The Ripple Effects and the Future Prospects of Abacus Learning.


By Ms. Shizuko Amaiwa, Professor, Shinshu University, Faculty of Education

I have been engaged in research concerning the abacus for many years from the perspective of a psychologist. My research findings show that abacus study not only improves the ability to calculate both on the abacus and mentally, but also provides a beneficial ripple effect on other disciplines. This paper will explain what ancillary disciplines are influenced and the reasons for it. I will also discuss the characteristics of and future prospects for abacus learning.


The Ripple Effects of Abacus Learning

The first effect of learning abacus is improvement of numerical memory. The second is improvement of memory in spatial arrangement. The third is progress in solving general mathematical problems taught in elementary school, including the four fundamental arithmetic calculations and word problems.

The improvement of numerical memory

The first effect, the improvement of numerical memory, can be demonstrated by asking students to remember three- to nine-digit numbers read aloud and to recite the memorized items orally. Abacus students are found to be superior in the accuracy of their memory and the number of digits they are able to memorize when compared with non-abacus learners of the same age. This is because abacus students place numbers on the abacus image in their head as they mentally calculate with the abacus method. The retention of the numbers is certain if the number of digits does not exceed the limit of the mental image of the abacus. Utilization of the abacus image enables students even to recite the memorized numbers backwards. This is possible because of the application of the procedures used in the abacus method of mental calculation to solving the memorization assignment.

High marks due to improvement in memory of spatial arrangement

The second beneficial effect is the improvement in memory of spatial arrangement. This was examined by assigning students to remove the location of several small black dot. These dots were placed on different intersection point of squares made with 3 to 5 lines in both vertical and horizontal directions. The students first looked at these dots for a few seconds to memorize their location, then they were asked to recreate the same picture by placing black dots on blank squares. As a result, abacus learners were found to score higher than non-abacus learners. The spatial arrangement of the dots does not have the same numerical values as beads on the abacus board. However, we can speculate that the training to obtain the abacus image visually had the effect of making students sensitive to spatial arrangement.

Progress in solving general mathematical problems

The following three points are confirmed in terms of the effects of abacus study on progress in solving mathematical problems.

1. Findings from an investigation with third grade students show that about a year of study at an abacus school enabled the learners to score higher than non-abacus learners on certain mathematical problems. These mathematical problems include addition of one-digit numbers, multiplication of one-digit numbers, addition of multi-digit numbers, subtraction of multi-digit numbers, word problems in addition and subtraction, and fill-in-the-blank problems (e.g. providing the missing items in the following equation: [ ]-7 = 27). However, no difference was found in problems where conceptual thinking was required, such one in which students were asked to figure out the digit positions (i.e. to decide if the following two items are the same: {nine 10s + nine 1s} and {eight 10s + ten 1s}). Even beginning abacus learners can be said to benefit from the ripple effect in solving mathematical problems, except for those involving conceptual understanding.

According to the statistical analysis, the addition of one-digit numbers was affected most directly by abacus study. Accurate and rapid calculation of one-digit numbers was found to lead to better marks in multi-digit mathematical calculation, which further led to better marks on word problems and fill-in-the-blank problems. We can speculate that students had more time to think about the problems, and therefore scored higher on the assignment because they needed less time to work out simple calculations as a result of their abacus background.

2. On the higher level, advanced abacus learners were found to have received even more desirable effects in solving certain types of mathematical problems compared to non-abacus learners. These problems include the comparison of the size of the numbers (i.e. put the following five numbers in order: 0.42, 12, 3.73, 0.95, 10.1), the calculation of numbers with multiple choices of proposed answers (i.e. choose the correct answer from five choices of proposed answers for 1026.95 ÷ 103.1), and word problems. In addition, a positive effect was seen, not only in mathematical problems with integers and decimals, but also in those with fractions, especially when higher level thinking is required to solve them

In the abacus training, there are no fractions involved, but the ripple effect even affected problem solving in fractions. The abacus students were found to have transformed the fractions into decimals, in order to solve problems with fractions. They tried solving the problems by changing the numbers into the form they understood best.

3. As mentioned above, abacus learners tend to solve problems in a form in which they can utilize their knowledge of abacus calculation when confronted with various mathematical problems. This tendency was shown when abacus students were given problems of computational estimation (such as an assignment where students were to pick the figure in the largest digit position of the answer). In solving these problems, many abacus learners first calculated the whole problem then picked the figure of the largest digit position in the answer.

Merits of abacus study

To acquire the ability to calculate rapidly and accurately and to calculate mentally

Based on the results mentioned above, some advantages and characteristics of abacus learning are revealed. One of the advantages of abacus study is that learners can calculate simple mathematical problems rapidly and accurately. In addition, they acquire the ability of do mental calculation utilizing the abacus image, which allows quick calculation without actually using the abacus.

