Q : What is an abacus?
An abacus is one of the oldest calculators known to man. It is a bead-based calculator and is a useful tool for learning mental arithmetic skills and developing the left and right hemispheres of the brain in young children.
Q : What is abacus arithmetic?
Abacus arithmetic is a method of calculation using the abacus as a tool to perform arithmetic operations. A child who has learnt the correct fingering techniques and applicable formulae (number bonds of 5 and number bonds of 10) is able to use the abacus to calculate any digits of numbers using the 4 basic operations of mathematics i.e. addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. And all this is done mentally, without using the calculator.
Q : What is mental arithmetic?
Mental arithmetic is a method of calculation in which the child visualises the movement of the beads of the abacus in his/her mind while performing arithmetic operations. A child who has learnt the correct fingering techniques and applicable formulae (number bonds of 5 and number bonds of 10) is able to use the picture card showing the image of the abacus beads to calculate any digits of numbers using the 4 basic operations of Mathematics, i.e. addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. As the child progresses, he/she is trained to visualise the movement of the beads in his/her mind. And all this is done mentally, without using the abacus or the calculator.
Q : What is the ideal age to start this programme?
As a child is continuously learning, the younger he/she starts, the better it is for his/her brain development. As long as the child’s motor skills is able to enable him/her to hold a pencil and stir the beads of the abacus without difficulty, he/she can start this programme. The ideal age to start this programme is as young as 3½ years old; it is alright even if the child does not know how to write the numbers from 0 to 9, we will train him/her to write. As the child’s right brain is active when young, absorption is much faster and learning will be more efficient when he/she starts the programme from young. Constant practice on the abacus and picture card also enhances the coordination between the eyes, ears and hands through multi-sensorial learning.
Q : Is it too late for my child start this programme?
It is never too late to start this programme. Learning is lifelong process and the benefits associated with our programme will stay with the child throughout their lives.
Q : What are the benefits of starting my child early?
A child’s creative right brain is very active from birth, and as he/she grows older, the logical left brain becomes more dominant. Visualisation is an important component of mental arithmetic, and this taps into the strength of the right brain. The younger a child starts the programme, the easier it is for him/her to visualise the movement of the beads of the abacus in his/her mind while performing the 4 operations of Mathematics, i.e. addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The child is able to progress faster through the grades and will be able to understand the concepts of arithmetic calculation early and be ready for a Mathematics level higher than his/her current grade as compared to his/her peers. Ideally, we want the child to be able to perform mental calculations of the 4 operations before they enter Primary 1 – so, start early!
Q : Does my child benefit if he/she starts late in this programme?
Learning is a lifelong process, and benefits are definitely there regardless of the age a child starts the programme. All children take around the same duration to learn the fundamental fingering techniques. Older children will take a shorter period of time to understand the number bonds of 5 and 10 (and hence apply the formulae), as such compensating for the late start of this programme. However, the younger the child starts, he/she is able to tap into the vast potential of the whole brain and visualisation of the movement of the abacus beads while performing arithmetic calculations will be clearer and faster. Regardless of the age a child starts this programme, he/she will enjoy the same and important benefits of whole brain development.
Q : How does abacus and mental arithmetic help in school work?
The traditional method of children learning numbers is by counting with their fingers. As there are only 10 fingers per child in total, there is a challenge for numbers more than 10. The abacus helps children to overcome this challenge by presenting the numbers and their relationships as concrete beads instead of the abstract method of depicting each number as symbols used in Mathematics in school.
Performing mental calculations enhances memory and improves the child’s concentration, because the child needs to focus in order to visualise the numbers represented by the beads in his/her mind. Speed writing improves the reflexes and sensitivity of the child and enables them to respond to the questions promptly. Aural mental arithmetic helps to improve the listening abilities of the child, hence enabling him/her to perform better in listening comprehension and the mental sums segment of Mathematics in school. These improve a child’s confidence and has a positive spiral effect.
