
Recent studies have shown that the abacus method of mental
calculation is effective in the development of the right brain.
At first, this idea was only a hypothesis, but the recent development
of hightech machinery has helped provide tangible research data.
In this section, we will present information provided by researchers who study
the effects of abacus training.


＜Contribution＞
The Ripple Effects and the Future Prospects of Abacus Learning.
Ms. Shizuko Amaiwa
Professor, Shinshu University, College of Education
January 20, 2001 





＜Lecture＞
What Abacus Education Ought to Be for the Development of the Right
Brain.
Dr. Toshio Hayashi, Doctor
of Engineering
Professor, Osaka Prefecture University
Director, Research Institute for Advanced Science and Technology (RIAST)
August 24, 2000 





＜Contribution＞
Becoming Fond of Numbers and Math!
Ms. Kimiko Kawano
Researcher, Nippon Medical School, Center for Informatics and Sciences.
July 14, 2000 


The Ripple Effects
and the Future Prospects of Abacus Learning. 




Ms. Shizuko Amaiwa
Professor, Shinshu University, Faculty of Education 

＜introduction of the lecturer＞
1) 
The Development of Piagetian Psychology II : Cognitivedevelopmental
Study.
(Piaget Sousho 5), Kokudosha (1982). 
2) 
Transfer of subtraction procedures from abacus to paper and
pencil computation.
The Japanese Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol.
35, No. 1, 4148 (1987). 
3) 
Effects of abacus learning on 3rdgraders' performance in
paperandpencil tests of calculation.
Japanese Psychological Research, Vol. 31, No. 4, 161168
(1989) (Joint work). 
4) 
A continued instruction on number and calculation for handicappedclass
students : A study of Improving methods of Instruction.
Journal of the Faculty of Education, Shinshu University,
No. 94, 95105. (1998). 
5) 
The effects of abacus learning on solving arithmetic problems
: A comparative study of elementary/junior high school students
at upper level and inexperienced students.
Journal of the Faculty of Education, Shinshu University,
No. 96, 145156. (1999). 

I have been engaged in research concerning the abacus for many
years from the perspective of a psychologist. My research findings
show that abacus study not only improves the ability to calculate
both on the abacus and mentally, but also provides a beneficial ripple
effect on other disciplines. This paper will explain what ancillary
disciplines are influenced and the reasons for it. I will also discuss
the characteristics of and future prospects for abacus learning. 

