Introduction to Abacus Mental Arithmetic and Chinese Go Enrichment Classes

Ever heard of abacus mental arithmetic and Chinese Go? Both are pivotal in Chinese culture: the former is a skill learned from a young age, and the latter, a game for all ages that sharpens logical thinking. This post will explore their roles in Chinese heritage!

Many parents enroll their children in various extracurricular classes when they are young, commonly opting for music lessons or sports. However, did you know that in Chinese culture, many parents choose to send their children to learn abacus, mental arithmetic (心算 xīnsuàn) and Chinese Go (围棋 wéiqí)? It is said that these activities can enhance brain calculation speed, improve logical thinking, and foster concentration, among other benefits. But what exactly are mental arithmetic and Chinese Go? This blog will delve into these subjects, exploring whether these practices contribute to the outstanding performance of Chinese individuals in mathematics from an early age.

What is Abacus Mental Arithmetic?

Originating in China, Mental Arithmetic has a history spanning thousands of years. The abacus, an ancient calculating tool made initially from beads and strings, has evolved into the form we are familiar with today. Historically, the abacus was widely used not only in China but also in Japan, Korea, Russia, and other countries. Over time, people have not only learned to perform calculations on the abacus but also to mentally simulate the movement of its beads for quick calculations. This practice is known as Mental Arithmetic.

The principle behind Mental Arithmetic involves visualizing an abacus in the mind and simulating bead movements to calculate. This training significantly enhances one's mathematical skills, especially in basic arithmetic operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The benefits of learning Mental Arithmetic include improved rapid calculation skills, enhanced memory, and increased concentration.

What is Chinese Go?

Originating in China over 4000 years ago, Go is a two-player game that uses a 19x19 grid board and black and white stones. The objective is to capture more territory by alternately placing the stones on the board. Once placed, stones cannot be moved, but they can capture the opponent's stones by surrounding them completely. The player with more territory and captured stones at the end wins. Learning Go can enhance strategic thinking, decision-making, patience, and concentration.

Why Do Chinese Value Mental Arithmetic and Chinese Go?

  • Cultural Heritage and Identity: Mental Arithmetic and Chinese Go are integral parts of Chinese culture, symbolizing wisdom and strategic thinking. They are closely tied to Chinese identity and cultural pride as symbols of traditional culture.
  • Educational Value: In Chinese society, education is seen as a key to upward mobility. Mental Arithmetic and Chinese Go are believed to cultivate mathematical abilities, logical thinking, decision-making, and concentration, prompting parents to encourage their children to learn these skills.
  • Cognitive Development: Mental Arithmetic develops rapid calculation and memory skills, while Chinese Go trains strategic thinking and decision-making. These skills positively impact children's intellectual development and academic performance.
  • Value Transmission: These activities are not just intellectual exercises; they also convey moral and philosophical ideas. For example, the patience and respect for opponents encouraged by Chinese Go reflect the Confucian doctrine of moderation.


The cultivation of Mental Arithmetic and Chinese Go offers significant benefits for the field of mathematics, which requires not only swift and accurate calculation skills but also strong logical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Thus, it can be inferred that Chinese students might have a certain advantage in mathematics due to their early exposure to and learning of Mental Arithmetic and Chinese Go.

This advantage is reflected not only in basic arithmetic operations but also in the strategic thinking and decision-making skills required to solve complex problems. While more people are learning Mental Arithmetic and Chinese Go today, with a greater emphasis on cultural transmission, these practices still hold immense cultural value in Chinese tradition, despite the growing trend toward learning programming languages among young learners.


Chinese Vocabulary

  • Mental Arithmetic = 心算 xīnsuàn
      • "Mental Arithmetic" refers to the process of performing mathematical calculations in one's head without using any physical or electronic aids.
      • 他通过心算迅速解决了那个复杂的数学问题。(He quickly solved the complex math problem through mental arithmetic.)
  • Abacus = 算盘 suànpán
      • "Abacus" refers to a manual aid to calculating that consists of beads or disks that can be moved up and down on a series of sticks or strings within a usually wooden frame.
      • 他用算盘完成了那些复杂的计算。(He completed the complex calculations using an abacus.)
  • Chinese Go = 围棋 wéiqí
      • "Chinese Go" refers to an abstract strategy board game for two players, in which the aim is to surround more territory than the opponent.
      • 他是一个围棋高手,经常参加国际比赛。(He is a Go master and often participates in international competitions.)
  • Calculation = 计算 jìsuàn
      • "Calculation" refers to the process of using mathematics to find an answer or solve a problem.
      • 她对于计算非常在行,总能迅速找到解决方案。(She is very good at calculations and can always find solutions quickly.)
  • Mathematics = 数学 shùxué
    • "Mathematics" refers to the abstract science of number, quantity, and space, either as abstract concepts (pure mathematics) or as applied to other disciplines such as physics and engineering (applied mathematics).
    • 他对数学充满热情,梦想成为一名数学家。(He is passionate about mathematics and dreams of becoming a mathematician.)


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