Tuesday, August 22, 2006

An Abacus?

After my appointment with my doctor today I stopped by the medical supply store to get more test strips for my blood glucose monitor. The lady who runs the store knows me well as I've been shopping there on and off, mostly on, for a couple of years. (Depending on where I am in Seoul I have a handful of shops I go to. Seoul is a huge city.)

Anyway, as you can see from the photo, I didn't get much. I just got two boxes of test strips and a box of alcohol swabs.

What's interesting is she busted out an abacus! Here is a link to the Wikipedia entry because I really don't know much about them outside of the fact that they're calculation tools that merchants have used for centuries. The page discusses a few different types, but she had the Japanese abacus or soroban which is exactly like the one depicted here. The section with the picture also explains how using a soroban is taught and why some people still want their children to learn how to use one:

Soroban is taught in primary schools as a part of lessons in mathematics because the decimal numerical system can be demonstrated visually. When teaching the soroban, a song-like instruction is given by the teacher. The soroban is about 8 cm (3 inches) tall. The beads on a soroban are usually shaped as a double cone (bi-cone) to facilitate ease of movement. Often, primary school students may bring along with them two sorobans, one with 1 upper bead and 5 lower beads, the other with 1 upper bead with 4 lower beads. Despite the advent of handheld calculators, some parents send their children to private tutors to learn soroban because proficiency in soroban calculation can be easily converted to mental arithmetic at a highly advanced level.
I thought it was so cool that I immediately reached for my camera phone and asked if I could snap a photo. She's amused by me because I'm always bouncing into her store all smiley and friendly. For some reason, I'm usually a happy camper after an appointment at my hospital. She allowed me to take the picture, and I bounced out of the store smiling as usual.

Not much else to say about it. It was just cool seeing someone using an abacus when, as you can see, there was a calculator within reach.

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