Some questions about Soroban

Hi guys, I’m new on this forum and I’ve created this account mostly because of methods of calculation (especially the Soroban). I hope you don’t mind me asking a few questions.

So, I’ve just bought my abacus a few weeks ago and started practicing with it every day ever since. In the beginning, I needed to stop for a while and remember all those formulas (I even used some notes to remember them all). However, as the days passed on, it became almost automatic and I don’t even need to think about it anymore. They are coming naturally with the movements of my fingers. Is that normal or should I think about the formulas when doing the operations?

Also, Takashi Kojima said in his book, Japanese Abacus: Its Use and Theory, that “Those who take up their study of the abacus after they are out of their teens are never able to pass the first-grade examination, but it is definitely possible for them to attain to the third rank, and occasionally even to the second.” So what do you guys think about it? Is that true? By “true”, I mean if it’s proved by real experiments and science. In addition, what does the first-grade examination mean exactly? Is it 1th kyu? So only kids are able to attain this level?

That’s all. If possible, I would like you guys to share some of your experiences with the abacus and exercises as well. I think this will help me a lot. Thanks.


I have been practicing my soroban a few minutes every day using a little app I found from I am an old guy (much past 50). What is true for one will not be true for another. Brains are much more trainable in youth but we like to pretend that old dogs can learn some. The trick with Anzan is to have it directly wired into your head so that you can see it rather than add it. I suspect an adult can wire it up but this could easily be a multi-year effort. Same with doing steno at 220wpm so after you have put in 10k hours or so wiring it up you will likely know. You should have a pretty good idea of how things are going after the first 5000hours I suspect :wink:


Yes, this is normal. The movements should become fully automatic; fully integrated into muscle memory.

I don’t think this is true. There are no experiments that I know about that would prove this.
However; I agree that this will not be easy.
A fully committed brain can do this I think.

Using the fabulous website: that Robert was also talking about I generated some 1st kyu exercises and uploaded them here:

soroban-exercises-1st-kyu.pdf (9.0 KB)

Examples are:
562,091 x 29,652 =
0.082839 x 5,467.4 =
2,870,110,085 ÷ 61,584 =
1,900,702 x 5,276 =