'Man, School Twice a Day?'

Amisyas Aklile, 10, reviews a lesson with Kumon instructor Min Woo.
Amisyas Aklile, 10, reviews a lesson with Kumon instructor Min Woo. (Nikki Kahn - Twp)
Thursday, April 7, 2005

What a drag! Or so 9-year-old Matthew Doris thought when his mother suggested that he attend an after-school learning center.

"I was like, 'Man, school twice a day? That's harsh!' " said Matthew, who lives in Silver Spring, not far from the center.

But Matthew had to admit that he was pretty miserable in his elementary school, struggling with math and getting so nervous about reading aloud that he sometimes stuttered.

In the two months that he's been going, twice a week, to the Score! learning center -- basically a room in a shopping center where kids work on computers with adult help -- Matthew's grades have gone from C's and D's to B's. Now he actually looks forward to going to the center. "At times, I wish I could go more," he said.

Millions of kids these days are getting the same sort of add-on schooling. Not all of them love every moment, for sure. Some complain that it's hard to fit it in among sports, other after-school activities and regular homework. One boy said the rah-rah atmosphere at Score! can be "a little dorky" at times.

But most kids said they enjoy the feeling they get from doing well in their studies, figuring out tough problems and advancing to higher levels.

"I don't know why, I just got interested in math here. Usually math is hard for me, but here it was really fun," said Marieclaire Alde, 10, of Wheaton, who goes to the Kumon Math & Reading Center in Rockville.

Two years ago, Marieclaire was having trouble with multiplication, so her parents started her at Kumon. Now, the fifth-grader is able to do algebra normally taught in seventh or eighth grade.

Kumon's self-guided learning style was developed in Japan 50 years ago. The math program involves lots of drills and memorizing -- and no calculators or computers. Thousands of work sheets cover 23 levels of math, from counting to calculus. (Kumon's reading program also takes a step-by-step approach.)

Kids come twice a week and spend 30 minutes on a subject per visit.

At the Rockville Kumon one recent afternoon, a dozen kids were busy with work sheets as four instructors peeked over their shoulders or checked papers nearby.

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