A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on my Maths Insider blog comparing Thinkster Math to Kumon Math. I used to run my own Kumon® centre in the UK and 2 of my own children worked through the Kumon program for several years, so I’m in a unique position to compare Thinkster’s innovative math program with the well established Kumon program.
Thinkster covers a broader curriculum and improves analytical thinking
Thinkster’s main benefit is that it gives more coverage of math content. Each worksheet in Thinkster can be mapped to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Math. Thinkster students learn, not just computational skills, but analytical and reasoning skills, which are skills needed to produce mathematicians, not just arithmeticians.
It’s great that Kumon students often work above their school year level but in most cases, they can’t do anything outside of context and have weak analytical thinking skills. My 2 older students could manipulate complex algebra after several years of Kumon, which was indeed impressive, but still needed to build up their understanding of geometry, statistics and the practical application of algebra. Thinkster builds these skills simultaneously.
Thinkster is flexible
We recommend that students complete 5 – 7 worksheets each week. Of course, 1 worksheet every day is ideal, but we also know that “life happens” so if a student wants to do 3 worksheets a day, that’s fine, and if a student only does 3 worksheets another week due to other commitments, that’s also OK. In the Kumon program, completing additional worksheets wasn’t encouraged, and completing fewer worksheets would likely result in plenty of repetition in the following weeks.
Thinkster encourages communication
This is where most people would think that Kumon would have a distinct advantage. Kumon instructors meet their students face to face every week. However, Thinkster uses technology to make sure that Thinkster instructors really get to share with students and parents.
There are the short supportive comments I make on every student’s digital worksheets, and the more in-depth written or audio guidance I give when students are struggling. However, my very favorite thing is the conference where I get to chat with my students and their parents about how their work has been going and discuss the upcoming study plan. I can use Skype or FaceTime from the comfort of my home to make the discussion more personal.
Thinkster personalizes a student’s learning experience
As an ex-instructor, I know that Kumon instructors are not allowed to personalize the program to take into account students learning styles. When students take a diagnostic test when starting Thinkster, we look at what gaps need to be filled and look to fill those gaps while allowing the student to move forward in other areas.
On the Kumon program, parents are often shocked that their child has to start working on math concepts below their grade level, even if there are only a few weaknesses in their child’s math. Another great thing is that Thinkster instructors exist to ensure that students stay engaged. If a student is getting fed up with, for example, problems involving multiplications, we can throw in some worksheets on a different topic, before returning to review multiplications.
We also have the ability to map what students are doing in school. If there’s a test coming up on measurements, we can assign some measurement worksheets before the test. In addition, we notice, especially with students who have come from the Kumon program, that they are working well above grade level for arithmetic skills, but at or below grade level for word problems. In these cases, we can assign the appropriate mix of above grade level arithmetic while building up their math comprehension with word problems of increasing difficulty.
Another really important feature of Thinkster is that, as an instructor, I can see each and every page of a student’s completed worksheet. I can see what they’ve written, whether it be frustrated scribbles or accurate step by step working out, and everything in between. I use this information to plan that student’s next steps. As a Kumon instructor, I was basing many of my assignment decisions on a set of statistics entered onto a score sheet.
Thinkster builds independent learners
One major complaint that parents have about the Kumon program is that it doesn’t teach students (there are very few examples in the Kumon worksheets) Thinkster digital worksheets have instructional videos built in. Students really can just get on with their Thinkster without pestering their parents.
There have been times when I’ve logged onto my Thinkster Teacher App and found that my 4-year-old has completed a Thinkster worksheet the night before, even though I hadn’t asked him to because I thought he’d be too tired after a busy day! Thinkster students really can take their learning into their own hands!
Thinkster has the coolest rewards in addition to the iPad being a cool platform for kids
My own kids will happily tap their way through their Thinkster worksheets, whereas asking them to pick up a pencil after they’ve spent a whole day writing at school causes more than just a small amount of friction. Thinkster students also collect points for every worksheet completed and receive gift cards from the likes of Amazon, Target, etc.
Thinkster or Kumon?
Overall, from the perspective of someone who has worked closely with both programs, I truly believe that Thinkster eases the frustrations that instructors, parents, and students feel about the Kumon program. When I talk one-on-one with parents, I advise them that if Kumon works for them, and their family, then they should go with it. However, if they’re looking for something that will build their child’s love of math as well as their math skills, then they’ll do well with Thinkster Math!
Have you tried Thinkster yet? How do you think it compares to Kumon?
Note: Kumon® is a registered trademark of Kumon North America, Inc. Thinkster Math is in no way affiliated to the same.