These characteristics show positive ripple effects on the solution of various mathematical problems. On the other hand, the learners’ calculation methods become fixed, and the students tend to lack flexibility in thinking out innovative ways to solve problems. It goes without saying that spending time on thinking out new ways to solve problems (such as thinking about the meaning of the calculation, or coming up with other ways to solve the problem) can be negative in terms of the amount of time needed to solve problems when the primary goal is rapid and accurate calculation. Since abacus training consists of accurate performance of simple procedures, there is no reason to change the method of traditional abacus education. However, I believe that some measures must be taken to keep the learners from being bored, since repetition of simple procedures is often accompanied by boredom.

At the beginning of the new century

I am currently considering adapting the principles of the abacus to computer software that teaches the concepts of digit position (meaning of zeros in numbers) to mentally challenged children. I have been trying to teach numbers and simple calculations to these children. They have great difficulty in understanding the concept of digit position, even though they could read and write numbers and do addition and subtraction of one-to two-digit numbers. In order to make learning fun, I have used an activity in which children carry a certain amount of money and go to their favorite store to buy something they like. However, the distinction between 13 yen and 130 yen was hard for them to grasp. I think the following reasoning could be used to provide a more easily comprehended explanation of the concept for them. On the abacus board, there can only be up to 9 in the units position. If 1 is added to 9, there will be a number in the 10s position and nothing, or zero, in the units column.

At the beginning of this, new century, I hope to expand the abacus education and give it new applications while, valuing its history.

Brain Development – Development of Right side of Brain

Brain Development Reasearch

Dr. Toshio Hayashi, Doctor of Engineering
Professor, Osaka Prefecture University
Director, Research Institute for Advanced Science and Technology (RIAST)


Recent medical research has shown that various diseases are influenced by how the patients deal with their state of minds. People with active minds maintain their youthful energy longer. What can we do to heighten our brain activity?


Development of human brain

What is the structure of our brain like? How does the brain develop? Cerebral physiology has seen great developments. However, there still is much that is unknown about our brain. Our brain is truly amazing. What we know up to this point includes that the human brain is created at an early stage of embryo development and that cerebral nerve cells are already made by the time of birth. Within the brain, the brain stem (all living animals have it, and it controls the functions necessary for survival such as the functions of the heart and internal organs) and the cerebral archicortex (which controls basic instincts such as appetite, sexual desire, sleep, desire to belong to a group, and emotions such as pleasant and unpleasant feelings, fear, anger,etc) are basically completed while in the womb.

On the other hand, among animals of higher order, humans have the highly developed cerebral neocortex that can create nerve cells (some say there are 14 billion nerve cells!). This cerebral neocortex does not fully function at the time of birth. In the following years, suitable stimuli start to activate (to connect motor nerves and sensory nerves) the nerve cells in the neocortex. This is why children grow up well in many aspects if they receive appropriate stimuli that develop the nerve cells in the neocortex. The archicortex is more or less completed at the time of birth, but it of course can develop even further after birth. What is important here is that the archicortex requires “to be loved” and is responsible for the cultivation of aesthetic sentiments.
Humans cannot live without “being loved”. Only those who grew up being loved can learn to love as they grow older. With the help of a good archicortex, the neocortex will be activated efficiently. Even with hard work, efficiency will not improve without cooperation from the archicortex. In order to activate the nerve cells in the neocortex, information or stimuli from outside the brain have first to be perceived as “pleasant” by the archicortex. This is when the activation of the brain improves and the systems to process information in the neocortex are most efficiently completed. On the other hand, if the information or stimuli are perceived as “unpleasant”, the activation of the brain does not occur and the neocortex is suppressed to grow any further.


Move the fingers and talk in a loud voice

What does the activation of the nerve cells in the neocortex mean? Nerve cells in the neocortex consist of 14 billion sets of motor nerves and sensory nerves. These sets create the network (synapses) in which they contact each other and make up a living nervous system. The importance lies in how many sets of nerve cells we can activate in our lives. We can activate the nerve cells by providing “stimuli”. Moving fingers and talking aloud lead to activation by providing appropriate stimuli in the large part of sensory to motor domains in the cerebral neocortex. In this sense, starting abacus learning as young as possible is useful in activating the brains of young children. However, if children learn to use the abacus without wanting to do it, there will be no positive effects. If they come to like learning the abacus and move the beads on the abacus with fun, they will receive benefits from this experience. There is a key in making abacus-learning fun for young children so that they will grow to like it.