The Ripple Effects of Abacus
Learning 
The first effect is improvement of numerical memory. The second
is improvement of memory in spatial arrangement. The third is progress
in solving general mathematical problems taught in elementary school,
including the four fundamental arithmetic calculations and word problems. 
The improvement of numerical memory 
The first effect, the improvement of numerical memory, can be
demonstrated by asking students to remember three to ninedigit numbers
read aloud and to recite the memorized items orally. Abacus students
are found to be superior in the accuracy of their memory and the number
of digits they are able to memorize when compared with nonabacus
learners of the same age. This is because abacus students place numbers
on the abacus image in their head as they mentally calculate with
the abacus method. The retention of the numbers is certain if the
number of digits does not exceed the limit of the mental image of
the abacus. Utilization of the abacus image enables students even
to recite the memorized numbers backwards. This is possible because
of the application of the procedures used in the abacus method of
mental calculation to solving the memorization assignment. 
High marks due to improvement in memory of spatial arrangement 
The second beneficial effect is the improvement in memory of spatial
arrangement. This was examined by assigning students to remove the
location of several small black dot. These dots were placed on different
intersection point of squares made with 3 to 5 lines in both vertical
and horizontal directions. The students first looked at these dots
for a few seconds to memorize their location, then they were asked
to recreate the same picture by placing black dots on blank squares.
As a result, abacus learners were found to score higher than nonabacus
learners. The spatial arrangement of the dots does not have the same
numerical values as beads on the abacus board. However, we can speculate
that the training to obtain the abacus image visually had the effect
of making students sensitive to spatial arrangement. 
Progress in solving general mathematical problems 
The following three points are confirmed in terms of the effects
of abacus study on progress in solving mathematical problems. 
1. Findings from an investigation with third grade students show
that about a year of study at an abacus school enabled the learners
to score higher than nonabacus learners on certain mathematical problems.
These mathematical problems include addition of onedigit numbers,
multiplication of onedigit numbers, addition of multidigit numbers,
subtraction of multidigit numbers, word problems in addition and
subtraction, and fillintheblank problems (e.g. providing the missing
items in the following equation: [ ]−7 = 27). However, no difference
was found in problems where conceptual thinking was required, such
one in which students were asked to figure out the digit positions
(i.e. to decide if the following two items are the same: {nine 10s
+ nine 1s} and {eight 10s + ten 1s}). Even beginning abacus learners
can be said to benefit from the ripple effect in solving mathematical
problems, except for those involving conceptual understanding.
According to the statistical analysis, the addition of onedigit
numbers was affected most directly by abacus study. Accurate and rapid
calculation of onedigit numbers was found to lead to better marks
in multidigit mathematical calculation, which further led to better
marks on word problems and fillintheblank problems. We can speculate
that students had more time to think about the problems, and therefore
scored higher on the assignment because they needed less time to work
out simple calculations as a result of their abacus background. 
2. On the higher level, advanced abacus learners were found to have
received even more desirable effects in solving certain types of mathematical
problems compared to nonabacus learners. These problems include the
comparison of the size of the numbers (i.e. put the following five
numbers in order: 0.42, 12, 3.73, 0.95, 10.1), the calculation of
numbers with multiple choices of proposed answers (i.e. choose the
correct answer from five choices of proposed answers for 1026.95 ÷
103.1), and word problems. In addition, a positive effect was seen,
not only in mathematical problems with integers and decimals, but
also in those with fractions, especially when higher level thinking
is required to solve them.
In the abacus training, there are no fractions involved, but the
ripple effect even affected problem solving in fractions. The abacus
students were found to have transformed the fractions into decimals,
in order to solve problems with fractions. They tried solving the
problems by changing the numbers into the form they understood best. 
3. As mentioned above, abacus learners tend to solve problems in
a form in which they can utilize their knowledge of abacus calculation
when confronted with various mathematical problems. This tendency
was shown when abacus students were given problems of computational
estimation (such as an assignment where students were to pick the
figure in the largest digit position of the answer). In solving these
problems, many abacus learners first calculated the whole problem
then picked the figure of the largest digit position in the answer. 

Merits of abacus study 
To acquire the ability to calculate rapidly and accurately and
to calculate mentally 
Based on the results mentioned above, some advantages and characteristics
of abacus learning are revealed. One of the advantages of abacus study
is that learners can calculate simple mathematical problems rapidly
and accurately. In addition, they acquire the ability of do mental
calculation utilizing the abacus image, which allows quick calculation
without actually using the abacus.
These characteristics show positive ripple effects on the solution
of various mathematical problems. On the other hand, the learners'
calculation methods become fixed, and the students tend to lack flexibility
in thinking out innovative ways to solve problems. It goes without
saying that spending time on thinking out new ways to solve problems
(such as thinking about the meaning of the calculation, or coming
up with other ways to solve the problem) can be negative in terms
of the amount of time needed to solve problems when the primary goal
is rapid and accurate calculation. Since abacus training consists
of accurate performance of simple procedures, there is no reason to
change the method of traditional abacus education. However, I believe
that some measures must be taken to keep the learners from being bored,
since repetition of simple procedures is often accompanied by boredom.


At the beginning of the new century 
I am currently considering adapting the principles of the abacus
to computer software that teaches the concepts of digit position (meaning
of zeros in numbers) to mentally challenged children. I have been
trying to teach numbers and simple calculations to these children.
They have great difficulty in understanding the concept of digit position,
even though they could read and write numbers and do addition and
subtraction of oneto twodigit numbers. In order to make learning
fun, I have used an activity in which children carry a certain amount
of money and go to their favorite store to buy something they like.
However, the distinction between 13 yen and 130 yen was hard for them
to grasp. I think the following reasoning could be used to provide
a more easily comprehended explanation of the concept for them. On
the abacus board, there can only be up to 9 in the units position.
If 1 is added to 9, there will be a number in the 10s position and
nothing, or zero, in the units column.
At the beginning of this, new century, I hope to expand the abacus
education and give it new applications while, valuing its history.



What Abacus Education
Ought to Be for the Development of the Right Brain. 




Dr. Toshio Hayashi, Doctor of Engineering
Professor, Osaka Prefecture University
Director, Research Institute for Advanced Science and Technology (RIAST) 

＜introduction of the lecturer＞
Brief personal
history 
March 18, 1939: Born in Otsu, Shiga prefecture
March 1962: Graduated from the Department of Applied Science,
College of Engineering, Osaka Prefecture University
March 1967: Completed a Master’s Program, Graduate School of
Engineering, Kyoto University
March 1973: Earned a Doctorate Degree in Engineering, Kyoto
University
July 1981: Assistant Professor, Kyoto University (Medical Polymer
Research Center)
April 1994: Professor, Osaka Prefecture University Research
Institute
April 1995: Professor, Osaka Prefecture University Research
Institute for Advanced Science and Technology
April 1996 to present: Councilor, Osaka Prefecture University
February 2000 to present: Director, Research Institute for Advanced
Science and Technology 
Specialty 
Biomaterial Design, Biodegradable Polymer Synthesis, Natural
Polymer, Medical Adhesive/Bonding/Stabilizing Enzyme, Environmentally
Harmonizing Material Design 
Studying 
February 1975 to September 1976, Case Western Reserve
University, Ohio, USA, Research in Medical Material 
Awards 
1987 Japan Fiber Conference Award (Research in Medical Fiber)
1999 Japanese Society for Biomaterials Award (Basics and Application
of Biomaterial) 
Qualifications 
Hazardous Materials Officer’s Licenses (Class A)
Radioactive Isotope Officer’s License (Class I ) 

Arrival of and countermeasure
for the declining birth rate and aging population 
Our country cannot avoid the present situation of a declining
birth rate and aging population. There are many conceivable reasons
for the rapid decline in the population of citizens under fourteen
years of age. We cannot forget to mention the worsening of the global
environment as one of the factors. Computers have predicted that the
tendency of a declining birth rate and aging population will continue
even further by the year 2020.
The number of people who take the abacus official examination is
declining. I hope that the abacus education will diversify itself
in order to attract a larger range of examinees for the official examination
by developing a system in which older people can take the examinations
as well.
I have studied engineering in college and have done some research
in polymer materials. About twenty years ago, I was given an opportunity
to conduct research to develop materials for medicine. In our country
that had to suddenly accept the aging population, there are many patients
who were helped by the drastic development of medical technology and
knowledge. National medical expenses are rising, and I worry about
the future with this situation.
Research for saving patients from terrible diseases and injuries
is important, but now the search for healthy living conditions seems
more important to me. Public Nursing Care Insurance System is now
available, but what is most important is to live a happy, healthy
life without having to depend on that system. There is an old saying
that worry is often the cause of illness. Recent medical research
has shown that various diseases are influenced by how the patients
deal with their state of minds. People with active minds maintain
their youthful energy longer. What can we do to heighten our brain
activity? 

