Soroban – Getting Started

Buying a Soroban

If you want to teach this Japanese method of mental math to your child, you will need a special type of abacus called a Soroban.  Depending on the age of your child, there are different versions available. For instance, the Pacchi is recommended for children age 3-5 years old because the beads are larger which makes it easier to manipulate for little fingers with poorer dexterity.  If you can’t find one locally, you can try purchasing it online from Tomoe Soroban – they have a range available and their prices are very reasonable (prices include shipping).

If you’re not ready to buy a physical abacus, you can download a virtual one and give it a go before deciding.

Soroban Books and Resources

Tomoe Soroban has a good introduction on how to use the Soroban – although this is more on which fingers to use, etc. rather than teaching you how to add, mutiply, etc.  Tomoe Soroban also has a free site called Super Sharp Brain (you will need to register and although they say you need to pay, the site has recently been made a free site so you can ignore that part) that you can sign up to that will give you level by level problems to work out using the Soroban.  Tomoe Soroban also has a list of physical schools around the world you can attend.  Currently, the only listings are in US, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.

Tomoe Soroban recommend the following books for learning how to use the Soroban:

These books aren’t available at the local bookstores – couldn’t even find anything in Kinokuniya!  If you want to get them, it’s probably best to buy them from Tomoe Soroban.  They cost an arm and a leg on Amazon because they don’t appear to be in print any more.  Personally, I wasn’t keen on “The Japanese Abacus: It’s Use and Theory” because the sample page didn’t look very reader friendly.

Math Abacus

Math Abacus also sells some books that you can also use for teaching the principles of using the Soroban to your child.  To see what their books are like you can down load a few pages for free – these are the workbooks.  I’m not sure what the teaching books are like, but the activities in the workbooks look okay.

Math Secret

Alternatively, there is Math Secret which is basically a program application.  Math Secret also sells workbooks which are currently only available from Amazon. I’m not sure how good the program is, but I am leaning towards this.

Abacus Mind Math

There is also Abacus Mind Math which is available for purchase on Amazon:


If you know any another other resources, please share them in the comments below.  Meanwhile, take a look at the Soroban versus the Calculator:


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

16 thoughts on “Soroban – Getting Started

  1. At 12 years old, I learnt Soroban for a term, under a Chinese instructor. I was the oldest in class and managed to cover only addition and subtraction. In Singapore then, most of the classes were conducted in Mandarin.

    The “formulae” in Mandarin are catchy and easy to memorise. There’s something about the Chinese language that streamlines information into short phrases. Daily practice is important, to improve on speed and accuracy.

    Even though I missed out on early right brain education, I was glad to have learnt some Soroban in my teens. It certainly helped improve the speed of my mental calculation. As a regular participant in Mathematical Olympiads, I benefitted from the higher speed and accuracy.


  2. Thanks, Mie Vee – great to hear an insider’s view on Soroban! Have already ordered a Soroban for Gavin but just waiting for it to arrive. Haven’t decided how I will teach him yet, though…


  3. I am a trained soroban instructor from India and residing in UK.I have trained my two children aged 4 and 9 for the past 3 months and am very impresses with their progress.The main thing of abacus culminates with over minimum 3 months of daily practice when they have started using the mental abacus method where they can visulaize the beads of abacus and arrive at answers.It surely has multiple benefits.I am planning to run an after school club in my community and give it my best shot to spread this amazing abacus way of doing mental math.


  4. Hi Shenli,

    May you share which type of abacus you bought for your son ? I am thinking to get 11-digit plastic soroban with colorful beads, but wonder if it be useful to do so….Please advise if you have done so, thanks.


    1. FZ – I have two different Soroban abacus for Gavin. The coloured one with three pins (which is probably a bit of a waste of time because it’s very limited and soon to be outgrown, but kinda nice and fun for Gareth because it’s colourful) and a more serious one which even has a dot point for decimals (a friend gave it to us so I don’t know where it was bought from).

      But I have to agree that the regular abacus is a bit clumsy for Gavin because the beads are a lot smaller. Since I already bought the coloured one, I use that currently with the intention to move on to the regular abacus when he is more firmly grounded in Soroban.

      MieVee – it is very impressive what Fz has achieve with Venus. I am so inspired!


  5. Hi Fz, I’m not sure if the colourful beads could result in reliance on the colours for the place value. Generally, I’d suggest following what the teacher uses or suggests, and what’s allowed in Abacus certification exams / competitions.

    During my time, we used the abacus in plain beige/orange colour. After a few months of daily practice, it’s already possible to remove the abacus and do calculations with visualisation only.


  6. :-), hehe…….. I just saw the ads and it looks so enticing to get one for young hands, look like I will back off after all the
    conversion when it comes up to RM130+- for an abacus, not worth the price…………… Not quite worry with her reliance on the colors of place value because she is using mental calculations with millions or hundreds ie she never misses for that part, and her mental is faster at this juncture compared to using abacus, reason for abacus is to expose her with another Maths perspective and to keep her brain busy otherwise she would have nothing to do at home ( keep her busy with all the formulae) ****But I will keep your valuable advice in mind. Just that the normal abacus is quite small for young kid to maneuver. Thanks.


  7. Yes MieVee, she is kind of fast, we joined the class last month and she has finished all the formulae and is now able to use the formulae “quite freely”………mostly attributable to foundation laid in See’s Maths, from there she does her decimal, fraction, timetables and divisions.

    Actually abacus is a calculating skill, so I am pleased that she knows the “imaging” part of See’s Maths, then abacus becoming a breeze to her. The best part is she can use both interchangeably. And because she is only 5+, so everything is possible. 🙂


  8. hi shen li,
    Om here.I like to teach my little girl soroban.I don’t know how to use them. Any tips & ideas on how to use and do additions to start with.It actually has 13 lines of beads.
    Please throw some light on what you know about soroban & how I can introduce it to my daughter at home.
    We live in UK. I want to introduce to my little one to use at home to start with.


  9. hi shen li,
    Om here.I like to teach my little girl soroban.I don’t know how to use them. Any tips & ideas on how to use and do additions to start with.It actually has 13 lines of beads.
    Please throw some light on what you know about soroban & how I can introduce it to my daughter at home.
    We live in UK. I want to introduce to my little one to use at home to start with


  10. Hi Shenli
    I want to buy japanese soroban and the books for my 8 year old and 3 three yeear old would you please advise which one are suitable and where can i buy them.
    i live in Africa Botswana am really interesed in the japanese soroban


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: