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Students instantly solve amazing math problems at Portland-area abacus school

The Japanese Abacus Math School teaches modern kids how to use the ancient calculator

PORTLAND, Ore. — Nearly two decades ago, Miwako Sakabayashi opened the doors to her Portland-area Japanese Abacus Math School.

Today, Sensei Miwako continues to teach local kids how to tackle math calculations by using the simple, beaded instrument known as the abacus.

“The abacus is (like a) calculator”, explained Sensei Miwako. “Whatever your smartphone calculator can do, we can do (with the abacus)!”

The abacus was invented roughly 5,000 years ago in China and is widely used in Japan, Russia and other countries as a math-teaching tool.

Not only do the students at the Japanese Abacus Math School (or JAMS, for short) learn math skills, they also enhance everyday life skills like time management, self-discipline and work ethic.

“I really enjoyed the abacus starting when I was around 6 (years old)”, said JAMS Student and International Abacus Champion Winston Chan. “I got really good at it when I was around 7 or 8, and I started joining competitions nationally and internationally, and it got really fun!”

JAMS, at 15160 NW Laidlaw Road, Suite #215, is in the Bethany area of Washington County.

As the school enters its 20th year next year in 2020, Sensei Miwako is planning to open a second location in the Happy Valley area.

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