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Math and the Japanese Soroban

Lately I have been doing a lot of research on how to teach math while in fact doing very little math with my children.  🙁  That’s going to change soon as I have chosen a course.  We’re going to learn and practice math with an ancient calculator.  One that, the more they use and practice with, the faster they become at mental math, and the less dependent they will be on the tool.  It’s the abacus!  But not just any abacus, the soroban.  Take a look at where practice will take you:

And here’s a YouTube play-list that will teach you how to use it:

Baby Math by marthazen

I first learned about the Soroban a couple of years ago when Timberdoodle started carrying Aba-Conundrums (Currently sold out, so this link is to Amazon).  Aba-Conundrums includes a soroban and some puzzles, but the book does not train a child to calculate with a calculator.  But the abacus itself has appealing colors and large beads, so I’m thinking about getting this one.

Ultimately it was “Teaching My Toddler”‘s excellent post that led me to look into soroban training again.  Her blog post is HIGHLY recommended- she’s the one doing this stuff, I’m just dreaming of starting soon.  🙂


She purchased her abacus here- a teacher demonstration one is great for early learners because of the large size:

Tomoe Soroban

Once you have mastered addition and subtraction (this is something Mommy can work on too- how exciting to start learning with my kids), you can move on to multiplication and division.

And once you can calculate quickly with the abacus, you can develop your mental imaging to do calculations without the abacus- the more you use a calculator, them more you don’t have to!  So I come full circle, from the demonstration in the first video to this website that tells more about Anzan- the mental abacus you develop and henceforth can carry in your brain.  Thank you, Japan!  (and thank you, UK, for the information and printables on this site.)  It’s a small world after all.  🙂



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  1. I strongly agree with your advice about the great soroban that comes with Aba-Conundrums. I bought one at our local science museum's gift shop and found it to be quite well constructed. I still recommend children and parents make their own sorobans. I am a teacher and I created a site called JapanMath.com Despite the obvious plug for my site, if you go on it I have a video that shows how to make a great soroban with some basic supplies.
    Here is the direct link on JapanMath http://japanmath.com/how-to-make-a-soroban-japanese-abacus.html Note: While you build the soroban it is an excellent opportunity to introduce place value, the heaven and earth beads etc..

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