Japan: Schools 'reintroduce abacus in lessons'

A child at a Tokyo school uses a traditional soroban

Schools in Japan are bringing the abacus back to class, it's reported.

Some teachers have been reintroducing a version of the traditional counting tool - the soroban - to help young people think through problems, convert measurements or solve written puzzles, reports Kyodo news agency. But it seems that in today's high-tech society, pupils are as likely to use a scaled-down version presented on a computer screen as the traditional soroban, which has been around for 400 years. It encourages pupils to use ears, eyes and fingertips, as well as their brains, for everyday calculations, one Tokyo teacher told the agency.

Soroban lessons are also offered at Otona no Gakkou - or Schools for Adults - a day-service provider for the elderly as a means to tackle dementia. It appears there's been an enthusiastic response, particularly from those who used the abacus in their youth. Latest figures from the League of Japan Abacus Associations show that 210,000 people took certification exams in the soroban in 2011, the agency said.

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