Mental Arithmetic, one of the significant calculation methods with a crucial contribution to the development of China and abroad, is originated from Chinese abacus, born about 2,600 years ago, the world intangible cultural heritage and known as the Fifth Great Invention of China. The UK has selected the “101 inventions that changed the world” which have promoted the development of human society, within which the abacus ranks the first.
The computer made calculation easier and quick, but meanwhile, the increase reliance on it makes the calculation ability and sensitivity to numbers of human gradually retrograde. In European and American countries, people have been appealing to public to stop children using the calculator in case of their degradation of calculation ability.
Mental arithmetic, on the contrary, could help people develop their ability and interest to math, and its educational significance to other extended fields could be profound.
The abacus had a far-reaching influence in ancient China, as the computer does to modern society.
China is a nation with a history of more than 5,000 years. Its civilization has once taken the leading position in the world due to its brilliant achievements in philosophy, math and natural sciences. Among the four ancient civilizations, China enjoyed the longest zenith in the field of mathematics, which lasted for about 1,400 years from around the beginning of the Christian era to the fourteenth century.
Different from ancient Greek mathematics focusing on theorem proving, the ancient Chinese math centered on algorithm creation, for solving equations in particular; it aimed to solve practical problems and was characterized by algorithmization and mechanization. In such a circumstance, abacus turned out to be one of the major achievements of ancient Chinese math, which reflects the thinking of ancient Chinese about the universe, society and life.