Pencil and paper learning in the digital age

Thousands of parents across Australia and New Zealand have chosen Kumon to support their children’s maths and English learning. What makes a 60-year-old pencil and paper programme appealing for modern families in the 21st century?

To answer this question, we interviewed Robert, a Sydney-based dad who holds degrees in engineering and physics. He has extensive career experience in many fields involving mathematics.

Robert enrolled his son into Kumon when he was in Year 3. What influenced him to choose Kumon Maths over the many other offerings available?

Well, it’s because Kumon is a pencil-and-paper programme. When investigating the options available for his son’s maths learning, Robert found many other programmes are computer based. He certainly did not want more screen time for his son. Robert believes children should practice maths problems by writing them out, erasing their errors, and writing the problem out again, until they get them right, without relying on calculators or computers.

“Kids are overdosing on computers,” Robert summarised.

Robert’s son has completed Kumon Maths. He can solve calculus problems that undergraduate university students face.

Students, computers and learning

Robert’s assertions that computer-based learning isn’t any better than learning with pencil and paper, are supported by the OECD report, Students, Computers and Learning. The report found when computers are used in the classroom, their impact on student performance is mixed at best. Furthermore, students who use computers very frequently at school perform poorly in most learning outcomes. The results also show no significant improvements in reading, mathematics or science in countries that invested heavily in digital technology for education.

The report proposes that technology can distract from valuable human engagement between educator and student. This is something Robert valued highly in Kumon. Robert felt his son’s Kumon Instructor was across every single one of her students’ progress. The Kumon Instructor knew exactly how to structure the programme for his son, according to his individual needs. If his son ever got stuck, he would seek face-to-face support from the Kumon Instructor.

This real-life human interaction between educator and student is valued highly by parents in an increasingly online education environment.


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