We've noticed a few Kumon Centers popping up around the city lately and been intrigued by the strangely ambivalent smiley face. The centers provide an educational system for learning math and reading skills. And while they're new to New York, the company itself has been around for 50 years.

Whether kids use the programs for remedial help or enrichment, the system remains the same: they start with the basics and use practice worksheets to learn new concepts. Students don't advance until they've mastered the material, demonstrating both speed and accuracy. In the math program, for example, there are over 1,000 worksheets covering everything from basic arithmetic to advanced calculus. Assuming it takes a student 9 tries to complete each satisfactorily and they spend an average of 17 minutes per sheet, that's about… Well, it's a lot of time spent filling out worksheets, especially if you're 11 years old.

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