The ancient abacus is helping young students “see” their way clear to a new way of learning, designed to bring them more than just academic success.
That’s because the program at UCMAS (Universal Concept Mental Arithmetic System) in Richmond seeks to develop a child’s learning ability in a holistic fashion, using visualization methods that begin by using an abacus to solve math problems.
It’s an approach that attracted the interest of Krishna Kumar, director of UCMAS in Richmond, six years ago.
“I’d always been passionate about education and wanted to do something in the community,” he says. “And when I found UCMAS I realized this was a program that was not just teaching for a grade.”
“This program focuses on developing a child’s visualization capabilities that are controlled by the creative side of our brains.”
The use of an abacus triggers that visual form of learning and makes it a powerful tool.
“A child will ultimately be able to visualize numbers to do the math, meaning they can do complex math mentally without the need of the calculator,” Kumar says.
With that ability they can go much further than crunching numbers and apply the visualization technique to other areas of study.
“The goal of the abacus is not just to improve math skills but goes way beyond that,” Kumar says.
For example, if a youngster wants to study medicine and is learning about human anatomy, images of body structures can become almost photographic in their memory.
“Because they have learned visualization in this program, they will be able to grasp the essence just by looking at an image,” he says.
The skill can also be used in sports.
“They are able to see the big picture much more clearly, too,” Kumar says. “Therefore, their reflexes become much better.”
The ideal age range for students at UCMAS is 6 to 13 years old.
“That’s when a child’s brain is optimally growing,” he says, adding a student can graduate from the program in about four years of classes, once a week for two hours.
“And what they achieve is having a life-long skill they will use in everything they do.”
In today’s world, which is getting increasingly focused on technology, the ability to visualize things well is an extremely important skill.
Students who have completed the program at UCMAS Richmond have achieved Baccalaureate levels.
“That means every child who has graduated from our program so far has been able to do mental math at the highest level of proficiency,” Kumar says. “Plus, three of them graduated with distinction and are the only ones in North America to have done so.”
Brynelle Tesalona from Richmond was crowned the 2019 Canadian National Champion and will represent Canada at the International Competition in Cambodia on Dec 7-9, 2019.
On Sept. 7, UCMAS Richmond will be organizing a Cognitive Aptitude Test (CAT) for children aged four to six. To register, visit: i-maths.ca/imcc-registration. For more information about UCMAS Richmond, visit online at ucmas.ca, or call 604-248-7575.