A history of Kumon

Company founding

The Kumon Method of Learning was born from one father’s love for his child in 1954. Toru Kumon, a caring father and gifted high school maths teacher, saw that his son Takeshi was not excelling in maths at school. To help him improve he wrote out maths worksheets for his son to complete daily. Toru Kumon believed that educators have a responsibility to foster a mindset of self-learning in children, so he created learning materials for Takeshi that encouraged him to work independently.

Takeshi’s ability improved significantly and following his son’s success, Toru Kumon invited some local children to study in the same way. In turn, all of them greatly improved. It was this, coupled with Toru Kumon’s desire to develop the potential of as many children as possible, that prompted him in 1955 to open the first Kumon maths centre in Osaka, Japan. Kumon expanded to Tokyo in 1962, reaching a combined total of over 10,000 students studying with Kumon by 1969.

Toru Kumon and his son

Early years of international expansion

In 1974, Toru Kumon published a book entitled The Secret of Kumon Maths which illustrated the aims of the Kumon Method and its effectiveness so far. It was well received, provoking a flood of enquiries. At the same time, Kumon began to expand internationally, opening its first centre outside of Japan in New York, USA. The total number of Kumon subject enrolments in Japan continued to grow, reaching 200,000 by 1977.

Throughout the 1980s, Kumon expanded both in geographical reach and in subject matter. In 1980, Kumon successfully opened its first centre in Europe in Germany, moving into the UK market in 1983. It also developed the Kumon English Programme (for native Japanese speakers) in 1980, as well as the Kumon Japanese Programme (for native Japanese speakers) in 1981. By the late 1980s, there were affiliated Kumon companies and study centres in Brazil, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong and Canada. By 1989, the total number of subject enrolments exceeded 1.5 million.

Meaning of the Kumon logo

The Kumon Method of Learning encourages both students and Instructors to think deeply to solve problems and work out answers. The O in our Kumon logo represents the ‘Thinking Face’. This is the expression of students who are engaged; learning, thinking and growing in Kumon study centres across the world. Similarly, it represents the faces of everyone involved in Kumon. From Associates to Instructors, there is a mutual desire to grow and improve, putting education and the development of each child’s potential at the forefront of our thoughts.

The Kumon blue used in our logo represents intelligence, honesty and the sky that stretches across the world. It also represents our hope that the world will be united, the future of our children will grow on a grand scale and that people all over the world will think seriously about education.

Kumon in South Africa

The first Kumon study centre opened in South Africa in 1991 offering students both its English and maths study programmes. Kumon is now the largest supplementary education provider in South Africa with more than 20,000 Kumon students learning at over 200 study centres across South Africa.

Kumon has continued its global expansion, with over 4 million students worldwide studying in more than 50 countries and regions around the world. View the timeline below for more details.

The 1950s
Toru Kumon, a high school maths teacher, began providing education-based on the concept of self-learning to his son, Takeshi, then a second grader in elementary school. He wrote numerous calculation problems on loose-leaf paper for his son. This was the origin of the Kumon Method.
The first maths centre using Kumon worksheets is opened in Osaka, Japan.
The Kumon Institute of Education is established.
Toru Kumon starts the Advanced Student Honour Roll - celebrating students learning independently, above the level expected for their age.
The 1960s
The Osaka Institute of Mathematics Ltd. is established.
Toru Kumon retires from Osaka Municipal Higashi High School, ending his teaching career to focus on the business of the Kumon Institute.
The number of Kumon students exceeds 10,000.
The 1970s
The first Kumon centre outside of Japan opens in New York, USA. It was with the opening of this centre in New York that the provision of Kumon Method study outside of Japan first began.
The number of Kumon students exceeds 100,000.
Kumon celebrates the first student to complete the final worksheet in the maths programme.
The first pre-school-aged child to be able to solve linear equations is nurtured via the Kumon Maths Programme.
Takeshi Kumon (Toru Kumon's son and the first Kumon student) is appointed as the President of the Kumon Institute of Education.
Kumon arrives in Europe, offering the maths programme in Germany.
The 1980s
The first Kumon Recommended Reading List is prepared.
The number of Kumon students exceeds 1,000,000.
The first Kumon International Instructors' Conference is held at the Kumon Kyoiku Kaikan in Osaka, Japan.
Newsweek magazine featured an article describing how the Kumon Method was being used at an Elementary School in Alabama, USA. This lead to a tremendous number of inquiries from all around the United States.
The 1990s
TIME magazine carries an article about Kumon, which led to a great number of inquiries from around the world, including from South Africa.
The first Kumon study centre is opened in South Africa.
The number of Kumon students worldwide exceeds 2,000,000.
Chairman Toru Kumon passes away at the age of 81 (25 July).
Kumon Education South Africa (Pty) Ltd is established. President Takeshi Kumon passes away (7 January).
The 2000s
The new Kumon logo is created. The number of Kumon students exceeds 3,000,000 worldwide.
The number of Kumon students exceeds 4,000,000 worldwide. Student numbers in Africa exceed 20,000 for the first time.
Kumon Education SA (Pty) Ltd celebrates its 10th Anniversary.
The Kumon Group celebrates its 50th anniversary.
The 2010s
Kumon Instructors across the globe met in Japan to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of founder Toru Kumon.
Kumon reaches 50 countries and regions around the world.
The Kumon Group celebrates its 60th anniversary.
Kumon is now in more than 50 countries and regions around the world.