It doesn’t improve Maths

WHAT!?! Did I read that right? Yes, but let us qualify. Of course we don’t agree with that assessment at all. Through our own empirical observations, we have no doubt that the abacus dramatically improves Maths. But Professor Brian Butterworth of University College London, who is a fundi in cognitive neuropsychology, believes there is scant scientific evidence to support the notion that a child who goes home and does three hours of Maths homework with a pen and paper will be any worse off than a child that does the same three hours with an abacus.

The key is that the person actually does the work, and puts in the time. But like we said, we disagree – and besides which, using the abacus is a far more interesting w.

But it does improve visual & motor skills

What Professor Butterworth DOES agree with is the fact that the abacus improves other skills, which a normal pen and paper won’t. He cites the fact that the abacus changes the way the brain does the
calculation, and in so doing, it greatly improves visual and motor skills. Cool hey?

And it also improves concentration & memorisation

The head of the Urawa Soroban Academy in Japan, Chie Takanayagi, confirms that the abacus has remained popular in Japan long past its use as a calculation device, because it aids in improved concentration and memorisation. Need to remember the capital of Mpumalanga for your next pop quiz? Grab an abacus, baby...

It is fun fun fun!

You should see how much fun we all have when we go on our abacus camps throughout the year. We braai marshmallows, we play games, we get smart fiddling with our sorobans. But it’s not just limited to the camps. Every day, our wonderful network of teachers and parents get to see the joy on their kids’ faces as they demystify Maths.

It is like a sport for the brain

Alex Bello reports that the abacus is treated like a sport, and just like in martial arts, you are awarded dans when you reach certain levels, and that there are local, regional, national and international competitions. Yes Alex, you’re right on the money there: every year we have competitions throughout the major cities in SA, and our local kids do very well in the international competitions. This year’s championships are being held in Dubai. We’re so excited!

It fosters a love of numbers

Mina Watanabe, a Japanese abacus teacher who lives in California, believes that the abacus fosters a love of numbers, because it takes an abstract subject like numbers and makes it more concrete. We agree, and this has also been our experience, as we have written about before.

You can calculate numbers with NINE 0’s!

Again, it is Alex Bello who points out how quickly calculations can be done with an abacus – sometimes almost as fast as a calculator. What’s also interesting is that the abacus calculates numbers from biggest to smallest, not smallest to biggest as would be done with a pen and paper, which is why + - x and / become a breeze...

It has given the East a huge advantage over the West

We will be covering this in next month’s post, but for now, let’s share this with you: Japan, South Korea and China always outperform Western kids in numeracy surveys. That’s why we love the fact that
Abacus Maths has helped to spread the abacus to Africa – so that we can also become smartypantses!

It makes you seem really really really clever – because you are!

A study of Sudanese children was done to determine the effects of the abacus. A sample of 3,185 children was split into two groups. One group received intensive abacus training two hours a week for 34 weeks, while the other group did not. The abacus group scored 7.11 points higher in IQ tests, directly attributable to the training – and they could also do the calculations much faster than their peers.

It’s already been replaced by a robot – and no one cares

Job losses due to robots taking over is a real fear among some workers. Well, the abacus was replaced by a robot a long time ago – it’s called a calculator – and it survived and thrived in the digital world, because there is no substitute for smartly growing the brain. So if you’re worried that your job is under threat from a robot, you can always become an abacus teacher ☺.