Soroban competition challenges student's math skills
TOKYO, Japan — The sounds of rapid ticking filled a large room in the New Sanno Hotel May 15 as 119 students quickly moved counting beads on a Japanese soroban necessary to perform complicated math calculations.
“Yame!” yelled out one of the Japanese judges. The word for “Stop” brought the room to complete silence.
This was just one portion of Japan District’s 31st Annual Soroban Contest showcasing speed and accuracy in addition and subtraction using the Japanese soroban. Students from 10 DoDEA Pacific schools in the Kanto Plain came together with the support of the Soroban League Educational Association of Japan.
Assistant Superintendent Jim Journey said the partnership of the Soroban League with DoDEA is the key to the creation of this “once in a lifetime experience for our DoDEA children.”
To prepare for the competition, host nation teachers in DoDEA schools offered after-school clubs where their students gained skill and confidence completing complex calculations using a soroban.
“In many DoDEA schools, Japanese soroban club members are invited to club meetings to model mathematical procedures and inspire students with their speed and accuracy,” said Mendel Elementary School Principal Hattie Phipps. “Many students who join their school’s soroban club tend to return each year and recruit more of their friends.”
Students new to the competition were presented with a soroban for use in the competition and as a future memento of the experience.
“It’s evident from the attention to detail that goes into hosting such an amazing competition that this is a very special tradition that our Japanese hosts like to share with our DoDEA students,” said Journey. “We’re fortunate that our students have this opportunity to be a part of an important part of Japanese culture and tradition.”