Sunday, May 18, 2008

Best Kept Secret in the World: Miracle of Soroban (Japanese abacus)

Soroban is something I am very excited about. It's Japanese abacus and an amazing system of becoming proficient at maths for all children.

My experience with it is very positive and the results I've seen with my own child have been very inspiring. I believe it helps working memory and the method of mental calculation -- anzan -- that it teaches can be very useful for children with different learning styles.

Here are some Soroban links: do your child a favour and sign up for Soroban classes. You need to see it as a longer term project that you commit to and much of the stress around maths will dissolve.

How to find Soroban classes in Canada and US:

Here are some links to Soroban schools:


Click here for contact info and class location and schedules.

OREGON Abacus School


Please advise me if you know of other Soroban classes. Note I am only interested in classes not abacus textbooks for sale. I believe children thrive better with an expert abacus teacher to help them.

Soroban Education Centre Singapore

Over examined: another news report link

The second investigative journalism link I came across that may be of interest examines the testing situation in UK schools. The title says it all: Tested to destruction

I can only say how bonkers all this testing is when I recall the abject stress of having to take exams at age 16! Never mind sets of exams at 7, 11, 14. Pure madness.

It's bizarre that the resources that go into all this testing are not applied to help children with learning disabilities to overcome them.

This culture (and it's not limited to England) of assessment is increasingly bizarre and pointless since the supports and resources are not inplace to support children to overcome challenge. It's all about governments having excel worksheets full of figures that do little but stress out teachers and do a signicant disservice to children.

roundup of recent TV/ documentary reports: PBS The Medicated Child

Here are some interesting and thought provoking links to television and investigative journalism reportage on various topics.

The first a PBS FRONTLINE follow up The Medicated Child provokes interesting quandaries around the diagnosis of Bi-Polar disorder in children and subsequent medicating of it. It's alarming viewing.

I'm not trying to make light of what's an intensely challenging situation for any parent but the sight of one child sat in front of a significant sized computer screen as his mum prompts him from the kitchen it's time to take his medication, followed by scenes of him wolfing down corndogs (excessive appetite is one of the side affects of the meds tho' the choice of what he's consuming clearly isn't) did make me wonder. There's more compelling viewing when the mother, who I admired immensely for the difficult decisions and situation she's facing, consults with his psychiatrist and bravely expresses her fear about her son's medication and inspite of it, still leaves his office with an increase of one of the meds.

We're not shown any of these parents being offered alternative supports or interventions other than medication. Yet as illustrated by the above example clearly they are open to suggestions and basically like any parent simply want to help their children however they can.

I realize these are serious challenges such children are facing, but it's alarming to watch mental health professionals prescribe medications willy nilly, whose efficacy and safety for children are not established. The parents are at the mercy of such professionals. Some of the research described and discussed certainly seems to have value and I'm not suggesting some complete anti-medication stance, but who could help but be alarmed at children taking 8 different medications on a daily basis.