What is an abacus?


The abacus is a tool used by the Chinese since about 500 BC for the simplest of calculations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, as well as fractions and square roots. Its inventor is unknown. A Chinese abacus is made up of a wood frame divided into two parts separated by a beam, with an upper deck of two rows of beads and a lower deck of five rows of beads. A series of vertical rods allows the wooden beads to slide freely. The abacus as we know it today did not appear in China until about 1200 A.D. Over time the abacus traveled to Japan and evolved into what it is called today: the soroban.  A soroban is made up of a wooden frame divided into two parts separated by a beam, with upper deck of one row of beads and a lower deck of four rows of beads.

What is the difference between an abacus and an electronic calculator?
With an electronic calculator, the child provides the input (numbers, addition or subtraction), and the calculator provides the output (numbers). But in the case of the abacus, the child converts the numbers into beads (input), manipulates the beads (processing), and brings out the result (output). After finishing our instruction books and with daily practice, your child will be able to do the arithmetic calculations MENTALLY very soon.

What are the advantages of learning to use an abacus?
In Japan, educators maintain that the abacus (soroban) helps children develop powers of mental calculation. It enables children 1) to understand the basic number systems such as base-ten and place values; 2) to understand concepts of carrying and borrowing in arithmetic; 3) to understand combinations of 5 and 10 and complements of numbers; 4) to visualize close relations between numbers and numerals, and 5) to develop children's ability to perform mental calculations.

How does it benefit my child?
Learning Mathematics with the Abacus books helps boost your child’s confidence when it comes to mathematics; develop mental calculation abilities; provide a sense of achievement as the child's proficiency improves; lead to greater mental capacity; promote intuitive thinking; enhance problem-solving capability; enhance creativity; and improve concentration and mental endurance.

What is the best age to start?
There is no good research available yet that identifies a specific age to start. Generally speaking, many children start learning to use the abacus between kindergarten and the 4th grade.

How does abacus instruction differ from the arithmetic traditionally taught in school?
The difference between abacus calculation and traditional methods is profound, but difficult to summarize. Abacus calculation relies upon the manipulation of beads rather than the arithmetic processes with which we are familiar. Thus it is able to draw upon right-brain resources and the result is dramatically increased speed.

Will this training conflict with the school's method of teaching math?
If a child starts the program prior to or concurrent with traditional methods, there is minimal conflict and the child will easily work within both systems. If a child starts the program later, having already received traditional foundations, there may be a slightly extended learning period for the child to accept and integrate the abacus method.

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