Discovery VSG Presentation Script
KNA&KEA Conference: Odaiba, Japan
Slide 3 (first slide for Shirley)
Hello. My name is Shirley Dong and I am an Instructor with two centers in
New York City.
(click) A couple of years ago, we all attended Professional Development
trainings hosted by Mr. Yamabe and Mr. Miyake from Japan. These
presentations really inspired us and we wanted to move forward!
(click) Soon after the meetings, we decided to form an “east coast”
Voluntary Study Group, or VSG, that would meet once a month to discuss
our excellent students. We each took turns videotaping our students and
sharing our case studies. However, after about a year of learning, we
decided we wanted to take our research up a notch.
(click) In 2007, we refined our focus.
(click): Our new strategy was to “Discover” how we could translate what
we had been learning from our excellent students to all of our students.
(click): We also decided upon a new structure. We would now observe
multiple students in our centers, over extended periods of time, in order to
gather ongoing data on their performance as they progressed through the
We set three primary goals for our research.
(click) The first of these was to discover how our advanced students in the
D, E, and F levels approached their work and were able to learn from the
worksheets independently. We chose these levels because we were inspired
by Mrs. Wan Pen’s presentation at the Instructor’s conference in Toronto.
We wanted to “discover” how the examples and exercises in these levels
shift children from “completers” of worksheets to “learners” of worksheets.
(click) We also wanted to discover the similarities and differences of how
our students approach these worksheets, because we believed it would help
us to determine the “improvement points” for our more average students.
(click) Lastly, we hoped to discover our own preconceptions about student
ability when it comes to lesson planning. We wanted to push our boundaries
and preconceptions, to go a little bit outside our own comfort zones, so that
we could open ourselves to the true potential of our students.
It was extremely important that we select the right students to study. To do
this, we set forth the following guidelines.
1. (click) Monitor students should be able to work independently. This
was very important, especially for our excellent students. We wanted
to learn what practices our students used to learn from the worksheets
so that these practices could then be shared with all of our students.
2. (click) They must be self motivated. They had to do their work
3. (click) All students had to be on the G by 5 track.
4. (click) All students had to be around D 151 at the start of the study so
that we would have similar longitudinal data for all of our monitor
5. (click) We chose students who tended to fall in the 10% range of
students who sometimes advance outside of the SCT guidelines. We
wanted to learn how these students had developed the learning skills
to challenge themselves.
6. (click) Lastly, we wanted all students to be able to complete 5
worksheets per day.
We selected two types of monitor students.
(click) The first type was the truly “excellent” student. These students
reached 2 years above grade level in only 2 years of Kumon study. These
were our model, excellent students.
(click) The second type of monitor student was an average student who was
studying 2 years above grade level. By studying these students in
conjunction with our advanced students, we believe that we can put our
average students on the right path to becoming not only advanced, but also
excellent, independent learners!
To collect our data, we needed a series of guidelines. You see them here
1. (click) First, we created a file for each student.
2. (click) It was very important for us to set up a study area for our
monitor students near our desks. This allowed us to observe the
students, provide feedback or guidance if needed, and to take careful
notes on their progress without significantly disrupting the flow of our
3. (click) We asked all monitor students to record the completion time
for each worksheet. This enabled us to better understand student
progress as they worked their way through a set.
4. (click) We kept all completed classwork and homework for reference.
5. (click) We recorded all information about the student’s performance
in class during each center day. This included time, accuracy, work
ethic, demeanor, specific challenges faced, etc. This was difficult to
implement at first, but was very important for conducting analysis of
our students later.
6. (click) Lastly, we met with each other to discuss our monitor students
once per month. This opportunity to learn from one another, through
our students, was absolutely vital to the development of our VSG. It
was truly a wonderful experience to have this opportunity to learn
from one another each month!
We also attempted to figure out what type of learning was occurring while
the student was completing the worksheets. We determined that there are
three basic categories that students fall into: (3 clicks) Independent,
Support, and Repetition. Of course, students can be different kinds of
learners with different concepts and sets. Through our research we wanted
to see if our students could move from one learning category to the next.
I’d now like to explain the three categories.
Independent: (click) Student shows ability to learn from the examples
without explicit teaching or instruction. The student may need to be
reminded, occasionally, to refer to the examples when stuck, but can then
solve independently. If there are mistakes, they are generally corrected
independently. The student appears confident and motivated and is able to
meet any challenges presented by the worksheet.
Support: (click) This student will generally require explanation or
“teaching” of examples by an assistant or the Instructor in order to progress
through the set. However, the student can apply concepts independently
after being taught. The student may demonstrate a lack of confidence or
require additional support or reassurance.
