Teachers Heroes

Toru Kumon

by Sandra from Jakarta

I’m not sure you can find one out of five elementary school students saying they like mathematics. But this man, my hero, made me love math 10 years ago. At that time, I was still an innocent 6-year-old girl, at first hating the subject as much as I hated the naughtiest boy in class.

Toru Kumon
Toru Kumon

Toru Kumon was born in Osaka, Kochi Prefecture, Japan. He graduated from the Osaka University of Science with a degree in mathematics and worked as a math teacher in Osaka.

In 1954, Toru's second-grade son, Takeshi, failed math at school. Trying to help his son, Toru created handwritten worksheets involving repetition of basic math skills, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Toru believed that Takeshi could solve various math problems if the basic skills—which is really important to understand advanced-level math—were taught one step at a time. He told Takeshi to do his worksheets 30 minutes a day.

“Every child has the potential to learn far beyond his or her parents’ expectations.”

Soon, Toru's words proved to be right. Takeshi's problems in math were gone forever. But not only that, by the sixth grade, Takeshi had mastered calculus (integral and differential), which happens to be high school level math. Takeshi's younger brother later could do calculus by the fourth grade.

News travels incredibly fast. Other parents became interested in Toru Kumon's ideas and methods of learning, and asked him to do the same for their children. As a result, in 1956, the first Kumon Center was opened in Osaka. Later in 1958, Toru Kumon founded the Kumon Institute of Education. It focuses on individual studies of each student to reach his or her full potential. Up until now, the institute has grown bigger every day, spreading to 44 different countries with more than 3.9 million students (as of March 2006). The Kumon method of learning is is not only implemented with math, but also with English (1980) and Japanese language studies (1981).

His words, "The most important thing in the world is to open up new worlds for our children to explore," have inspired millions of students—including myself—and educators in making the best out of everything they do. He has helped us in mastering something that at first seemed to be impossible, along with discovering a sense of pride, satisfaction, and confidence. Every child is capable of doing everything he or she wishes, as long as he or she does it wholeheartedly, step-by-step, and receives support from people around him/her.

Toru Kumon may have died in 1995, at the age of 81, but his thoughts will always be our source of inspiration, as we know that he has seen ideals and dreams turn into reality.

Page created on 6/5/2006 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 6/5/2006 12:00:00 AM

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