Development of human brain 
What is the structure of our brain like? How does the brain develop?
Cerebral physiology has seen great developments. However, there still
is much that is unknown about our brain. Our brain is truly amazing.
What we know up to this point includes that the human brain is created
at an early stage of embryo development and that cerebral nerve cells
are already made by the time of birth. Within the brain, the brain
stem (all living animals have it, and it controls the functions necessary
for survival such as the functions of the heart and internal organs)
and the cerebral archicortex (which controls basic instincts such
as appetite, sexual desire, sleep, desire to belong to a group, and
emotions such as pleasant and unpleasant feelings, fear, anger,etc)
are basically completed while in the womb.
On the other hand, among animals of higher order, humans have the
highly developed cerebral neocortex that can create nerve cells (some
say there are 14 billion nerve cells!). This cerebral neocortex does
not fully function at the time of birth. In the following years, suitable
stimuli start to activate (to connect motor nerves and sensory nerves)
the nerve cells in the neocortex. This is why children grow up well
in many aspects if they receive appropriate stimuli that develop the
nerve cells in the neocortex. The archicortex is more or less completed
at the time of birth, but it of course can develop even further after
birth. What is important here is that the archicortex requires “to
be loved” and is responsible for the cultivation of aesthetic sentiments.
Humans cannot live without “being loved”. Only those who grew
up being loved can learn to love as they grow older. With the help
of a good archicortex, the neocortex will be activated efficiently.
Even with hard work, efficiency will not improve without cooperation
from the archicortex. In order to activate the nerve cells in the
neocortex, information or stimuli from outside the brain have first
to be perceived as “pleasant” by the archicortex. This is when the
activation of the brain improves and the systems to process information
in the neocortex are most efficiently completed. On the other hand,
if the information or stimuli are perceived as “unpleasant”, the
activation of the brain does not occur and the neocortex is suppressed
to grow any further. 

Move the fingers and talk
in a loud voice 
What does the activation of the nerve cells in the neocortex mean?
Nerve cells in the neocortex consist of 14 billion sets of motor nerves
and sensory nerves. These sets create the network (synapses) in which
they contact each other and make up a living nervous system. The importance
lies in how many sets of nerve cells we can activate in our lives.
We can activate the nerve cells by providing “stimuli”. Moving fingers
and talking aloud lead to activation by providing appropriate stimuli
in the large part of sensory to motor domains in the cerebral neocortex.
In this sense, starting abacus learning as young as possible is useful
in activating the brains of young children. However, if children learn
to use the abacus without wanting to do it, there will be no positive
effects. If they come to like learning the abacus and move the beads
on the abacus with fun, they will receive benefits from this experience.
There is a key in making abacuslearning fun for young children so
that they will grow to like it. 

Development of the right
brain by the abacus method of mental calculation 
The human brain consists of the right brain and the left brain.
The shapes of these two parts are similar, but differences have been
gradually found in their functions. The left brain is also referred
to as the digital brain. It controls reading and writing, calculation,
and logical thinking. The right brain is referred to as the analog
brain. It controls threedimensional sense, creativity, and artistic
senses. These two work together to allow us to function as humans.
The Japanese are thought to speak Japanese with their left brain,
and this allows their left brain to be more efficient. On the other
hand, westerners also utilize their right brain to learn their languages,
so their right brain is usually more efficient. It is natural that
young Japanese students are better at mathematical calculation than
students in western countries who are the same age. It is also natural
that, because of the better development in their right brain, students
in western countries are more creative and original than Japanese
students. In recent years, some have argued for the necessity of the
Venture Promotion in Japan, but in order to foster this type of environment
we need to develop an education system that would train the students’
right brain first. In addition, it is also found that if one trains
the right brain, it is less likely to get dementia. Here, I would
like to introduce the abacus method of mental calculation. In the
abacus method of mental calculation, the learners manipulate abacus
beads in their head to carry out a calculation. This had led us to
speculate that this operation was effective in training the right
brain or the analog brain. Thanks to the development of cerebral physiology
and machines that can accurately measure the amount of blood flow
in the brain, recent studies have proven that the abacus method of
mental calculation is extremely effective in activating the right
brain. This validated the speculation we had before. Therefore, I
would like to ask all the abacus teachers to teach all learners the
abacus method of mental calculation, no matter how briefly it may
be. I consider the completion of abacus learning the mastery of the
mental calculation. 

