Japanese Abacus Online and How to Learn at Home
This artice covers Japanese abacus online and how it became the success that it is today.
It includes the understanding of the soroban, how it became what it is today, and the many benefits of this tabulating tool.
I'm the author of this article and I'm a qualified abacus teacher, answering questions from around the world online abacus and various questions from online-soroban.com students.
Table of contents
It is well known that the use of an abacus and internet classes improves the approach to math and helps the student to develop their mental math; but is important to note that when someone decides to take mental math lessons, is more likely that they'll learn how to solve math operations quickly using a soroban (or the Japanese abacus), instead of the traditional tool or Suanpan.
But why does this distinction exist, and why is the Soroban the main used tool to teach the mechanics of the mathematical tool?
1-1.What Is the Japanese Abacus Online and How Is It Different
Is important to note that the tabulating device is how the Suanpan or Chinese variation is commonly known across the world, the most ancient tabulators that came to exist around 300 B.C., first made to help merchants take track of their sales.
Although currently in disuse, except some rural areas in China, it was the base that inspired the actual Soroban.
Although both of these modifications and variations have the same system of beads and odd-numbered rods, the tabualting tool has seven beads for each rod (two in the upper deck over the separator beam, both with a value of five, and five in the lower deck, carrying a value of one each one).
This difference relies on the usage of a hexadecimal system in Chinese math operations (i.e. having sixteen as their numerical base instead of ten).
Commonly not all beads are used in addition and subtraction (the bottommost “earth bead” is traditionally named, and the topmost “heaven bead”), while they are essential in some old multiplication and division methods.
This detail made it more complex to be used for performing calculations and contributed to its disuse. Around 1600 A.D.
the Japanese decided to adapt the abacus, naming it soroban, to use it as their counting device.
Originally the Soroban looked much like the traditional calcualting device (5 beads below, 2 beads above) but it was simplified around 1850 and reduced to a single bead above the reckoning bar and later in 1930 to just 4 beads below it.
The reason of this was because the Soroban uses a decimal system for their counting, the most common system used in westerner mathematical operations, and deciding to took off the two “extra” beads in each rod, keeping the same value of 5 and one, to make easier the operations and representation of the numbers.
1-2.Using the Japanese Abacus for Young Children, Teens, Adults, and Elderly Online
Obviously, the teaching methodology would be different depending on the range of age of the student (for young kids it would approach a more playful way, almost like solving a puzzle or game) and different topics to learn.
Since you have to touch and interact with the soroban, it makes it a great tool for kinesthetic people to learn with and to help the ones with visual problems to learn math operations.
While soroban classes for little kids are intended to serve as their first approach to math, teen and adult classes are more focused on improving the skills they already have or to ease the existent tension they might have by performing math operations.
For the elderly, it can be a useful tool to inhibit the procession of Alzheimer's disease as well as alleviating the symptoms, since the person moves their finger in a repeated sequence that helps to stimulate the brain.
But even if someone wants to learn the soroban, it may happen that there are no soroban schools near they live or, in case of elderly people, can't easily go to those places, they can still learn flash anzan by taking remote classes.
While online soroban schools would prefer for the student to physically have the tool, since there are also motor skills involved, they can still learn and practice by using an tabulating simulator on the web.
For the abacus, students need to have both self-discipline and responsibility, and these skills are multiplied by studying online.
Since the student may not have the physical presence of a teacher to remind them to correct themselves in case of them making a mistake in the counting, the person needs to pay attention to the technique they're using in order to improve on it.
1-3. Benefits of Japanese Abacus Online Schools
A unique feature that differences the soroban apart from the traditional counterpart is a dot marking every third rod, used to denote the last digit of the whole number part of the calculation answer, while any number represented to the right of this designated rod is part of the decimal part of the answer.
Unit rods to the left of the designated one also aid in place value by denoting the groups in the number (such as thousands, millions, etc.)
By simplifying the mental math technique, this made the soroban the signature tool to teach the usage of the flash anzan, and it is commonly used in many schools around the world.
Although in fact the soroban may be associated with children’s education or child "toys", the truth is that everyone can use it to improve their mathematical skills.
Japan has a ranking system to teach the soroban (starting at grade six all the way down to grade one) to encourage people to learn the soroban (in their technique a kid can easily reach grade one, or "soroban master", while someone who takes up the study of this instrument after they are grown will only ever get to the 3rd or maybe 2nd level).
Soroban schools are usually less expensive than normal classes and are available to anyone interested in learning the mental math technique.
It is also better to take classes under the view of a certified soroban teacher or school, since some of the methods are ancient ones, requiring the teacher to fully understand the technique used in the soroban.