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Kumon’s Origins

One father’s love for his son gave birth
to the Kumon Method of learning.

After more than half a century, true to Toru Kumon’s philosophy,
we continue to help as many children as possible
develop the ability to fulfill their dreams.

It all began in 1954 when a young boy’s mother found a math test in his pocket. That boy’s name was Takeshi Kumon, and he was in his second year of elementary school. Seeing that his test results were not as good as they usually were, his mother consulted her husband about what to do. Her husband was Toru Kumon, a high school math teacher at the time. To address his wife’s concern, Toru then began making math worksheets for his son, Takeshi.

Toru Kumon believed that the work of an educator is to foster a mindset for self-learning in children. So he went through much trial and error when creating learning materials for his son so Takeshi would be able to work comfortably with the materials each day and to steadily develop his skills. Based on his experience as a high school teacher, Toru Kumon knew that many senior high school students had problems with their math studies because of insufficient calculation skills. Therefore, he focused on developing Takeshi’s calculation skills, and created materials that made it possible for his son to learn independently. This was because, through his own educational experiences, Toru Kumon knew that students could only gain genuine academic ability by making progress on their own.

Toru Kumon wrote out calculation problems on loose-leaf paper for Takeshi, and the materials that he created from 1955 became the prototype for today’s Kumon worksheets. Takeshi quickly developed his ability through studying the materials created by his father for half an hour every day. As a result, he was able to reach the level of differential and integral calculus when he was just a few months into the sixth grade. Following his success with Takeshi, Toru Kumon invited some children from the neighborhood to come and study at his home, and instructed them in a similar way to how he had instructed Takeshi. As a result, all of them greatly improved their academic ability. Seeing this, Toru Kumon wished to develop the potential of as many children as possible with his learning method. In 1958, therefore, he decided to establish an office in Osaka and open more Math Centers. From that year the number of Kumon students began to increase steadily. With reaching high school level material through self-learning as the goal, Toru Kumon’s aim was to develop the ability of students to the maximum by enabling them to study at a level appropriate for each individual.

Children have an inherent potential to grow. Through their practice of reading, writing, and calculation, students develop the confidence to learn on their own. We at Kumon consider education to be the nurturing of children’s ability to achieve self-fulfillment in the future and realize their dreams and goals. Born out of a father’s love for his son, Kumon is not restricted by the barriers of language, culture or history. As more people hear about the benefits of the Kumon Method, it continues to reach greater numbers of students throughout the world.

  • Toru Kumon: The founder of the Kumon Method
    (As a teacher at Sakuranomiya high school, circa 1955)
  • Takeshi Kumon: Toru Kumon’s eldest son
    (Around the time he was in second grade)
  • Handmade original worksheets created by Toru Kumon for his son. These materials served as the prototype for today’s Kumon worksheets.
  • Toru Kumon rented a room in this building in Osaka to set up an office which served as Kumon’s headquarters from 1959 to 1962.
  • Toru and Teiko Kumon instructing students together at the Toyonaka Uenozaka Center, circa 1965.
  • Toru Kumon giving a lecture in Brazil (August 1994).

Toru Kumon (1914-1995)

Toru Kumon was born in Kochi Prefecture, Japan. After graduating from Osaka Imperial University (Faculty of Science, Department of Math) he became a schoolteacher. During his 33-year career, he taught math at his alma mater Tosa Junior/Senior High School, and later at Sakuranomiya High School in Osaka City, as well as at other schools. In 1958, he established the Osaka Institute of Mathematics, which later became the Kumon Institute of Education Co., Ltd. in 1983. He devoted the rest of his life to improving the Kumon method and making it available to more and more people around the world.

Landmark publications:
The Secret of Kumon Math (Kosaido Publishing), Give It a Try – Yattemiyo (Kumon Publishing),
It Is Not the Child Who Is at Fault (Kumon Publishing), and many others.

Related sites

Kumon Toru Research Institute of Education
The Kumon Toru Research Institute of Education started out as a department of the Kumon Institute of Education in 1995 and was incorporated as a subsidiary in 2000. Its goal is to communicate and further develop the educational philosophy of Toru Kumon, founder of the Kumon Method. Its mission is to ensure the correct implementation of the worksheets and instructional techniques in each of the countries around the world offering the Kumon Method. While carrying out surveys and researching educational information, it plays a central role in communicating the value of the Kumon Method within the Kumon Group.
Toru Kumon Museum
Built in 1982, Toru Kumon’s former residence was converted into the Toru Kumon Museum in 1998. Through examining the original handmade worksheets that Toru Kumon made for his son Takeshi and viewing the various other exhibits on display, visitors to the museum can learn about the essence of the Kumon Method and contemplate what constitutes ideal education.