The Abacus mental math system has a rich history, stretching back 3,000 to ancient Rome, Mesopotamia, and China. Considered by many as a proto-type computer, abaci come in many forms and are used for mathematical calculations ranging from simple addition and subtraction to more complicated problems involving multiplication, division, and square or cube roots.
Though the structure of the tool has evolved over time to the modern model made of a bamboo or plastic frame with beads stacked on wires, this traditional “counting frame” still offers innumerable benefits and advantages to mathematical methods taught in our schools today. The Abacus itself provides a hands-on training tool that stimulates both the kinesthetic and visual centers in the brain. However, one of the main advantages it provides is the cultivation of mental math, so that with training a student can eventually visualize and calculate mentally without the physical tool.
Most veterans of westernized education systems spend years solving countless math equations with pencil and paper, only to rely on a calculator when it comes to finances or budgets in adulthood. With mental math training, on the other hand, elementary school children are able to multiply 4-digit numbers like 4387 x 9836 with dizzying rapidity. Instead of memorizing equations and rules of thumb, students can strengthen not just their memory, but their levels of concentration and visualization. Whereas western curriculum tends to categorize subjects to emphasize the left or right side of the brain, mental math is built on a holistic, whole-brain approach. In most schools today, there is an obvious split between students who excel in math and science versus those who perform well in language or the arts. Studies show that when we activate both sides of the brain, incorporating both logic and creativity, we can actually enhance not just mathematical processing, but overall ingenuity and problem-solving skills.