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It is derived from the ancient Chinese suanpanimported to Japan in the 14th century. The soroban is composed of an odd number of abzco or rods, each having beads: Each set of beads of each rod is divided by a bar known as a reckoning bar. The number and size of beads in each rod make a standard-sized rod soroban much less bulky than a standard-sized suanpan of similar expressive power.

The number of rods in a soroban is always odd and never fewer than nine. Basic models usually have thirteen rods, but the number of rods on practical or standard models often increases to 21, 23, 27 or even 31, thus allowing calculation of more digits or representations of several different numbers at the same time. Each rod represents a digit, and a larger number of rods allows the representation of more digits, either in singular form or during operations.

The beads and rods are made of a variety of different materials. Most soroban made in Japan are made of wood and have wood, metal, rattanor bamboo rods for the beads to slide on.

The beads themselves are usually biconal shaped like a double-cone. They are normally made of wood, although the beads of some soroban, especially those made outside Abavo, can be marblestone, or even plastic.

The cost of soroba soroban is commensurate with the materials used in its construction. One unique feature that sets the soroban apart from its Chinese cousin is a dot marking every third rod in a soroban.

These are unit rods and any one of them is designated to denote the last digit of the whole number part of the calculation answer.

SOROBAN:Japanese Abacus

Any number that is represented on rods to the right of this designated rod is part of the decimal part of the answer, unless the number is part of a division or multiplication calculation. Unit rods to the left of the designated one also aid in place value by denoting the groups aabco the number such as thousands, millions, etc. Suanpan usually do not have this feature.

The soroban uses a decimal system, where each of the rods can represent a single digit from 0 to 9. By moving beads towards the reckoning bar, they are put in the “on” position; i. For the “five bead” this means it is moved downwards, while “one beads” are moved upwards. In this manner, all digits from 0 to 9 can be represented by different configurations of beads, as shown below:.

Japanese Abacus

These digits can subsequently be used to represent multiple-digit numbers. This is done in the same way as in Western, decimal notation: The numberfor instance, is represented by the following configuration:. The soroban user is free to choose which rod is used for the units; typically this will be one of the rods marked with a dot see the 6 in the example above. Any digits to the right of the units represent decimals: In order to change into The methods of addition and subtraction on a soroban are basically the same as the equivalent operations on a suanpan, with basic addition and subtraction making use of a complementary number to add or subtract ten in carrying over.


There are many methods to perform both multiplication and division on a soroban, especially Chinese methods that came with the importation of the suanpan. The authority in Japan on the soroban, the Japan Abacus Committeehas recommended so-called standard methods for both multiplication and division which require only the use of the multiplication table. These methods were chosen for efficiency and speed in calculation.

Because the soroban developed through a reduction in the number of beads sorobn seven, to six, and then to the present five, these methods can be used on the suanpan as well as on soroban produced before the s, which have five “one” beads and one “five” bead. The Japanese abacus has been taught in school for over years, deeply rooted in the value of learning the fundamentals as a form of art. Now, the strive is for speed and turning out deliverables rather than understanding the subtle intricacies of the concepts behind the product.

Calculators replace sorobans and elementrary schools are no longer required to teach the abacus.

Japanese Abacus Simulator (Soroban)

If they do, it is by choice. The growing sorobann of calculators within the context of Japanese modernization has driven the study of soroban from public schools to private after school classrooms. Where once abwco was an institutionally required subject in school for children grades 2 to 6, current laws have made keeping this art form and perspective on math practiced amongst the younger generations more lenient. There are six levels of mastery, starting from sixth-grade very skilled all the way up to first-grade for those who have completely mastered the use of the soroban.

The soroban is still taught in some primary schools as a way to visualize and grapple with mathematical concepts. The practice of soroban includes the teacher reciting a string of numbers addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in a song-like manner sorban at the end, the answer is given by the teacher.

This helps train the ability to follow the tempo given by the teacher while remaining calm and accurate.

In this way, it reflects on a fundamental aspect of Japanese culture of practicing meditative repetition in every aspect of life. The mastery of anzan is one reason why, despite the access to handheld calculators, some parents still send their children to private tutors to learn the soroban. The soroban is also the basis for two kinds of abaci developed for the use of blind people.

One is the toggle-type abacus wherein flip switches are used instead of beads. The second is the Cranmer abacus which has circular beads, longer rods, and a leather backcover so the beads do not slide around when in use. The soroban’s physical resemblance is derived from the suanpan but the number of beads is identical to the Roman abacuswhich had four beads below and one at the top.


Most historians on the soroban agree that it has its roots on the suanpan’s importation to Japan via the Korean peninsula around the 14th century.

Soroban – Wikipedia

Xbaco the soroban was not widely used until the 17th century, although it was in use by Japanese merchants since its introduction. These studies became evident on the improvements on the soroban itself and the operations used on it. In the construction of the soroban itself, the number of beads had begun to decrease, especially at a time when the basis for Japanese currency was shifted from hexadecimal to decimal.

In xorobanone heavenly bead was removed from the suanpan configuration of two heavenly beads and five earth beads. This new Japanese configuration existed concurrently with the suanpan until the start of the Meiji eraafter which the suanpan fell completely out of use. Also, when the suanpan was imported to Japan, it came along with its division table.

The division table used along with the suanpan was more popular because of the original hexadecimal configuration of Japanese currency. But because using the division table was complicated and it should be remembered along with the multiplication table, it soon fell out in soon after the soroban’s present form was reintroduced inwith a so-called standard method replacing the use sproban the division table. This standard method of division, recommended today by abzco Japan Abacus Committee, is in fact an old method which used counting rodsfirst suggested by mathematician Momokawa Woroban in[9] and therefore had to compete with the division table during the latter’s heyday.

The basis for scoring in the contest was speed and accuracy of results in all four basic arithmetic operations and a problem which combines all four. The soroban won 4 abafo 1, with the electric calculator prevailing in multiplication. About the event, the Nippon Times newspaper reported that “Civilization Even with the improvement of technology involving calculators, this event has yet to be replicated officially.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article includes a list of referencesbut its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. July Learn how and when to remove this template message. Zen and the Japanese Culture.

Retrieved 21 November The Development of the Soroban. A History of Japanese Mathematics. The Open Court Publishing. Free digital copy available at Questia. Retrieved from ” https: Pages using citations with accessdate and no URL Articles lacking in-text citations from July All articles abaxo in-text citations Articles containing Japanese-language text Commons category link is on Wikidata.

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