Mental arithmetic is a technique for teaching oral computation with the help of specially designed accounts called abacus. First, the student learns to solve puzzles by moving the bones on the needles, and over time begins to do the same in mind.
With breakneck speed.
The technique has existed since the 17th century, and it was invented specifically for merchants. Today, the functions of an imaginary abacus can easily perform a calculator.
Despite this, courses in mental arithmetic are in insane demand, especially in China, India and Japan. The organizers promise to teach children not only the addition, subtraction, division and multiplication of multi-digit numbers, but also to develop the brain literally in all directions.
But that’s why of the child to make a robot, few people think.
Experts say that mental arithmetic facilitates the development of two neuropsychological functions. First of all, we are talking about the so-called “factor of programming and control.”
This is when the mind needs to perform a complex set of sequential actions and perform the entire algorithm without errors. And mental arithmetic trains visual-spatial functions, because the ultimate goal is to teach a child to count on imaginary, not on real accounts.
This kind of work for the brain is useful – with one reservation.
The frontal lobes, which are responsible for the programming and control unit, finally mature by 20 years. In 10 years they are in the process of formation.
The load that mental arithmetic imposes on the brain is excessive for children younger than this age. In addition, if a child is asked to perform tasks that are not suitable for him in terms of physiological development, the training may somehow progress, but there will still be little benefit.
And if the student is also forced, sooner or later he will hate mental arithmetic, and mathematics, and then study with school together. Motivation to get knowledge will be gone.
There are other dangers that the organizers of fashion courses do not warn about. Mastering the method of mental arithmetic at an early age can inhibit the development of mathematical abilities.
The idea of the number is formed with us gradually. First you need to grasp the essence of the concepts “more – less” and learn by eye to judge the volume and number of objects.
Here come to the aid of counting sticks and games with the materials at hand – apples, cones or cubes that you want to count. Each of these models enriches our “mathematical perception” and develops the “intuition of large numbers”.
So we learn to feel, for example, that 327 bananas are too much, and 17 is a completely different matter.
Mental arithmetic involves learning only one method of operating with numbers. The child really learns to quickly add, subtract, divide and multiply.
But his idea of number is very poor, and the very essence of mathematical operations remains a mystery to him.
If a child meets with an abacus at the age of 4–6 years, there will be even more difficulties. Other ways of handling the numbers that he will meet in elementary school will seem to him unnecessary: he thinks so well. As a result, it turns out that all the “basic” material is learned not in the course of various subject games, but in the form of cramming.
Then fractions will begin, familiarity with the decimal system and logarithms, extraction of the root. And for the development of these concepts, among other things, it is extremely important to be able to do approximate calculations.
But mental arithmetic does not provide such skills.
In order for the development of an abacus to bring a child only benefit, our expert advises using it according to the following principles:
Before school, mental arithmetic hurts more than it helps if it isn’t a game from time to time, among other math games.
To improve grades in mathematics, instead of an abacus, it makes sense to master the usual “Soviet” scores with a child. They will help close the gaps, tighten knowledge.
Abacus can be used to remove the “mathematical anxiety.” If you feel that a child enters into a stupor at the lessons of mathematics, he experiences that all this is too difficult and he will not cope, mental arithmetic will help relieve stress.
If you decide to prefer the abacus, let the child hone on him only the material with which problems arose, and not run far ahead. For example, at school they are additionally within twenty, which means that mental arithmetic is worth doing in the same limits.
Abacus is a good model for handling decimal fractions. But, again, limit yourself only to this “narrow” material, if by the time it is mastered in school, the child will generally need explanations on the fingers.
If you send children to mental arithmetic classes, at home do more tasks with them for convenient counting techniques. For example, if a task is asked to subtract 17, and then add 27, ask right away: “How can it be as simple as possible?” Let them guess that it is easier to simply add 10.
The goal is not to use only an abacus, but to resort to it only if it is impossible to solve the problem in another way.