Development of the right side of brain by the abacus method of mental calculation

The human brain consists of the right brain and the left brain. The shapes of these two parts are similar, but differences have been gradually found in their functions. The left brain is also referred to as the digital brain. It controls reading and writing, calculation, and logical thinking. The right brain is referred to as the analog brain. It controls three-dimensional sense, creativity, and artistic senses. These two work together to allow us to function as humans. The Japanese are thought to speak Japanese with their left brain, and this allows their left brain to be more efficient. On the other hand, westerners also utilize their right brain to learn their languages, so their right brain is usually more efficient. It is natural that young Japanese students are better at mathematical calculation than students in western countries who are the same age. It is also natural that, because of the better development in their right brain, students in western countries are more creative and original than Japanese students.

In recent years, some have argued for the necessity of the Venture Promotion in Japan, but in order to foster this type of environment we need to develop an education system that would train the students’ right brain first. In addition, it is also found that if one trains the right brain, it is less likely to get dementia. Here, I would like to introduce the abacus method of mental calculation. In the abacus method of mental calculation, the learners manipulate abacus beads in their head to carry out a calculation. This had led us to speculate that this operation was effective in training the right brain or the analog brain. Thanks to the development of cerebral physiology and machines that can accurately measure the amount of blood flow in the brain, recent studies have proven that the abacus method of mental calculation is extremely effective in activating the right brain. This validated the speculation we had before. Therefore, I would like to ask all the abacus teachers to teach all learners the abacus method of mental calculation, no matter how briefly it may be. I consider the completion of abacus learning the mastery of the mental calculation.


Shining brain

Having grown up to be workers in various work places and providers for their families and contributors to society, many people retire from the forefront of the society and start the second stage of their lives. For these people, it is very important to live ample and healthy lives. In order to achieve this way of living, they have to remember to activate their brain as much as possible. There are many different ways to activate the brain, and one of them is the calculation with the abacus. In the abacus method of calculation, the abacus is not only the best way to exercise fingertips, but also positively influences the right brain to be activated. Although it may take a little more time than for younger people, activation in the cerebral nerve cells certainly does occur even at the age of a hundred. In this case also, they have to come to like the abacus first. Throughout the lifetime there is truth in the saying that you do well at what you like.

A “master of life” is a person who has a cooperation of the archicortex and the neocortex throughout their lifetime. To become a “master of life”, we have to always aim high. There is happiness in this process to achieve the goals of our life. We all shine by pursuing our dreams with high hope and something to live for. The higher the goal of our growth, the better our lives are. If the purpose of life is the process to achieve this goal, then I believe that the abacus education can be one of the significant guidelines for life. I would like us all to be “life-long healthy people with abacus”.

(This article is the summary of a lecture presented in Nikko Kinugawa, Tochigi, Tochigi prefecture on July 30th, 2000.)

Please visit our course page on Abacus & Brain Gym

Benefits of joining the abacus course

Benefits of joining the Abacus Course


In young kids the brain is constantly building to form new connections in response to the stimulation received. This process uses the 3 senses (tactile, visual and auditory) to develop and balance the mental, physical, social interaction, emotional, personality and confidence of children. Regular practice of abacus, Brain gym and Speed writing helps children in the above process by improvement in academics through improved concentration & focus, comprehension, retention and recall, logical reasoning and speed & accuracy of computing skill. Specifically, benefits of joining the abacus course can help your child in the following ways..


Benefits of Abacus Course

Improves concentration and focus:

In a study conducted by the Decker Avenue School, California, researchers analysed the effects of abacus training on children in a classroom. It was found that the students who received abacus training showed a significant improvement in concentration levels.

Improves memory and visualization

A two-year long study titled “The Effect of Abacus Training on Chinese Children’s Mental Calculation” showed that the abacus learners had better auditory and visual memory compared to non-abacus learners. Another research has shown that abacus learning can improve visualization, which is attributed to the fact that abacus students visualize an abacus in their mind. The visualization ability is useful to students in other fields of study as well.

Encourages the use of right side of the brain:

The left side of the brain focuses on the analysis of information. The right side of the brain focuses on visualization, creativity and thinking. Usually, the left temporal region is used for performing mathematical calculations with pen and paper. Abacus training stimulates the right side of the brain, thereby improving your child’s ability to memorise, visualise, and observe.

Develops logical understanding

Over time, children develop the ability to imagine an abacus in their mind and to make mental calculations. When a child visualizes the maths question on the imaginary abacus, he/she has to think and apply logic to do the correct movement of beads in mind. Repeatedly performing mental math builds their ability to apply logic in other day-to-day life scenarios a well.

Build a concrete foundation for mathematics:

Mathematics can be a puzzle to some. However, learning abacus builds a firm understanding of maths right from the formative years. With the visual aid of an abacus, all abstract concepts of math are transferred to tangible beads. Children have to count the beads, and this develops their hand-eye coordination. With practice, the child develops an image of the abacus in his/her head to perform mental maths. Overall, it is a fun way to get introduced to more complex mathematics.

