soroban picture

How does the Sato Soroban Method work?

What is the Soroban?

The Soroban, or Japanese abacus, is shown in the picture above. It consists of a wooden frame, which holds columns of beads. For hundreds of years, this tool was used by bankers and merchants as the original calculator. Today, the Soroban is an effective tool for teaching children about numbers, and for helping them to understand how numbers work.

As a manipulative tool, the Soroban brings numbers to life. In addition to using the beads to represent numbers, the students perform computations by moving the beads up and down. Instead of merely memorizing an answer, the children are active participants in the process, and therefore have control of the steps involved in performing arithmetic.

So, let me show you how to use a Soroban

First look at the white, horizontal bar separates the top beads from the bottom beads.

0 bead

The bottom beads are all 1’s and the top beads are all 5’s. Notice that not one of the beads is touching the middle bar. The Soroban is now showing 0.
Now, let’s lift up one of the beads. This is 1.

1 bead

Let’s lift up another one. This is 2.

2 bead

What do you think happens if I lift up 1 more?

3 bead (this is 3)

and another

4 bead (this is 4)

So, let’s reset the Soroban back to 0.

0 bead

Do you remember what the top bead is? (Hint: It’s a 5)

If we bring one down, so that it touches the bar, we have 5.

5 bead

One more than 5 is, 6.

6 bead

One more is . . . 7. 7 bead And this is 8, 8 bead and this is 9. 9 bead

Mastering Basic Numbers

As you can see, all of our numbers are represented by a combination of the 1’s and 5’s beads. Our students automatically make the connection between the symbol (e.g. 3) and the quantity (000 = 3 circles).

Working with numbers in this way gives our students tremendous experience breaking numbers down into their component pieces. For example, when a student wants to add 7 more, the child must first break the 7 into a 5’s bead and two-1’s beads before the addition process may take place on the Soroban.

While their peers are simply memorizing math facts, our students constantly manipulate numbers by breaking them down into their component pieces. Think about a complex process that you have learned. When you simply memorized the steps for getting a job done, how much of the process did you really understand? Compare that to when you broke the process into it’s individual pieces and learned how all the pieces fit together.

You can still get the job done by simply memorizing the steps. But, when you understand how all the pieces fit together, you can extend that knowledge to other areas of your life. Working with numbers on the Soroban leads to numerical fluency that empowers our students to extend that understanding to advanced math concepts (higher grade levels), and even to other fields of study that involve numbers like science, accounting, and engineering.

Now that you’ve learned why Soroban might be the most effective way to learn math… take the next step and let us help your son or daughter.