The writer is from the Ministry of culture development
In learning and training of abacus mental math, what conditions do children need to meet? First, peaceful inner world; second, visualize an abacus, which requires concentration; third, see or hear the numbers and operational symbols, and process and calculate the information synchronously; finally, it’s crucial to clear the relevant information of the previous question and restart the abacus in your brain.
As learning progresses, the effect will be more and more significant. In general, masters of abacus mental math can quickly complete multiplication and division for six-digit numbers and above, and addition and subtraction for more than 20 five-digit numbers. To a certain extent, what limits the calculation speed of students is not the calculation process, which is almost completed in seconds, but often the speed of writing answers. Or we may think that they can get the answers as soon as they hear or see the questions.
However, we must also be clear that there are only part of students who can reach this level of abacus mental math. In fact, for most students, abacus mental math will inevitably improve their computing power, but it is not the only purpose of learning abacus mental math.
We often only pay attention to the improvement of computing power brought by the abacus mental math learning, but ignore its functions in enlightening nature, which can profoundly affect children’s life.
During children's training process, inner peace and meditation can develop their good character—“attentive in counsel, prompt in action”; according to the early studies conducted by Shenmo and American Institute of Brain Neuroscience, the process from reading to calculation can exercise brains in “quick access to information, quick processing of information, and quick removal of unwanted information” (as said by brain scientist Professor Weimin Zheng); children receiving such training will develop the thinking model of quick grasp of the focus and quick removal of useless interference; in the training of the abacus mental math, the long-term simultaneous integration of "eyes, heart, and hand" will also greatly improve children's ability of intuition-knowledge unity.
Therefore, abacus mental math does not only teach children to solve arithmetic problems. The changes in the thinking mode affect children's life—when they are in trouble, some children habitually evade and delay until the last moment; some children, however, get started to solve the problem directly. The duration of hesitation will greatly affect the efficiency and power of execution. Children who have received the training of abacus mental math will decisively think and solve the current problem without any hesitation, which is similar to the simultaneous execution of reading questions, calculations, and getting answers. After long-term training of abacus mental math, children will naturally develop the character of facing difficulties bravely. From this perspective, abacus mental math is not just a tool for improving the calculation speed in a short time.
Scholars from China and India have found that once the training of abacus and abacus mental math have reached a certain level, students will enter the “Zen” realm. The highest realm of "Zen" is the "seamless connection between problem thinking and problem solving". They think that the advanced stage of abacus mental math is such an instinctive "calculation sense". The calculation speed is so fast that problem reading, calculation, and solving have been an intuition. It is especially significant when they are in a state of high focus and inner peace, which will convert to wisdom. This state is very close to "Zen". They also proposed that, for masters of abacus mental math, the links of using eyes, brain, and hands have no time difference, namely, "automatic" operation. This process trains people's behavior patterns of minimizing the time difference among "want to do, how to do, and do it", thus greatly improving efficiency. For ordinary people, in confronting a problem, the biggest factor limiting the progress is often not the problem itself, but the time of instinctive evasion and hesitation, which will waste a lot of energy.
Most students who have practiced abacus mental math for a long time have the "irrational decision-making" ability to "face difficulties bravely", which is an intuition, namely, "seamless connection between problem thinking and problem solving". Once here comes the problems, they will immediately grasp the keys and solve them (which is related to the characteristics of abacus mental math—quick access to information, quick processing of information, and quick removal of unwanted information). Many scholars believe that such a thinking mode shows wisdom.
In Chinese traditional culture, the abacus is an important symbol, whose mathematical knowledge and philosophical connotation are almost confirmed scientific from all angles.
In terms of education, it is not advised to infuse adult knowledge into children, but teach them the learning approaches and explore and protect their nature. Even seen from the function of increasing the calculation speed, the study of abacus mental math helps children to establish confidence in learning and find the learning fun. For example, the core aim of preschool art learning is not to learn sketching or Chinese painting techniques for children, but to let them take interest in graffiti, lines, and colors, thus stimulating their imagination. When the imagination of childlikeness is preserved, children will be potential to become masters.
In all the courses in early childhood education, this concept, which is always ignored, should have been taken seriously. All courses that children learn in their early childhood should be based on their lifetime development. It shifts the burden undoubtedly for parents to ignore the concept and pursue short-time effect.
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