Repetition: (click) This student finds the material challenging and requires
additional repetition of the worksheets to develop understanding of the
material as well as confidence and comfort with it.
We found that our students could progress from one learning category to the
next! Indeed, some of our “support” type students really became
independent learners by the time they began attempting level F and G
materials. We also saw some of our students who tended to need more
repetition stretch their wings and make their way toward a more support
style learning. This was truly exciting to see and we’re looking forward to
sharing some case studies with you.
(click) Coming up next, we will share a few student case studies involving
Excellent and Average students.
(click) Arti and Jay will share how some of their excellent and average
students, working at roughly the same Kumon level and grade, were able to
progress through the D, E, and F levels.
(click) With this kind of comparison, we have learned that our average
students need not remain average! We also learned that knowing the traits
of our excellent students can help us to determine points for improvement in
our average students. Knowing our excellent students helps us to paint the
full picture for the development of our average students.
Now, it’s my pleasure to introduce Arti Balakrishna!
Slide 10 (Start of Arti’s slides)
Good afternoon. My name is Arti Balakrishna and it is my pleasure to share
with you all a part of our discovery as we studied our monitor students.
(click) We discovered that a student’s inherent ability is fully realized if it is
matched with emotional maturity. (click) Perhaps, it is the combined effect
of ability with emotional maturity that will allow an average advanced
student, who needs support, to be transformed into an excellent, advanced
and independent learner.
Among the monitor students selected at my center, I will talk to you about
Dharmen and Corbin. Dharmen is an excellent, advanced and independent
learner and Corbin was an average, advanced student who did well with
support, mostly emotional support.
As I watched him learn and progress through the worksheets, I observed the
characteristics Dharmen displayed which made him an independent and
advanced learner. He was competitive and eager to meet a challenge, had the
emotional and physical stamina to do work for long periods of time and did
not let mistakes deter him.
Corbin, on the other hand, was a diffident, nervous and very cautious learner.
He as afraid of making mistakes and did not enjoy new concepts. He did not
have the stamina to work for extended periods of time.
Both Dharmen and Corbin are small built, shy and reticent young men.
Dharmen is currently in the 3rd grade and attends public school. Corbin is
just 2 months older than Dharmen but is in the 4th grade and homeschooled.
Dharmen is the eldest of two children while Corbin is the youngest.
(click) Dharmen was selected for the study because he exhibited many traits
of excellent students. He was a model student to learn from. (click) At first
the number of pages and the number of problems seemed to be daunting for
Dharmen but once he started to time his work page by page it seemed to
become easier for him to deal with his work even if it was new material.
(click) As he advanced through the level, timing each page and learning
new material at his comfortable pace allowed Dharmen to progress quickly
and comfortably and in step with his real potential.
The completion times for D151 to 200 for Dharmen and Corbin are not very
If we compare the errors for the same worksheets, the difference between the
two students reveals their strengths and weaknesses.
Even though Corbin was a little out of the parameters we had set for our
study, he was selected for the study because he showed characteristics of an
advanced student who showed potential to become an independent and
(click) When I started the study, Corbin had many meltdowns when he was
given new material in class. Seeing 5 pages of new material unnerved him
and he would break down crying. (click) He would insist on taking his work
home to complete it. (click) He was comfortable when assigned repetition in
class, but all new concepts had to be done at home as he felt nervous to do
them in class.
I realized that the strategy used to develop Dharmen would be a good start
for Corbin. (click) Like Dharmen, Corbin would time each page, even at
home. (click) The work load was reduced to keep his confidence up.
Corbin was also encouraged to get each page corrected before he moved on
to the next one.
(click) Both Dharmen and Corbin were video taped doing E141 for the first
time in class. (click) The difference was that Dharmen was informed on the
day he was video taped while (click) Corbin was told about the taping in
Slide 21 (Dharmen Video)
As you watch Dharmen do E141 for the first time (he had absolutely no
prior introduction to multiplication of fractions) you can see his independent
approach to learning. He keeps going back to the examples and reviewing
the concept till he ultimately understands it. He is not discouraged by how
long it is taking him.
Slide 22 (Corbin Video)
Let us observe Corbin on the video tape. He was informed ahead of time and
as I video taped him doing E141, to my amazement, Corbin hesitated for
only a brief moment at each example and very quickly understood the
concept of multiplication of fractions.
On page E142a, he wanted to know why the numbers were crossed out. I
asked him to look carefully at the example and notice how the fraction had
changed after the numbers had being crossed out and he quickly figured out
that they had been reduced – a concept he was first introduced to in level D.
