Soroban and Anzan


And you too, of course.

Here is an idea. Start using this:
It generates one digit calculations for you to do.
My advice would be to first do these on the soroban, then repeat them in your head. Try to feel your muscles moving. No, better yet, first do the finger movements in the air and see the beads moving in your mind.
People on the train will think you are a genius if you do this!
Especially if you honestly tell them you are working on a calculation.

Let’s assume you get 8+2+7.
See yourself putting 8 on the soroban. Feel your fingers pinch both the 5 and the 3 lower beads in one move. Also, in order to engage more parts of your brain, visualize them in gold, heated.
Now add 2. We do 10 - 8. Add 1 to the tens rod. and -8 on the units. See yourself do this movement with 2 fingers in one go. So one finger shifts the 5 bead up and the other one moves the 3 beads down.
Last add 7. 5+2. See/feel/visualize your fingers adding 7 in one pinching motion.

Now I spend many words on this for a reason. If you can do this in your mind - and I am certain you can do this - then your only obstacle is speed.
Let that sink in.
If you can do this in your mind, then your only obstacle is speed.

Well, that and keeping visualizing the rods.
At first you cannot visualize 6 rods, but I am fairly certain you can do 2.
This comes with practice, so don’t pay attention to this yet.

Visualizing tricks!!!
I give the beads on the rod a colour depending on the number.
8 and 9 become red. Well, 8 is orange and 9 is red.
For me, this denotes full.
It means that if I need to add 2 for example I immediately start to add 10 first and then I know I need to subtract either the 5’s or 10’s complement.
Also it helps me memorizing the rods.
I just see the rods one by one and this strengthens the number I am working with. At first, after each addition, just see the rods one by one.

First practice at your own speed. Later use this:

I made a small test sheet for you to train with:
The idea is that you open this on your phone and zoom in until the answer is outside the view. Then do the calculation and check your answer.

This way you can train and do it in your own pace.
Don’t worry if this goes slow at first. Focus on accuracy.

While doing this, also do a lot of work on the soroban.

and after each calculation, just repeat them in your mind with finger movements.

(Rose) #22

Thank you Kinma, that’s awesome. I will practice. I just have to persevere.

(Rose) #23

Hi Script, that’s awesome you can do addition and subtraction mentally in only 7 months. I am like you I am also a self taught Soroban. That just tells me it’s possible to learn Anzan. Did you use any app for memorizing or just imagine the soroban on your head? Thanks


Kinma, I’ve identified myself 100% with everything you said, absolutely everything, including “humm” in more complex calculations!

And RoseYama, I didn’t use any kind of digital app to memorize soroban, only the physical soroban, the only apps I use are flash anzan to test me from time to time, thanks and good luck!


I still can not guarantee that we will be masters of the mental calculus, because I believe that for children it is much easier, but calculations as “365 + 745 - 759 + 998” I say that it is perfectly possible, I venture to say even multiplications like "75 x 99 ". More complex calculations I still can not guarantee, but I will continue to practice, maybe it’s just a matter of time …

I have some tips for you as well, so I see that the training for all practitioners are countless lines of leaf calculations to be solved quickly with the soroban. And tip 2 is so you do not forget to ask someone to dictate calculations for you to solve in soroban and mentally, this is essential, in all the few soroban schools that I see, one of the essential things is dictation (including here in Brazil, where we have some, because there are many Orientals around here).


The rightlobemath course has audio, visual and listed calculations so as to train all these different aspects of the mental maths.


Yes,rightlobemath is perfect.

(Rose) #28

Scrip, Kinma or Wandering traveller,
Thank you so much for your input. I started to learn multiplication and I found different ways to do it on the soroban. Some start from left to right, others calculate right to left and set the beads 2 rows to the left, etc… Which way is the correct one or you guys find easier to grasp? Thank again.


I use the traditional method of multiplication, the multifactor method interrupts my reasoning because we always have to remember to remove “1” from the operation (I think you understood what I meant) haha.
It is already a sacrifice to memorize the abacus, remembering to remove “1” (multifactorial method) complicates more.


In general, I prefer this site and explanation:


It’s been far too long since I stuck my nose in here. I dusted off my soroban and did a little counting last night. I need to get myself back on the 20 minutes a day of practice. It always shames me when I see you guys with stick-to-it-iveness. Sustaining the practice has always been my great personality flaw. Dozens of skills started so few retained.

… Hello all… good to see you still practicing. :slight_smile:


It has. I missed you!
Great to see you back.

And you have the most beautiful soroban in the world!