Our programme uses the multi-sensorial techniques which involve the coordination of the eyes (visual), ears (auditory) and gross and fine motor skills (kinesthetic and tactile) senses to learn. Such forms of teaching where many senses are stimulated are also effective for students with learning disabilities.
Q : Does the child only improve in Mathematics? How about the other subjects in school?
Many parents think that abacus and mental arithmetic is a Mathematics programme. In fact, our programme is a whole brain development programme where the side effect is that the child will be skilled in mental arithmetic. As the whole brain is stimulated, the child will show remarkable improvement in all subjects, including Mathematics. A child will not be able to visualise if he/she does not understand the concepts, and if he/she does not focus. Visualisation leads to better understanding, better focus and enhanced memory, which form the basis for all academic studies in school. The use of abacus reinforces a child’s understanding of Mathematics concepts and increases his/her confidence. Such virtuous cycles will further reinforce the child’s positive attitude and love towards learning, be it in Mathematics or other subjects. More importantly, the life skill of loving to learn will put the child in good stead while he/she goes into the workforce, because he/she will display a positive attitude in his/her work.
Q : Will my child be confused between abacus and mental arithmetic and Mathematics in school?
Abacus and mental arithmetic is a tool which uses visualisation techniques to solve simple to complex arithmetic calculations without the use of calculator. This involves solving problems related to the 4 operations, i.e. addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Mathematics in school involves understanding concepts and questions. Not only will the child not be confused between abacus and mental arithmetic and Mathematics in school, in fact, abacus and mental arithmetic serves as a good foundation to train the child in arithmetic, hence supplementing the Mathematics syllabus which is taught in school.
Q : What are the benefits of learning abacus and mental arithmetic?
1. Children have better self-discipline.
2. Children have more self-confidence in their abilities to solve complex Mathematical problems.
3. Children are able to focus on the task at hand and develop the ability to multi-task.
4. Children have better problem-solving abilities, which will have a positive impact in their education and working life.
5. Children are more sensitive to numbers, arithmetic and develop good proficiency in Mathematics.
6. Visualisation skills and auditory memory abilities improve over time.
7. Children have good listening skills and concentration. Listening is an important skill to have, especially when they take up leadership roles in their working life.
Q : How is our programme different from other abacus and mental arithmetic schools?
1. We guide children to stir the beads of the abacus using both the left and right hands. Many abacus and mental arithmetic schools teach children to use their right hand only. Using the right hand stimulates the logical left brain, which will automatically be more dominant when a child grows older. Using the left hand stimulates and strengthens the creative right brain, which is the essence of 2-hand abacus and mental arithmetic. Visualisation, creativity, speed and accuracy are enhanced with regular stimulation of the right brain.
2. We incorporate a Mathematics problem-sum solving component in our curriculum. In the problem-sums component in school, children are required to understand the question, formulate the equation or model and solve them by showing the workings. Our books guide children step-by step on how to use mental arithmetic to solve these equations or models. As such, instead of the traditional way of checking the answers by re-attempting the questions, children are trained to check the answers with ease, speed and accuracy. This saves time and maintains the child’s concentration as well.
3. We are a member of the Taiwan National Abacus Association. A large and reputable internationally- recognised association with a long history, they set the standard and provide support and guidance in terms of curriculum, grading examinations and competitions.
4. Our classes and fun, interesting and promote collaborative learning. Classes are conducted according to the child’s pace. Faster children will not be held back and slower children will not be pressured to keep pace with the class. Each child’s progress and level is based on the book which they are using.
5. We have a game app which can be downloaded from Google Play Store or Apple App Store. Children can play mental arithmetic games in our app to constantly challenge themselves and their peers on the go or whenever they wish to practise. Achievements will be unlocked and rewards earned are able to spur the children to consistently practise and exceed limits which they never thought would be possible.
In summary, our programme prepares a child not only for school, but also for the future where we equip him/her with the necessary skill sets to be successful in life.