After that, he finished the entire page in 5 minutes. On page E143a, he was
able to see that the same process was used in both directions and completed
the page in 4 min.
After watching the video tape of Corbin doing E141, you can see the
independent attitude that had surfaced by merely having him do his work at
his own pace to suit his emotional strength. This gave him the chance to
become more confident and allowed him to boldly approach new concepts
and it will be interesting to see how smoothly he will progress through the
rest of the study.
(click) I learned from my excellent students that in order to help them
achieve their full potential the gradual introduction of new and advanced
material can be crucial. (click) It allows the student to develop emotionally
which in turn gives him the correct attitude to deal with a strong academic
challenge. (click) This confidence grows over a period of time as Jay will
show you all by her analysis of two such students from her center. Jay will
go over details of how she observed these two students approach the actual
problems as they learned from the worksheets.
(click) On a personal note, even if the process of being part of a very closely
monitored VSG involves a lot of time and effort, it well worth every minute,
as it gave me the unprecedented opportunity to learn from other excellent
Instructors. That in turn help me broaden my approach to helping my
students in reaching their full potential. This, however, is only the beginning.
Slide 24 (Start of Jay’s slides)
Thank you Arti! Good afternoon everyone! My name is Jay Raghunath and
I am an instructor from New York. I have been studying eight students so far.
These students can be easily categorized as either excellent or average
advanced students. Due to time constraint, today I would like to specifically
compare and contrast two students with different learning curves. We would
like for you to ponder as to when and how Kumon work sheets develop
independent learning in average advanced students.
(click) John is an excellent advanced student who started his Kumon study
on October, 2006 when he was in grade 2. He took a P2 placement test and
started on level A. (click) Christine is an average advanced student who
started her Kumon study in April, 2004 when she was in PK1. She took a K1
placement test and started on level 4A 31. Currently both students are on
(click) John and Christine are exactly the same age and in the same grade.
(click) John is a confident student who is enthusiastic about his work, works
independently, does not get frustrated with mistakes. He also has a
tremendous capacity to do mental calculations and ability to work efficiently.
(click) Christine on the other hand is a bit nervous, needs more support with
new concepts and needs more repetition to master work sheets. But she is
very diligent, has the stamina to tackle work, and meticulous in writing out
all the steps.
(click) In the next few minutes, I will share with you the progress of John
and Christine through some of the challenging work sheets in levels D, E,
and F. (click) These work sheets were chosen particularly because they are
generally regarded as needing some support for most students. (click)
Studying how they both handled some of the challenging steps when they
did it for the first time sheds some light on their inherent ability, and the
development of skills needed to study higher levels of Kumon work sheets
independently. Both students have completed 5 pages per day through levels
D, E, and F.
Graph 1: This first graph shows progress for both John (click) and Christine
John has progressed from level A through level F in 2 years and Christine
has taken 4 ½ years to complete levels 4A through F.
Achievement test results:
Levels John Christine
4A 70/70; 4/10; G1
3A 57/60; 8/10; G2
2A 78/80; 6/10; G2
A 100/100; 9/10; G2 99/100; 10/10; G2
B 75/80; 14/15; G2 78/80; 16/15; G2
C 80/80; 12/15; G2 79/80; 12/15; G2
D 68/70; 37/25; G2 59/70; 18/25; G3
E 68/70; 25/25; G2 67/70; 25/25; G2
F 48/50; 29/25; G3 44/50; 30/25; G3
(click) Table 1 is the achievement test results for both students. They are
surprisingly quite similar!
We studied the SCT vs. number of attempts for both the students for some
key sets in levels D, E, and F. Both students repeated or moved on through
worksheets when they felt ready to move on. They decided their repetition
during feed back.
Graph 2: This graph shows SCTs against the number of attempts for Level
D for both students. John is represented by dashed lines and Christine is
represented by solid lines. Sets chosen to study were D151 and D181. The
solid lines are Christine’s and the dotted lines are John’s. John starts off with
over the Y time in his first attempt and drops down to X time by 2 nd and 3rd
attempt. Christine however seems to have a harder time bringing down her
SCT closer to even Y time.
- 10 -
Graph 3: This graph shows the SCTs against the number of attempts for
some of learning the sets in Level E.
The sets chosen were E41, 71, 101, 111, 141, 181, 191.
Careful observation of this graph shows that Christine’s SCT for sets E41,
E71, and E181 start off way over Y time and drop closer to John’s SCT by
the 4th attempt. But she is close to John’s SCTs for sets E 101, 111, &141. It
is obvious that both students are above or closer to the Y time for some of
the key sets in level E.
Examining their completed worksheets carefully, other than observing them
closely during class, many differences became obvious in their ability to
tackle work sheets.
