authors have introduced a supplemental program in the Pontiac School District in Pontiac, Michigan to revitalize mathematics beginning with the elementary school level (K-5). The supplemental program, Kumon Mathematics, is used by millions of school children in Singapore, Japan, and Korea; countries that score the highest on worldwide mathematics achievement tests. Kumon Mathematics appears to provide an ideal structured support in mathematics for at-risk children who receive little or no help at home, and who present the teacher of any given grade with a great variety of achievement levels. It allows students to achieve frequent and repeated successes. This paper provides details of the Kumon Mathematics methodology as well as a description of the first year’s efforts in the program, which currently involves some 1,500 elementary school children in the Pontiac School District.

Introduction and Motivation

The Pontiac School District is an inner-city, largely minority district surrounded by suburban, largely white school districts of varying levels of affluence (Figure 1). The performance of Pontiac students on the mathematics section of mandated state tests (Michigan Educational Assessment Program—MEAP) and nationally normed tests is significantly below that of students in the surrounding districts. For example, in the statewide ranking of the percent of students who pass the mathematics portion of the MEAP test, Pontiac ranks in the lowest 1.3% of all Michigan school districts, while six of the seven school districts surrounding Pontiac rank in the highest 10% statewide and the seventh district ranks in the 61st percentile (Table 1). Pontiac has a total of 63.9% of school children receiving a free or reduced-price lunch. Immediately adjacent to Pontiac is the virtually all white Rochester School District, with only 3.2% of students receiving a free or reduced price lunch. Oakland University (OU) lies on the boundary between Pontiac and Rochester.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Lawrence, D., & Boxley, B., & Kobus, C., & Oakley, B. (2003, June), Using The Kumon Method To Revitalize Mathematics In An Inner Urban School District Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12407

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