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Abacus class draws bead on better math skills (3/17/2006)
Abacus class draws bead on better math skills

Kathie Price
Special for The Republic
Mar. 17, 2006 12:00 AM

If one plus one is not adding up to two for your child, an ancient form of computation might make a world of difference.

At IQ Abacus Math & Language School in Tempe, the fingers of students between ages 4 and 12 fly up and down an abacus to solve problems in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Along with a classroom white board, a huge yellow-beaded abacus hangs in front of the classroom for instruction. Invented by the Chinese some 2,000 years ago, the abacus can be thought of as an analog calculator that organizes the mind for mental math, according to the school's owner, Rueyin Chiou.

"It allows the student to visualize numbers and to learn math in a vivid, dynamic way," Chiou said. "They learn number relationship, placement values and later, quick calculations."

Children who begin abacus early frequently leap ahead of their peers, she said.

Jocelyn Wang, a student at Horizon Community Learning Center in Ahwatukee Foothills, has been taking abacus classes for six months to establish a strong foundation in math.

"Mental math differs from traditional in that the child relies on a mental image of the abacus rather than depending on the arithmetic process we are familiar with," said her mother, Denna Chang.

In midlevel abacus instruction, students are asked to answer 10 questions in 10 minutes using the abacus and 10 questions in three minutes using mental math.

Students must spend three to four months learning how to use the abacus before beginning mental math calculations, Chiou said.

"They must learn the fingering, like playing a piano," she said. "By doing this you develop an image in your head and when you do any calculation, you move the beads in your head."

Source AZ Republic