Abacus arithmetic simultaneously stimulates both the left and the right sides of the brain, thus leading to a more balanced brain growth.
How does the brain work?
In order to fully acknowledge all the benefits of abacus mental maths, we must first understand how the brain works. The brain is made up of five major parts, and the biggest part is called the cerebrum. The cerebrum can be divided into two main hemispheres, often referred to as the left brain and the right brain.
Studies have shown that the majority of us have a dominant brain which we really on extensively throughout daily activities. The left brain controls the systematic processing of information and is associated with things such as language, analysis, sequence, logic and reasoning. In contrast, the right brain controls holistic functions such as imagination, dimension, creativity, music, arts and crafts.
As so many of us rely solely on one side of the brain, the other often gets neglected. Childhood welcomes the peak of brain development, where there is plenty of room to grow, acquire new knowledge and learns new skills. This is why childhood experts have encouraged for children as young as 3 to learn a new language or play an instrument.
Why learn Abacus (Soroban)?
As a member from the Metropolitan Borough Council stated in 2008, “The UK is still one of the few advanced nations where it is socially acceptable to profess an inability to cope with mathematics. We need to urgently reverse this trend so every pupil leaves primary school without the fear of maths.” OFSTED found that pupils are too often expected to remember methods, rules and facts without grasping the underpinning concepts. Acquiring the skills of abacus arithmetic would help to clear up confusion concerning the basis of mathematics, enabling students to make connections to previous learning and would therefore be able to use mathematical skills independently.
Successful execution of soroban arithmetic will not only help in mathematical school subjects, but will also develop their concentration, creativity (through visualisation), memory and tenacity.
The Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, Japan conducted a study which determined the right brain is associated with visual and auditory activities such as recognising images and listening to music, whereas the left brain is linked to logical thoughts such as solving mathematical calculations.
The study, performed on 200 students over 10 years, monitored and investigated students’ brain waves during various activities. Results of assessments conducted on abacus users demonstrated unanimously high levels of brain activity in the right hemisphere, indicating the pronounced usage of the right brain when performing mental arithmetic calculations. The average person generally performs scientific and mathematical calculations in the left brain, but this study has proven that by visualising an abacus in their head to perform mental calculations, abacus users were able to make significantly more use of their right brain; therefore achieving a simultaneous and balanced usage of both brain hemispheres.
The research then went on conclude that exercising the skills used in abacus arithmetic is beneficial in helping children have a stronger understanding of mathematical formulations and the numerical system. Furthermore, the abilities to memorise complex numerical sequences and to concentrate on tasks were improved. Utilising the right brain leads to various other benefits such as improved confidence, better academic performance and innovative creativity in problem solving.