The Japanese abacus also known as Soroban is a great tool for teaching children numbers. Unlike any other visual aids used in teaching children basic maths, the soroban enables children to see numbers in terms of quantities. Children are able to count the beads associated with any numbers they are counting. They are, therefore, able to form visual interpretations of what numbers are all about.
My five year old daughter started learning the soroban about 6 months ago when she was four years old. She is now able to work out sums such as 10 + 10 + 6 mentally. She figured out the sums by saying that two tens are 20 and then add on 6, altogether make 26.
The soroban enables children to see how numbers are broken down into tens and units easily. I have taught children (aged 8/9) with maths learning difficulties. Every of these children can interprete the beads into numbers very quickly. As they learn to relate the beads of the soroban with numbers, they soon understand that for example, 16 is made of 1 ten and 6 units.
I have recently given some of these children a little test to see whether the structure of the soroban provides a fast mental recognition of simple additions. They have only learned the soroban for about 2 months. They were very reliant on finger counting (counting on method) even on the simplest sums such as the ones specified in the little test. They were 8 questions to complete. The questions are 5 + 3, 5 + 1, 10 + 3, 10 + 4, 2 + 2, 5 + 4, 5 + 2, and 10 + 2. All of them completed the questions mentally within less than a minute!
If you feel that your child is having maths learning difficulties and you would like to give the soroban a try but unsure of where to start, email