Shining brain 
Having grown up to be workers in various work places and providers
for their families and contributors to society, many people retire
from the forefront of the society and start the second stage of their
lives. For these people, it is very important to live ample and healthy
lives. In order to achieve this way of living, they have to remember
to activate their brain as much as possible. There are many different
ways to activate the brain, and one of them is the calculation with
the abacus. In the abacus method of calculation, the abacus is not
only the best way to exercise fingertips, but also positively influences
the right brain to be activated. Although it may take a little more
time than for younger people, activation in the cerebral nerve cells
certainly does occur even at the age of a hundred. In this case also,
they have to come to like the abacus first. Throughout the lifetime
there is truth in the saying that you do well at what you like. A
“master of life” is a person who has a cooperation of the archicortex
and the neocortex throughout their lifetime. To become a “master of
life”, we have to always aim high. There is happiness in this process
to achieve the goals of our life. We all shine by pursuing our dreams
with high hope and something to live for. The higher the goal of our
growth, the better our lives are. If the purpose of life is the process
to achieve this goal, then I believe that the abacus education can
be one of the significant guidelines for life. I would like us all
to be “lifelong healthy people with abacus”. 

(This article is the summary of a lecture presented in Nikko Kinugawa,
Tochigi, Tochigi prefecture on July 30th, 2000.) 


Image thinking of
abacus users in higher dan (ranks) by a study on brain waves 




Ms. Kimiko Kawano
Researcher, Nippon Medical School, Center for Informatics and Sciences 

We have been studying brain waves (EEG; electroencephalography)
during various kinds of brain activities for more than ten years.
In the beginning of the study, subjects were mainly students. We made
them listen to music or calculate mathematical problems and than measured
their EEGs to investigate the brain activity. After statistically
analyzing the data obtained from over two hundred students, we have
found the tendency that b waves, which indicate the active area of
the brain, appeared on the right hemisphere while listening to music
and on the left while calculating. This confirmed the hypothesis that
the right brain is used to recognize images, figures and music and
the left brain (the linguistic brain) to deal with logical thoughts,
such as a calculation. At that time, we were asked from one TV program
to measure the brain waves of an abacus champion. I thought, however,
it would be difficult to prove some differences in the EEGs which
involved quite large individual variances. 

Neural activity in the right
brain 
When we measured the champion, a middle school student, during
the mental calculation, the result was unexpected. Usually the left
temporal region is used for calculation, but here, it was almost entirely
unused. Instead, the b waves appeared on the right occipital region.
In other words, the student carried out calculation using the right
brain. I was not quite convinced from only one person's result, because
there are always exceptions and some individual differences in brain
waves. However, we conducted the same investigation with another expert
only to find the result almost identical to the previous case. We
than asked more abacus users with high 'dan' (ranks) to let us measure
their EEGs, and found almost the same results with only little individual
variances. We inquired how they were calculating, and most of them
gave the same reply that the image of the abacus beads in their head
moved rapidly. 

Verbal thinking and image processing 
Usually, ordinary people calculate in their mind using inner voice,
as in one hundred minus 7 is 93. They put mathematical notions into
words. On the other hand, abacus users simply visualize an image of
abacus in their head. They do not replace the image into words. This
difference can be seen clearly in the EEGs. These tendencies in the
brain uses can also be observed in professional players of Shogi,
(Japanese chess,) while they are playing the games or solving Shogi
problems. However, when they calculate, they use their left brains
just as ordinary people do. This is the same with the abacus users.
They do not use their right brains in all cases. 

Yet it does not mean that abacus learning improves everything about
the right brain, such as a sence of art and music. What is important
is that the ability to visualize can be put to use for other subjects
and behaviors. Some abacus experts use their ability for memorizing
whole page of textbook or years in history. The abilily developed
by abacas can be used effectively in different ways.
Not only for the experts but also for the beginners, abacus learning
is useful to easily grasp images in addition and subtraction problems,
because the beads are moving in front of their eyes. It also allows
to understand the decimal system and the concept of digit positions.
Once children understand numbers, they will probably become fond of
mathematics. They will be more confident there may be many positive
impacts in other subjects at school. The contemporary education focuses
on theory and its rote memorization. Theory of course is important
but many students cannot get an actual feeling of comprehension only
through it. I believe an effective application of image thinking induces
human creativity and inspiration. 
