Replaced by computers and calculators, the abacus going out of fashion also means the golden opportunity to stimulate our brain is lost too

Is this the first thing that comes to your mind about abacus?

While this is an abacus instrument – there is nothing old-fashion about the way the abacus trains our brains to work!

Don’t get us wrong – calculators and computers are useful tools to aid us in our work. They have made calculation so easy.

But what is the price we are paying for this “easy” living?

Gone is the golden opportunity where we would use our brains to mentally work out sums. Our brains no longer get the kind of exercise it needs to be sharp and fit. Our brains are like our physical bodies – when we feed our bodies well but do not exercise, eventually, our bodies will become lazy and unfit. The same thing happens to our brain. When we no longer exercise the muscles in our brain through mental activities like mental calculation, the immense potential that lies in us remains unlocked, untapped and unused.

The same thing applies to the GPS. Navigation is so much easier now. People are able to find their way much faster. This comes at a price. Many people today do not know geographical location as the result of heavy reliance on the GPS to guide them. Some are not even aware of where east or north is in relation to them!

In Singapore, many parents are willing to send their children for enrichment classes. But since the abacus was taken out of the MOE syllabus, many parents also take this to mean that it is no longer important in our children’s lives.

With the abacus out of the school syllabus, it becomes even more important today for parents to provide children with different mental activities to stimulate overall brain development.

This is the important message every parent needs to know.

The fact that abacus first appeared in 3000 BC ago by the ancient Babylonians and became widely used – by the Romans, the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Russians, Native Americans, the Chinese and the Japanese means that there is something valuable about abacus usage that goes beyond just being a counting tool. Currently, there are still people around the world who uses the abacus. This proof that this ancient device is not just useful as a counting device; it is beneficial to our mental development.

A group of psychologists and researchers from the Nippon Medical School in Japan spent more than 10 years studying human brain waves when the brain is involved in various brain activities. They found out that the abacus not only improves ability to calculate, it has a beneficial ripple effect on other disciplines.

When we count, we use our inner voice to count, for example, when we try to work out what is 100 minus 8, our brains put mathematical notions into words to work out the answer. On the other hand, abacus users simply visualize an image of a working abacus in their mind. They deal with images (right hemisphere), not just with words (left hemisphere).

Ms Kimiko Kawano, one of the researchers for the Nippon Medical School, pointed out that some abacus experts have extended their use of their mental ability gained from abacus training to visualize and memorize whole pages of text. Abacus learning makes it easy for people to grasp images because the beads are moving in their mind. And once children understand how numbers work, they will have a positive inclination towards numbers. They will become more confident and this positivity will apply to all other subjects in school.

So parents, if you really care about the overall brain development of your child, the greatest gift you can give them is to entertain them with activities that will keep their brain stimulated. They deserve the best from us.

Learn more about CMA mental arithmetic training here

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