Last Thursday I took the 4th kyu exam for my soroban – and I passed!

I already took the test in November, but then I became nervous and got stuck at the divisions and could only finish 9 of the 15 in the allotted time – which is exactly one too little. Anyway, this time I have passed with a not perfect, but still quite good score of 130 – 120 – 130. I am quite proud of myself, to be honest.

And now: further to higher levels. I have started to train for the 3rd kyu level in November already, but in the last month I have focused to get up to speed – the most important part – for the 4th kyu test. The next level test will be much more difficult, because it involves a number of new things:

*Decimals.* Multiplications and divisions from 3rd kyu level and up can involve decimal numbers. The way of calculating the result as such does not change, but now you have to figure out between which two columns to set the comma. It took me a while to get used to it, I make fewer mistakes by now, but my speed has suffered. Decimals make no sense in addition and subtraction on the soroban (as each number is represented by a column, whether left or right of the comma), so they are still without them.

*Anzan.* This is the Japanese expression for mental calculations. For this test, it is relatively simple – add six 2-digit numbers and write down the result – but every now and then, sensei lets me do multiplication and division anzan as well. The trick is to imagine a soroban with its columns and using the mental image of shifting beads to do the calculations. I got used to this system after a while, but I still have problems remembering the values on all the columns. While right now, the exercises are still very easy, they will get harder later on, so the soroban trick will be needed. Japanese kids can be astonishingly fast with this method.

*Word problems.* Reminiscences of school: “You pay for 34 pencils that cost 124 yen each with a 10.000 YEN bill. How much money do you get back?” The level of those problems is very easy, after all those are school children, but for me they are very difficult – everything is in Japanese, of course. It helps to look for keywords, though. *Nokoru* or *noko* is the indication that the problem asks for the remainder of something. *Zenbu* means all of something. The rest can be quite easily figured out by looking at the numbers, interestingly.

*Denpyou.* It translates as slip calculation, and dates back to the origins of soroban. Soroban were used by merchants to add the numbers written on receipts and invoices, and this is exactly what denpyou is doing. You get a booklet with rows of numbers, and you leaf through it while adding them up. The difficulty is to flip through the booklet fast enough and also not to miss any of the numbers by accidentally flipping two pages at the same time. This may be quite the challenge for the next test, I think.