Let us now look at how the work sheets were handled by both students in
this Level E in their very first attempt. Some of the questions from the
key sets of levels E are being shown now:
Set 41: Both students needed support for the first time as seen on E42b, John
did better as he progressed.
This can be seen by comparing page E48b. Not being able to find the LCM
instantly was the challenge faced by Christine.
Set 71: Observing page 76a and 78a, it is obvious that John uses the Kumon
method shown in the examples only when he could not figure out the LCM
intuitively, but Christine follows the example explicitly for all questions.
Set 101: Looking particularly at Page 109, question#5 - (click) John
calculates 7 8/9- 3 8/9 =4 in one single step but Christine converts 7 8/9 – 3
8/9 = 6 17/9 - 3 8/9= 3 9/9 = 4 introducing a step which makes it more time
- 11 -
Set 111: On page 118b - (click) John consistently uses the more efficient
Kumon way of subtracting fractions but Christine is not always consistent.
Set 141: page 143b shows John’s ability to reduce the fractions mentally
and Christine has to show her reduction steps.
However, with repetition and constant reminders Christine was able to
master the sets in level E.
Graph 4: This graph shows the SCTs against the number of attempts for
some of learning the sets in Level F.
Sets chosen were F21, 51, 61, 81, 111, 131.
Both students are steady with their SCT in this level. John is consistently at
the X time or between X-Y times. Christine’s SCT is consistently above the
We will now compare how these two students handled some of the questions
from the key sets of levels F in their first attempt.
Set 51: On page 58b- (click) John follows the steps the way he has seen on
page 58a for the rest of the set. Christine takes the longer, more difficult
route to get the same answer.
Set 61: For the questions on page 62a- John does the work with minimum
number of steps while Christine needs to write the steps out. She also needed
to be reminded to make the RHS equation equal to LHS while writing the
By page 68b Christine had the guidance from Kumon worksheets to carry
out the steps appropriately.
- 12 -
Set 71: John follows through the ‘order of operations’ automatically (click)
while Christine needed a lot of support and repetition to achieve the same
Completing the work sheets from F61-100 gave Christine the confidence
and ability to handle rest of the level on her own. By Page 141-150,
Christine was able to come close to John’s ability and style of handling the
work sheets as you can see on Page 143a.
Finally - comparing the number of months taken to complete the levels from
Level A through level F, the graph shows a decrease in the number of
months taken by Christine to complete levels as she progressed to level F.
Now in level G, she has clearly indicated that she would like to progress
with just 2-3 repetition giving me the courage to progress this young
“support/repetition” student boldly in the higher levels.
The study traits seen in John and Christine are being noticed among the
other students in our study. Even though Christine was able to understand
most of the examples in level E, showing new concepts, it took a lot of
repetitions and support before she could retain and carry the information
over to all the subsequent pages. However, it got easier and more concrete as
she progressed through level F. At this point, it is of interest to mention that
even though Christine’s SCTs in level F were over the Y time, seeing the
gradual development of confidence and change in her attitude made me
progress her at the pace at which she wanted. Her inherent quality of being
meticulous and writing out all the steps neatly took its toll on the SCT. She
has been a classic example of a student who does not fall with in the 90% of
the norm. Now in level G, working with integers, I see Christine constantly
looking for ways to complete the work sheets as quickly and as efficiently
This study so far has been an invaluable experience, giving us the
opportunity to actually see students like Christine and Arti’s student Corbin
develop stamina and skills that are some of the characteristics of an excellent
advanced student while going through levels D, E, and F – true pursuit of
their individual potential! This has already set us on a path to develop and
guide the other support students in their study to achieve the goals of
- 13 -
completing the work sheets in a shorter time. We hope that we can share
more of the results of this on going study at some future date. With this I
would like to turn this over to Cristina for some final thoughts.
- 14 -
Slide 44 (Start of Cristina’s slides)
Thanks Jay! Good Afternoon!
My name is Cristina Acosta and I am from Boca Raton, Florida. It is a
pleasure to share with you some of the preliminary conclusions our group is
beginning to develop.
Throughout this presentation, we have talked about the importance of
observation. In the remaining minutes, I’d like to cover briefly a few sets we
have determined vital for observation. Also, I’d like to share with you some
basic steps that might help you integrate observation into your classroom
without drastically changing your center routine.
As Jay mentioned, our group determined a selection of sets that require close
observation. Although I am unable to cover all of these sets with you, I’ll
share a few in Levels D and E in greater detail. A complete list of the sets
we have compiled will be available to you after the conference. We are
continuing to study our students and the worksheets, so what we share with
you today and what we might share in the future is preliminary.
