After-school tutoring programs are touting their ability to help students do better in school. However, parents wanting to get beyond the marketing hype may wonder how the different education programs compare.
Let's explore the differences between Mathnasium and Kumon so that you can decide which program is right for your student.
Mathnasium vs. Kumon: Basics
Let's start by reviewing the basics of these two educational platforms.
Mathnasium is a math-only learning program for pre-K students through high school students. Each student works at his or her own pace on a personalized curriculum. A typical arrangement is to have one instructor at a table with four to six students. Mathnasium also offers SAT and ACT prep for students who want to improve their math score as they prepare for college.
Rates vary by the location of the Mathnasium center, and typical costs for the math program average between $200 and $300 per month. Students often attend twice per week. Younger students have hour-long sessions, and for older students, sessions are 75 minutes long.
Kumon isn't limited to math, also offering reading programs. However, like Mathnasium, programs span pre-K through high school, and each student begins at a personalized skill level. The structure of Kumon isn't built around a traditional tutoring format. Instead, Kumon is a self-learning program. Kumon's rates vary by location, and monthly costs can average $150 per subject. Students typically attend twice per week.
Both Mathnasium and Kumon are franchises, so even though there's consistency with the instruction programs, parents may also find that there are differences across learning centers.
Mathnasium vs. Kumon: Education Method
In both Mathnasium and Kumon learning programs, students work at their own pace. This is an advantage over traditional classrooms where the class progresses uniformly. In a traditional classroom, a school's math or reading class can leave a trailing student behind classmates. Unfortunately, the education gap for the student can continue to widen as time goes on because learning is often cumulative.
The Mathnasium method focuses on a student's ability to understand math concepts and its logic. To start, an assessment test establishes a student's skill level and identifies any gaps in his or her knowledge. These assessments are given regularly throughout the program to monitor math skills.
With the Mathnasium program, a customized learning plan is carried out by trained instructors. That means in one learning group, your child could be working on fractions while neighbors could be working on long division or mathematical word problems. Tutors are hands-on in their lessons, and no homework is assigned.
The Kumon program is much different. Rather than a traditional tutoring format, it uses a series of worksheets. The program focuses on timed repetition, and students will repeatedly practice until mastering a single concept. During sessions, students work independently on their worksheets, and instructors provide hints and feedback. Additional homework worksheets are assigned for daily practice that's about 30 minutes long. The focus on repetition cannot be understated. For example, one of Kumon's math levels has 200 worksheets about beginner addition before subtraction is introduced. That's 3,620 addition problems.
The Kumon program also starts with an assessment of the child's learning level. Following this, a student's placement is purposefully very low. The intent behind this is to grow a student's confidence because he or she will be able to complete early worksheet sets easily.
Mathnasium vs. Kumon: Results
Kumon's repetition-based approach is contentious. The New York Times notes that within the Kumon experience, "Repetition, derided elsewhere as drill and kill, is considered the key to developing concentration." On the other hand, one expert in early childhood language development says, "Having your kid drill and kill and fill in worksheets at 2 and 3 and 4 to the best of our knowledge so far does not give your child a leg up on anything." Further still, some parents see advantages to Kumon's bare-bones approach. "Kumon is not by any definition, 'fun'; it offers no educational bells and whistles, no direct instruction."
While opinions about Kumon are widely varied, the approach may be more suited to younger students. "Most Kumon dropouts are students who start the program at an older age and arrive with delays and frustrations already in place," reported Dallas-based D Magazine.
Mathnasium has a more traditional tutoring approach. According to results that the company released about itself, 88 percent of students who regularly attended the math program for at least six months saw improvement in their grades. Perhaps more tellingly, 85 percent of parents reported improved attitude toward math after students attended Mathnasium for longer than six months.
"Instead of relying on traditional rote memorization and repetitive exercises, we focus on helping children build deep mathematical understanding through the fundamental experience of working with numbers," said Mathnasium co-founder Larry Martinek. "We teach children to work with numbers beyond written exercises, which helps them to access Number Sense – an important step before they can apply their understanding on paper."
Mathnasium vs. Kumon: Conclusion
When deciding if Mathnasium or Kumon is right for your student, the first question relates to which subject your student needs help with. Mathnasium only offers math tutoring, while Kumon offers both math and reading. Both programs cover grade levels from pre-K through high school.
You'll also need to decide which learning approach is better suited to your child. Kumon's repetition-based program can help your student with structured learning, focused concentration, and a confidence boost. On the other hand, Mathnasium's approach is more hands-on with tutoring sessions that typically have one instructor to about four students. Mathnasium doesn't assign homework, while Kumon does.