Advantages And Disadvantages Of Using Abacus

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It is indeed not a rare sight to find young children struggling with numbers or getting vexed at even the simplest of math operations. The fact that mathematics continues to be an integral part of not just every school’s curriculum but a child’s overall brain development since time immemorial brings us to a very notable question…

“How Can You Upgrade Your Child’s Math Skills?”

While there can be innumerable ways to make that happen, one of the oldest yet fruitful techniques is to introduce your child to the world of Abacus.

Defining abacus – An excellent tool to make math fun

Abacus is an age-old mechanical device consisting of two regions separated by a center rod. The abacus has rounded beads, which are adjustable and symbolize different digits. However, there are different kinds of abacus that exist for different uses. 

Manipulating these counters in a specific manner solves just about any basic arithmetic operation, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and even squares, cubes, and roots up to degree three. 

It is believed that the mathematical tool has been in use for more than 4000 years now. Back in the olden times, merchants and traders from all around the world used similar devices to track the number of goods bought or sold to count large numbers in a more comprehensive method.

The wonderful advantages of using abacus for learning 

The initial years of a human as a child are said to be like wet clay. This is the time that can be molded to shape the rest of an individual’s life. So, getting your child enrolled in an Abacus class at an early age can undoubtedly have a huge number of advantages in the long run, some of which are listed below – 

1. Sharpens observational skills

As a child handles the beads of the frame with his/her fingers and sets them up to make calculations, they develop better observational skills and can examine situations and conclude more firmly. When learning abacus, there is a predominant use of flashcards; the kids are required to look at the flashcards, remember the numbers on the card and make calculations accordingly. This greatly improves the observational skills in kids, enhancing memory retention in them.

2. Makes calculations easy

Calculations become easy once a kid understands the working and the operation of the abacus. This also means that with Abacus learning, big calculations become easier and much more fun. The simple explanation behind how the abacus helps overcome math phobia is making math calculations simpler for students. Moreover, with time, students would not even physically need an abacus, while performing calculations. All they would have to do is mentally imagine the abacus and perform the operations. 

3. Boosts confidence

Better performance at arithmetic accounts for a boost in confidence level and nurtures one’s analytical and problem-solving abilities as well. A child gets naturally more interested in the subject. Besides, the abacus helps students lay a strong academic foundation that fetches them positive feedback from parents and teachers. This, in a way, helps enhance confidence, especially in those kids who earlier felt a lack of self-confidence when solving even simple math equations.

4. Enhances brain power & cognition

Research[1] suggests that we humans generally use the left part of our brains, which allows us to read, write, calculate, etc. Neurologists[2] say that with Abacus training, one can stimulate the right hemisphere of his brain as well, which is responsible for creativity and other artistic capabilities.  Therefore, the abacus doesn’t only help with mathematics, but it enhances overall brain functioning and cognition. Not just for kids, abacus can be widely used for adults too!

5. Develops lifetime skills

Abacus not only helps to inculcate mathematical proficiency into young minds but also refines skills like concentration, listening, attentiveness, creativity, speed, accuracy, imagination, memory power, comprehension, and all-around thinking abilities. In fact, it potentially brings about overall brain development.  

6. Mental growth through virtual abacus

When a child masters the Abacus tool, he can move on to solve arithmetic operations just by imagining the tool in his/her mind. Complex problems can be cracked mentally through this ‘Virtual Abacus.’ This might sound unrealistic but is, in fact, very much possible. Due to enhanced photographic memory[3], a child is able to do so. Initially, the child might need the abacus physically in front of them to perform the calculations; however, once the child has mastered and grasped it, the mental image of it would help the student manifolds. 

The lesser-known disadvantages of using abacus for learning

You must be wondering what could be the possible disadvantages of an Abacus. Well. There are a few, to be very honest. If you’re a parent or a teacher, it is very important for you to note them down to prepare yourself to help your kids begin their learning journey. 

1. Inability to solve advanced mathematics

While Abacus can brilliantly solve basic arithmetic problems, it is not possible for the poor thing to deal with complicated and advanced questions. Why is that? Abacus only deals with basic mathematical operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. When it comes to advanced mathematics such as algebra or geometry, the abacus fails to teach students how to tackle these.

2. You can’t learn Abacus without a tool

To solve problems through the Abacus, you would need the tool; without it, performing mathematical operations would be impossible! If, in any case, the kid does not have an abacus or is not carrying one to the school, the possibility of using it to solve questions or problems would be next to none. However, once the child becomes trained with the abacus, they can perform the operations by visualizing a mental image of the abacus for simpler mathematical calculations. But, this would need a lot of time, practice, and consistency. 

3. It can be confusing

Abacus can be bewildering at first! All the beads, rows, and rods can leave the child perplexed at first. This can be a drawback as the child can be hesitant to learn to calculate through the abacus initially. However, once they get a hang and grasp of it, it not only looks like a cakewalk but even makes the mathematical operations look like a fun and easy task. 

Moreover, initially in school, the child is taught the various mathematical operations in the traditional way. Later, when they are introduced the same on the abacus, they might get confused as they know the traditional methods, but doing the same on the abacus might make them mix up both things. 

4. Requires time and constant practice

While it is true that the abacus makes the calculations and operations as easy as pie for the kids, yet learning it and getting the proper hang of it might need time, and constant practice, without which, the child might not be able to master it. Once they learn it thoroughly, they can perform functions flawlessly, but the initial few days might be full of hiccups as the whole abacus system is way different from the blackboard methods. 

What Weighs More – The Advantages Or The Disadvantages:

We can clearly discern that the benefits of Abacus learning are far more convincing and constructive in comparison to the disadvantages. The fact that mind-math through Abacus allows a child to evaluate basic arithmetic sums within a matter of seconds is impressive in itself. Apparently, the drawbacks are trivial enough when you look at the bigger picture. 

After all, being able to solve math mentally, just with the image of an Abacus, permits children to enumerate at a great speed!

Considering all of these aspects, there is a strong reason to encourage kids to participate in Abacus learning and eventually enhance their overall academic performance. Moreover, more than just learning through the abacus, thanks to the digital advent, children also indulge in many abacus apps, games, and activities to make the most of this operation. 

Conclusion

Paul Halmos rightly said that “The only way to solve Mathematics, is to do Mathematics.”

And, when learning math involves a framework of colorful beads with tons of advantages, why would kids not like it? With the right guidance and teaching, school kids can certainly gain mastery over primary mathematics fundamentals through an Abacus Learning Programme. 

While a lot of people struggle to choose between Vedic maths and abacus; however, this centuries-old tool might have evolved into different forms over the years. But, it is till-date as efficient as before. So, if you’re thinking of investing your time and energy into this, it is definitely a big YES from our side!

References:

[1] The left brain knows what the right hand is doing: Michael Price (2009, January)

[2] The Effects of Long-term Abacus Training on Topological Properties of Brain Functional Networks: Weng J. (2017, August)

[3] Effectiveness of innovative technique on the working of brain and creativity and performance in mathematics of fifth class students: M.G.N. College of Education, Jalandhar, Punjab, India. (Kauts D.) (2014, December)


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