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Best Age To Start Learning Abacus

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  • Post last modified:May 26, 2024

Many parents wonder what the best age is for their child to start learning the abacus. In Japanese public elementary schools, children are introduced to the abacus in the third and fourth grades as part of their mathematics curriculum. According to the curriculum guidelines of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, it is stated as follows:

For Third Grade:

  • Students learn how numbers are represented on the abacus and perform simple addition and subtraction using it.
  • Understanding how numbers are represented on the abacus.
  • Learning how to perform addition and subtraction calculations.

For Fourth Grade:

  • Students learn more complex addition and subtraction using the abacus.

Although specific class hours are not mentioned, students typically spend about 4-5 class periods learning about the abacus. This brief introduction helps third and fourth graders, who already understand number concepts and can calculate simple numbers, to have more fun and enjoy learning calculations faster with the abacus. They can visually grasp how the number system works while calculating.

Abacus learning is a popular extracurricular activity for children in Japan, with some starting as early as 3 or 4 years old. While this might seem young, children can begin learning the abacus if they meet the following conditions:

  • Understanding basic number concepts (like counting, order of numbers, and grouping).
  • Ability to manipulate the abacus beads as intended.
  • Being able to listen carefully.
  • Being able to sit and concentrate for a certain period of time.

I began my abacus journey just after entering kindergarten, at 5 years and 10 months old. My mom initially wanted me to start at 4 and a half, but the abacus teacher advised that I was too young. So, she waited until I was 5, by which time I was old enough to sit at the table and learn the abacus for 90 minutes.

My little brother started learning the abacus at 4 and a half. He saw me practicing at home and thought it was cool. My mom also taught him at home, so the teacher allowed him to join the class. However, he was a bit too young for his concentration to last the full 90 minutes. He sometimes talked to other students and got attention from the teacher, who expected silence during class. Nonetheless, because he practiced at home with our mom, his skills progressed rapidly.

In the US, abacus schools are the only place to learn abacus (unless the parents have the skills to teach them), and they are not as widely available as programs like Kumon. Online learning is an option if there are no local schools available, but parents should learn alongside their children to provide immediate feedback, which is crucial for abacus success.

If your child is very young (like 3 or 4 years old), they can start with activities that develop number sense, such as counting, grouping, and comparing quantities. In the abacus school I attended, there were many small children. I think they can start as early as 4 years old, but they will need extra support compared to older students and should be expected to start slow.

So, what is the best age to start learning abacus? If your child meets the conditions listed above and shows interest, they’re ready to embark on their abacus learning journey!