I've always wanted to look into the use of abacuses and their benefits. Abaci are counting frames with beads of some sort, still used widely in Asia and Africa. Why use them instead of calculators?
When electronic calculators were first introduced in Japan, a hybrid was manufactured to appease peoples scepticism of these new electronic devices. These hybrids had an electronic calculator on the left, and an abacus on the right, so that you could 'check' that the electronic device had performed the calculation correctly!
How to use an abacus is still widely taught in many countries such as Japan, China and Russia. Abaci are also often used for blind student to learn mental mathematics.
The potential for learning mental calculations using the soroban (abacus in Japanese) is incredible- as you can see if you watch this video...
Not only does using an abacus appear to be hugely beneficial to mental mathematical ability, but it looks like it can also improve fine motor skills watching the speed those kids fingers move when calculating!!
I also never knew there were so many different kinds of calculator - click here to see pictures of everything from the familiar rods with beads, to a circular abacus, and even a tiny finger ring abacus!
I vaguely remember there being an abacus in my primary school classroom, but I don't remember really ever using it. I think it would be an amazing thing to learn how to use, and I'm sure it would be a great brain training tool.
Have you ever used an abacus? Do your kids have one?
I'd love to hear from someone who uses one!