Honing Brain Capacity Through the Abacu
The enthusiasm and excitement is high as the young ones call out answers to ‘complex’ problems within the batting of an eyelid: adding up five sets of three digit numbers! Complex indeed, for these kids are four year olds! And all thanks to the training that they receive in Mental Arithmetic at one of the centres of Universal Concept of Mental Arithmetic System (UCMAS) in Chennai.
It takes only a few seconds to solve a problem like 228.9605 divided by 5894.31425 and get the quotient 0.00388442 by a young lad of 10 or 12 years! He is no whizkid. And what more, almost anyone can master such calculations: provided they start young, put in hours of practice, mental dexterity and develop Herculean powers of concentration!
Speed is the name of the game in today’s dizzy paced existence of cut throat competition. The result is stress, stress and more stress, throwing the human body open to the scourge of depression, disease, discomfort and death. Speed without strain and stress, then, is the need of the hour. UC MAS an international concept, may be the answer to our stress-ridden societies, according to Ms.Chitra Ravindran, course instructor and Franchisee for 2 centres imparting training in the system at Chennai.
Basically the system originated from China, and is now prevailing in Malaysia, Bangkok, Hongkong, UK, USA, India and Thailand. The methodology according to Ms.Ravindran is Zhusuan which makes use of the abacus which has been modified to develop and enhance the mental capabilities of children as young as 4 year old, upto 12 years.
Children weave their fingers deftly over beads arranged in a certain order on the abacus. The top half of the abacus has13 rows of single beads representing multiples of five in each rod and the lower rods have four beads, which indicate single digits. The basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division literally become child’s play as they youngsters are trained in speedy use of fingers to make big calculations appear easy. What more, learning takes place in a fun and adventurous manner. The secret lies in proper finger technique, with each, the thumb, index finger and the middle fingers used in a particular way.
The objective is to exploit and enhance the limitless potentialities of the human brain. And this is best done in the early years when learning is pronounced and easy to master. Training with the abacus helps the children train their memory and habituates their mind to work diligently from the early years. Says Ms.Ranvindran, “This concept (UC MAS)Universal Concept Mental Arithmetic system is for the children of age group 4 to 12 years because it has been proved that 80% of the brain is developed by 8 years and rest 20% by 12 years. This course mainly aims at developing brain skills of a child where they are taught to push the beads in the ABACUS. From the day 1 they are taught addition and subtraction. The course comprises of 10 levels and each level is of three months’ duration with a weekly of two hours. Many writing skills are also practiced like Direct Viewing , Indirect Viewing, Image Writing and Dictation all of which develop Mind Hand Coordination.”
“Children will be using both the hands , so we aim in developing left brain as well as the right brain, because right hand governs the left brain and the left hand the right brain. The development of intellect does not depend on physical maturity. Allowing them to work and compete together helps the children to face competition without any fear and helps them gear themselves to work under time related pressures.”
Says Ms.Ravindran, “,Learning in this way, the children are able to work with time frames and time pressures and this actually eases their stress levels as they progress to higher classes in school and are subsequently in a position to tackle the pressures of life without crumbling under them. The idea of UCMAS is to get children to understand absorb, assimilate, retain and recall, matter that has been taught, in good time.”
The system not only reduces dependence on calculators but also helps in developing self-reliance, memory and application. Since the operation of abacus involves co-ordinated action of sight, sound and movement of the hands, it enhances the development of the brain. In fact, the tool acts as a bridge between the three developmental stages of the brain – the physical, logical and visual aspects – through the growing years. By mobilizing the learning initiative of children in mathematical concept and giving free reins to developing their right brain, UCMAS indeed allows children to think on their toes. While Zhusuan is a system of calculation using the concept of abacus operation, Mental arithmetic is developed in later stages, utilizing the concept of Zhusuan without physically using the hand and abacus. Visualisation of beads and zhusuan concept is firmly implanted in the brain and used when calculating equations.
Ms.Ravindran who has taken franchise from UCMAS, Malaysia in 1999, for two of the 20 centres in Chennai, says, “So far I have trained 75 children and the highest level the children have reached in my center is Level 6. The outcome is visible at the end of 12 classes, that is at the end of Level 1 itself. By this time the child would have definitely acquired the speed. Gradually, by the end of the fifth level, accuracy, concentration and listening are enhanced. In Direct viewing the children write the numbers from 0 to 9 within a minute; if a child is able to write 90 digits in a minute definitely we improve their speed by 20 to 30 more digits within the first level. In Indirect viewing the child will write the same numbers 0 to 9 for a minute without looking into the book. In Image writing the child will be holding the pencil in both the hands and will write the same numbers with both hands simultaneously. In Dictation we call out numbers at a particular speed and expect the children to write the same.”
The idea of UCMAS training is to give equal rein to the overall intelligence of the cerebrum, encompassing both, the right and left brain, training them simultaneously. For, creativity will be at its greatest only when both brains are communicating and co-operating with each other. “The creativity function from right brain needs to be boosted by the information stored in the left brain, implying that the mathematical and physical abilities have to work together with the space perception from the right brain in order for an individual to exploit his brain capacities.
Teachers who train students in the system, themselves undergo 10 levels of training before becoming instructors, according to Ms.Ravindran. In some countries including Malaysia, abacus learning has been introduced into the main stream education in schools.