Bead counters win big

2015-11-03 06:00
Children who participated in the Abacus and Mental Arithmetic Championship recently.

Children who participated in the Abacus and Mental Arithmetic Championship recently.

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Five children aged between seven and eleven years from Abagility Maths Club in Rondebosch performed well in the AMSASA National Abacus and Mental Arithmetic Championship in Gauteng, winning two trophies.

Naweed Essack of Wynberg Boys’ Junior School won a top achiever trophy in his level and Jordan Schoeman of St Joseph’s Marist College in Rondebosch won a champion trophy for coming second in his level. The two were also invited to attend the GAJSMA International Abacus and Mental Arithmetic Championship in Singapore next year.

A total of 104 children from all over the country wrote two set exams at the championship in Gauteng. With a dead silence during the exams all that could be heard was the click, click, clicking of abacus beads being swiftly moved.

Each child had only six minutes to do as many sums as they could on their abacus and only two minutes to write a mental maths paper by visualising their abacus in their minds. Each paper contained 40 complicated sums of varying difficulty dependent on the children’s level of experience.

Tracy Hauptfleisch of Abagility Maths Club says it was extremely exciting and intense to watch the pupils perform at the championship.

“I was in awe of their incredible skill under such pressure..”

These students have been learning the Japanese abacus technique for up to three years. To compete at this level, children have to show focus, determination and drive as they have to practise the skill daily.

The competition tested various levels of difficulty, with the advanced students having to multiply two-digit numbers by two-digit numbers (for example 84 x 75) and division of four-digit numbers by two-digit numbers (for example 4682 / 68) on their abacus, and to mentally calculate sums like 2506 / 7 and 358 x 9 in seconds.

“Children who have achieved a level of proficiency in this technique are able to calculate these answers in their heads by visualising the workings on a mental abacus, in the blink of an eye. Children develop great self-esteem and self-confidence and enhance their general mental acumen,” she says.

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