Improved understanding of math:

Research has shown that advanced abacus learners are better at solving certain types of mathematical problems compared to those who were not trained in abacus. Abacus training improves the child’s capability of solving mathematical problems with integers, decimals, and fractions, and problems requiring higher level of logical thinking.

Highlights of the Abacus & Brain Gym Course

  • Program designed by certified trainer for Abacus (by China Abacus Association) and International Instructor and facilitator of Brain Gym (by Educational Kinesiology foundation) Mr. Kelvin Tham
  • Only International program which combines Abacus and Brain Gym techniques for whole brain development
  • 29 days of exhaustive training for instructors followed by up-gradation sessions
  • Child friendly course material
Best learning age for the children

Brain development and BEST LEARNING AGE for children

This article discusses Brain Development and best learning age for children, brain development including brain wiring and nervous tissue growth, importance of development of both sides of the brain.

Brain Development

For years, scientists have known that what happens – or doesn’t happen – during the first few years makes a big difference in a child’s later life, and that babies who do not get enough love and attention in infancy are less likely to be well-adjusted adults.

Thanks to brain imaging technologies, we now have a clearer understanding of how the brain functions, both before and after birth.

Two most important factors related to development of the brain and ability to learn are

1.       Brain and Nervous tissue growth

2.       Development of both sides of the brain which are discussed below


Brain and Nervous tissue growth

Wiring the Brain

A baby is born with about 100 billion neurons, the basic brain cells responsible for all major functions that happen in the body. Neurons exist throughout the central nervous system. Thinking, feeling, breathing, walking, and all other functions in the brain happen because these cells communicate. The number of neurons remains nearly constant from birth on, but the number and complexity of connections among neurons changes dramatically throughout the child’s life.

During the first year or two, neurons make many more connections than the baby will use. The developing brain is a little like a fertile garden. When we plant a garden, we plant more seeds than needed to ensure that some of them grow and thrive. When too many seeds sprout, there is not enough room for the healthiest plants to thrive. By weeding out some plants, we allow more room for the crops to grow. The brain has a similar “weeding” process, called pruning. Pruning is a normal part of brain development that creates more space for the most important networks of connections to expand and helps the brain conduct signals more efficiently.


Variation of Nervous tissue growth rate with age

According to the analysis on the development of nervous tissues, the development and growth of the nervous tissues will happen from 4 to 6 years old at the fastest pace and the progression will slow down after 12 years of age, when growth has reached to 75 % levels.

During juvenile period, these cells will grow up to 90 % of an adult or in other words, the liaison net of the nervous tissue will reach to 90%.

The greatest growth of human brain happens during the age from 4 years to 14 years. During this period, the frequency of brain wave increases gradually from Theta (relaxing stage) to Alpha level (relaxing but conscious). Children in Alpha level have plentiful imagination and quicker learning ability.

As they grow older into their juvenile age (the Beta level, the sober period), thought will become more complicated and rational, and they will mainly think with their left brain.


Importance of development of both sides of the brain

The relativity theory introduced in 1905 and 1916 by Einstein had shocked the science circles. He illustrated the relativity theory as an outcome of an idea. He used his right brain to create an amazing journey of thought and use his left-brain to develop a set of mathematical theories to explain the fairyland he saw.

The drawings, composition, lines and model in rough draft of Piccaso have shown the mathematical and geometrical concept.

These proved that there are hidden potential of science and arts in every brain, the only difference is that both brains are not equally developed, otherwise this will double out the network growth progress.


Control of different organs

A lot of physiological organs of the human body are divided in to right and left parts. Some of them appear symmetric on the surface, but the function is not symmetric at all. For instance, the right and left hands are different in strength and skill, so is the visual sensitiveness of the right and left eyes. For the same reason, the function of the right and left hemisphere of the brain is not symmetric either.

The different cognitive forms of the two hemispheres are mutually complementary and co-operative and develop harmoniously, making up the whole function of the human brain.

“The theme to emerge from this is that there appears to be two modes of thinking, verbal and nonverbal, represented rather separately in the left and right hemisphere respectively and that our education system, as well as science in general tends to neglect the nonverbal from the intellect. What is come down to is that modern society discriminates against the right hemisphere.


Need to train both sides of brain to train together

To give equal rein to the overall intelligence of the cerebrum, both the right and left brain must be trained at the same time. The creativity will at its greatest only when both brains are communicating and co-operating with each other. The creativity function from right brain need to be boosted by the information stored in left brain, whereas the mathematical and physical abilities must work together with the space perception from the right brain to become an excellent scientist, engineer, literati, designer and business man.

Therefore, as a parent to you children, in order to explore and enhance the children’s intelligence, the best learning time for your children is the age before 15 and development of both sides of brain is very important.