Tips for learning soroban

(Mike ) #1

Hi, I have always been quick with mental arithmetic by “normal” standards, but nothing like as impressive as those trained with the saroban.

I have been using the saroban for a short while (simple saroban plus I made my own physical abacus also) but I still need to read the answer at the moment from the device - it is not something I can simply picture

Does anyone have any tips on the correct way to learn saroban with the intention of eventually just calculating mentally please?

(selmo'i cu se nintadni) #2

I’m a beginner as well (I can usually do a 2 digit addition/subtraction problem mentally, but it’s really slow, far far slower than doing it on my soroban, and far far far slower than just using other mental math techniques), but I saw someone else on here say that they picture a rod with 8 or 9 on it as orange or red respectively, and I expanded that idea to give every value a color. I’m not sure yet if it will work long term, but in the short term it definitely seems to help in keeping an extra digit accurate. I cashier at a grocery store, so while I’m checking out orders, I try to picture the current subtotal on a soroban with the colors as well. My goal is to get it automatic so that I don’t need to think that 8 is orange or that 6 is green (don’t look for patterns, I chose the colors randomly), but just picture it that way. I’ve definitely made progress towards that, so we’ll see how it goes.


Of course I have tips.

Start here and do it exactly as stated:
The reason is simple. Automate, automate, automate!

Funny thing. While checking my own process, I realize that I do something different compared to this website.
When adding numbers with a carry, I do the carry first and then work on the next row. Instead of “+7”, if the rod is full I change to “+10-3”.
The rules state that it needs to be done in reverse. So first do the -3 and then +10. I automatically do +10 first and then -3. Fir me this feels natural. However; the rules dictate reversed order.
There might be a good reason that I don’t know of; I still advocate following the site, even if there is this one rule that I do differently :wink:

Also read this thread again. It is jampacked with tips:

(selmo'i cu se nintadni) #4

Up until about a week ago I did it the proper way (subtract complement, then carry one), but I changed because I cannot for the life of me figure out why it’s not done carry then operate, like subtraction (borrow, then add complement). Carrying or borrowing first should allow you, once you get faster, to carry or borrow before even moving your fingers to the next rod, I think, which would be an advantage. Nevertheless, since the end goal is for both steps to be simultaneous in anzan, I doubt it matters long term.


So do I.


I recently began using the soroban daily and have the same goal, to calculate mentally. I am focusing on addition only atm and have been mainly adding the numbers from 1 - 100 over and over, but also do some 2 digit adding with an app (20 2 digit numbers at 1.5 second intervals). I am open to suggestion and think it would be nice to start a learning commuity


Here is some info I found:

(Mike ) #8

Thank you, some really nice info there and something to work towards. I am more wary of starting with bad habits really and finding myself down a road where i can never get away from the physical soroban.

Will keep checking back here and will give an update on how things go and on any other resources i stumble upon but you guys here seem to have done a fair amount of research already. Cheers.



IMHO; you need the physical soroban in order to automate the movements. In other words, use it until your fingers just move on a given calculation.

At that point, when your muscles just move, can you do the calculations in your head without thinking.
And this let’s you focus on beads moving and focus on the end result.


In the beginning it is difficult to visualize the beads moving.
What helps - for me - is the following procedure.

I start by pronouncing the movements in my head while observing the mental soroban.
Let’s say I have 6 on a rod and need to add 7, I pronounce “plus 10, minus 5, plus 2” while simultaneously moving the beads. Also I pronounce the result in my head.

Then I do the calculation again. This time without the pronunciation.
Just observe your brain making the movements. It’s like pressing replay on your brain.

Then I repeat it a couple of times. Each time faster and faster. Until it sticks.
The whole idea is to automate the process of applying 7 to 6.


I have been practicing soroban with two digit numbers recently and focusing on speed, but yesterday I switched to a slower pace using 6 digit numbers and thought it would be interesting to share why. With two digit numbers I don’t get the chance to move horizontally across the soroban as much. Also with two digits I don’t get into a situation where there are many 9’s in a row that need to be reset. Switching to 6 digits seems to be the perfect balance for this while still training speed. Has anyone had the same experience?