Btw, where would one find this particular model?


From the packaging, it looks like Tomoe brand… search “tomoe soroban” on Amazon. They ship from Japan so it’ll take a couple of weeks to get to Europe. Costs about 30 euros.

(Rose) #35

Hi Robert, nice to meet you. I think I can relate to you a lot. I am like you, As a mom and working full time, I find it hard to find the time to practice and I was lost in so many resources but thanks to this forum I’ve got great tips and met great people. Hopefully I will advance. Good luck to you.


This is true. Therefore I advocate bringing a soroban app on your phone.
At the very least you can then practice on the toilet :grin:.

I must admit; I love you for teaching your 7 year old son mental calculation!
This is rare to find; parents who teach their children the lost art of mental calculation.

I am in the same boat as you btw, 51 years old and a son who is almost 7 (also a daughter who is almost 4).
My son cannot do 2 digit addition in his head (2 digits and then add a single digit number to it he can do}.

So you telling me that he does that tells me that you are a fantastic mother and with that you gained my utmost respect.

So with all duties you have it is hard to practice. Just try to get some practice each day.

Here is another practice run you can do.
Visualize an abacus and just count 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.
While counting set the beads accordingly.
Go until at least 30.

Next run, count 2, 4, 6, etc.
Next run count 1, 3, 5, 7, etc
Next run 3, 6, 9, etc

(Rose) #37

Thank you for your nice words Kinma, you are so very nice. My son fights sometimes to practice but he does 4 digits addition and subtractions every day on the soroban and then some 2 digits mental calculations. We do around 10 calculations. More than that he starts complaining. But as he is grade 2, the teacher is teaching the traditional method, so far it is not interfering with the home study.
Kinma, if you don’t mind me asking, you mentioned you are 51, when did you start learning and when you were able to do the Anzan? BTW, I already downloaded the app, I will practice whenever I can.


Here is a way for him to get accustomed to 3 digit calculation.
First have him do a calculation that results in almost 100 as the answer. Example 72 + 26.
Then have him do a calculation that results in about 110 as the answer. Example 82 + 26.
Now he has to prepare his brain to use a 3rd digit.

After that just keep going. 95+29.


Thanks, I’ll check this out :slight_smile:


I don’t mind at all.
I got introduced to the major system at an early age. 14 or so. When I read a Dutch book about memory training.

Mental calculation has been a fun thing or hobby since forever.
My father taught me square roots when I was 5.
Back then, I understood the roots of 4 and 9 were 2 and 3 and the root of 8 was lower than 3 and more than 2 and closer to 3 than it is to 2.
Of course I did not understand how to exactly calculate the root of 8, but I knew it had to be less than and close to 3.

He also taught me how to check my answers and the importance of making an educated guess.
9 proof and 11 proof are things that nobody learns anymore at school.
Look up the 9 proof and 11 proof if this is interesting for you. Just the other day I wrote a bit about it in the thread about Trachtenberg.

Because I could do these things it became interesting for me to learn more ways of mental calculation.
Also the freedom of being able to get to a number when there are no calculators around is fascinating for me.

He taught me to calculate in exponents using percentages. For example if you get 10% on a savings account per year, after 7 years your money doubles. Or otherwise stated 1.1^7 = 2. Not exactly. 2, but close.
Also that if you get 5% per year, it takes 14 years.
So 10 (%) * 7 (years) = 70.
And 5 (%) * 14 (years) = 70 too.
So the percentage multiplied by the amount of years is always around 70.
Later I started to look and find out why this is.
Hint: ln(2) = 0.7. Not exactly, but close.

I actually didn’t do anything with the abacus/soroban and anzan before I joined this site. If you look at old posts I think from 2014 I started to read websites about this and started to play with it.
I kept the digital app on my phone to play with and do this from time to time.
Doing this I realized that the most important part is the automation process.; you need to do this so often that the finger movements are automatic.
And since the rules are simple, it does not take enormous amounts of time to get to this point.

While thinking about how to react to to your question I realized an important aspect of the soroban and thus anzan too.
What helps me a lot is to develop a dual number system.
What do I mean by this? Well, if you think of 8 for example, think of -2 at the same time. And then keep in mind that the -2 needs to also involve a carry. So you can also think of it as +10-2.
However; shortening it to -2 keeps the focus on the rod you are working with.

Train your mind for this for a while, just set the number 9 on your mental abacus and the call out 1 and do a mental +10-9 on two rods in your mind.
Then call out 2 and do a +10-8. Etcetera.
Try to actually see and feel the beads moving in your mind.