In the last 50 worksheets of level D, (click) we found that sets 151-160 and
181-190 often required observation to ensure student success in Levels E
and F. (click) For students to have good reduction skills, make sure they
have mastered long division before they attempt these worksheets. (click)
On pages 156-160, students seemed to catch on well to the reduction process.
Students should use mental calculation as much as possible. It is helpful to
have students time each page individually to determine if they can work
smoothly without problems.
(click) Use pages D 181 to 185 as study sheets for students who struggle.
These worksheets are challenging for younger advanced students. Place
emphasis on finding the GCF so they can reduce in one step. Pages 181-190
are significantly more challenging because they are a step up from pages
161-180. (click) Students need to be observed closely while working
through these pages to determine their readiness for Level E.
- 15 -
In Level E, worksheets 41b to 50 can be challenging, so we recommend you
(click) make sure students are not changing the order of the fractions when
re-writing the fractions after finding the common denominator. (click) To
help students see this, when studying the example on worksheet 41b, 1/8 +
1/4 = 1/8 + 2/8 = 3/8, (click) show them another example 1/4 + 1/8 = 2/8 +
1/8 = 3/8. In this last example, the first fraction needs to be changed instead
of the second fraction. (click) On E 43b, #15 make sure students understand
that the LCM is a third number not one of the two given denominators.
(click) On worksheets E 101 and E110, we recommend helping students
visualize 1 as a fraction. For example, if 1 = 5/5, then 1 – 1/5 can be solved
as 5/5 – 1/5 = 4/5. (click) (click) On worksheet 106a, students should
understand the concept of regrouping to be able to do worksheet 106b on,
without turning everything to improper fractions.
Worksheets E 141-150 are important because there are many examples to
guide the students to become more independent learners. (click) Worksheet
142a is usually done without difficulty, but it is an important page to observe
because students must reduce before multiplying.
(click) Worksheets E 146 to E 147 may prove challenging as students need
to follow several steps in order to solve the problems: converting mixed
numbers to improper fractions, cross-cancelling, and then converting
improper fractions to mixed numbers. If they work smoothly, longer
completion times may be acceptable.
Lastly, worksheets E 181 to E 185 require occasional explanation. (click)
Students should be encouraged to reduce fractions before solving the
problems and to simplify in one step using the GCF. (click) Our students
needed to be observed carefully on this set. They suddenly became unsure
of themselves given all the necessary concepts and skills culminating in this
set. (click) Remember that mental calculation skills may still be quite strong
even though times are longer due to students spending time in choosing the
correct mathematical steps.
- 16 -
Now that we have seen the key sets to observe, let’s address the second
question on how to do the observation. We understand that it is impossible
to observe all your students, so we suggest the following:
1) (click) Start with one or two students with similar characteristics to
2) (click) Seat them close to your desk or in a part of the center where
you can see them work.
3) (click) Create an original lesson plan, but allow for student-assisted
planning. Your original plan can be compared with the student’s
actual progress at the end of the level.
4) (click) Assign for class work the key sets we have mentioned.
5) (click) Keep detailed records of time, accuracy, types of mistakes,
verbal comments and questions from the student, student’s motivation
and attitude towards the work, etc.
6) (click) Encourage students to time each worksheet
I followed these steps at my center to do the observation of one of my
excellent students, Andre. The most significant aspects of his learning are
his motivation and attitude towards the work.
Andre is in the 3rd grade and is currently completing level F. Though he has
always been a serious and dedicated little boy, I have seen him develop a
good measure of emotional maturity while working through the pages of
Level E. He is an independent type of learner who needs very little explicit
instruction, but he needs to be challenged to stay motivated.
(click) Taking this into consideration, I made it a point during feedback to
spend a few minutes asking him to share his thoughts on the worksheets he
had done for homework and to tell me how he felt about either reviewing or
moving forward. He became more communicative about the level of comfort
he felt with the number of pages assigned or the level of difficulty he
experienced when seeing new concepts. (click) Little by little, he became
more involved in planning his own work, (click) which in turn sparked a
deeper interest in the work he was doing.
- 17 -
Andre helped me realize the importance of paying attention to the
motivation of all my students so that, in turn, I could help as many students
as possible take control of their own learning and become excellent students.
(All VSG Members Approach the Podium)
We have enjoyed researching our students and have learned a great deal. It’s
been our pleasure to share our preliminary conclusions with you. We
encourage all of you to open up opportunities in your center to observe your
students and find new and exciting ways to share what you learn with your
(All VSG Members Together)
In short, we encourage you to try!
- 18 -