Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kids learn faster with abacuses

Abacus mental-arithmetic centres have seen a steady increase in the number of parents keen to have their kids undergo abacus training.

SEVEN-YEAR-OLD Samuel Wong knows all about the benefits of using an abacus.

Two years ago, he could sit still for only five minutes while his mother read to him. But after his parents enrolled him at an education centre specialising in abacus mental arithmetic for children, he was able to stay attentive for up to two hours.

His mother, Ms Rachel Yang, 42, was so impressed that she recommended her friends to enrol their children at the school, Classical Mental Arithmetic (CMA).

"The programme promised to help to increase a child's attention span. And, apparently, it did," she said.

CMA pioneered the two- hand, four-finger methodology for using the abacus. The school was founded in Taiwan and opened its first centre here in 2006 with an enrolment of only eight pupils. It now has about 5,000 pupils at 18 branches islandwide.

Other abacus mental-arithmetic centres have also seen a steady increase in the number of parents keen to have their kids undergo abacus training.

In these classes, pupils first learn to add numbers before moving on to more difficult multiplication and division sums.

There are currently more than 50 community centres here offering abacus courses and, according to a People's Association spokesman, participation has been increasing steadily, from 9,000 in 2006 to 11,000 this year. That translates to an increase from 860 classes in 2006 to 1,100 classes this year.

Madam Sharon Wong, 42, who holds a part-time administrative job, sends her two children, Lee Jun Wei, 12, and Lee En Qi, seven, to abacus mental- arithmetic classes at Teck Ghee Community Centre. Both her children have been attending abacus classes since they were five. They also have regular lessons on Sunday evenings.

She said: "I didn't believe in abacus training at first, because it's so different from what's taught in the school syllabus. But, now, I really see its benefits. My kids (can solve sums) faster than those who use calculators.

"Abacus mental arithmetic makes learning other things very easy, too. My children are now able to link ideas very quickly and easily."

Two weeks ago, CMA organised a record-breaking competition. Six-year-old star pupil Cherlyn Lee broke the Singapore record for the fastest addition of 10-digit numbers.

She solved 10 questions requiring the addition of 10 numbers, each with 10 digits, in just 3 minutes and 59 secoonds.

Jecolia Tong | my paper | Tue Jun 7 2011