Using the SOROBAN to develop strategies for mental calculation

Recent policy initiatives require schools to pay greater attention to mental calculation in mathematics. This study proposed the use of a soroban, or Japanese abacus, as a means of developing number sense and strengthening student understanding of number concepts. There is evidence that 'expert' soroban users have enhanced mental calculation abilities.

The project investigated likely benefits for 'novice' users. An intervention and control model was used. It was anticipated that using traditional technology of the soroban in an innovative and clearly structured way in the classroom may enhance the learning process and ultimately develop the intervention student’s ability to calculate mentally. It was also anticipated that exposing students to the Japanese abacus would enhance awareness of the contributions made by other cultures.

Project details



Mr Thomas Macintyre, University of Edinburgh

Funding programme


Grant amount and duration

1 January 2003 – 31 December 2003



'Strategies for mental calculation', Macintyre T and Forrester R, Proceedings of the British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics, 2003

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Using the SOROBAN to develop strategies for mental calculation. Final report   cfddcdMmmmc

 cd   Download report (PDF)

Three posters prepared for the ICME (International Congress on Mathematical Education) conference in 2004 are available to download in PDF:

The Soroban: Alternative Representation of Number (Download PDF)

The Soroban and Mental Calculation (Download PDF)

The Soroban: What Place in the Mathematics Classroom? (Download PDF)