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    Default ok, who is doing soroban/suan pan? I am going off the deep end

    Something weird is happening, because I have been DRIVEN to stay up all hours of the night to research and pursue math. Specifically, soroban abacus techniques because DD8 is about to be starting Year 2 of Nurture Minds Soroban curriculum, and I think she'll be done with year 2 by the end of summer, and by then, I need to know where to go from there. I am casting about for alternatives to memorizing times tables, to reap the benefits of soroban for accessing spatial centers of the brain, instead of filtering through language centers. Memorizing times tables to plug into abacus seems to defeat the purpose. I have the question open on a Yahoo group on soroban, awaiting answers, and have stumbled across a thing called Russian Multiplication, which on the surface seems to be similar to Vedic mental math shortcuts...but regardless of the fact that they work, I still posit that using them without a genuine understanding of how and why they work, is self-defeating except unless the goal is to spit out correct answers, fast. And that's not my goal.

    But I recognize that being able to understand to the extent of being able to derive the Vedic or Russian shortcuts on one's own, might be the better part of a life's work for anyone other than a born math genius (or more specificially, arithmetic genius, because math genius can also be spatial/intuitive, without bestowing numeric/algebraic intuition)...and I don't want to burden my kids with the prerequisite of achieving that status just to figure and calculate.

    So is anyone else doing soroban abacus, and/or anzan (mental abacus) and if so, have you found a resource for systematic learning for multiplication and division without a requirement for memorization of times tables? And what about square root extraction, conversion to binary or hex, log table calculations, and algebra? I have found out that all these things can be done on the abacus, but see absolutely no systematic workbooks I could buy to guide me and my kids in learning to do this on soroban.

    I fear I will have to cobble it together myself, because there are no abacus schools in my state so far as I know. Ugh.

    If anyone has pointers, please tell me! Thanks!
    40-something mom of 4 kids who haven't been to school, taking it one year and one day at a time.

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  3. #2


    I had never heard of Russian multiplication, but that's cool. I like that it's something that at first makes no sense whatsoever and then once I got it, made total sense. Also, that it could be done by someone who doesn't know multiplication beyond halving and doubling. That was cool. I don't think figuring out how to derive it would take the better part of a lifetime... it's pretty simple - you're not changing the product, you're just changing the numbers that achieve it. C-rods are so good for thing kind of thing to me because you can array with them so well. And eventually you've changed it so that it's the number times 1, which is, of course, itself.

    I don't really have anything for you beyond that though because I do believe children should memorize their multiplication tables. They shouldn't do so until they can calculate them all and understand the concept of multiplication, but once they do, they should just memorize them. If you don't, then it makes division much harder - as well as simplification of other arithmetic. I appreciate the value of the abacus as a tool and we've done some work with the RS style abacus (not the soroban, which I also know how to use - I like the way RS blends it to show the sub-base five concept while still emphasizing the base-10 nature of our system) but we're clearly in a different space with how we see it.

    Have you read Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics by Liping Ma? Just curious.
    Disclaimer: Everything I'm saying is just my own opinion, based on my own experiences teaching and with my own kids and my own life. You should just ignore me if I'm annoying you. I don't mind.

    But if I don't annoy you, feel free to visit my blog:
    Children's Books, Homeschooling and Random Musings...

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ok, who is doing soroban/suan pan? I am going off the deep end