CAMP ZAMA, Japan (March 29, 2013) -- Youth members of the John O. Arnn Elementary School Soroban Club counted their way to success at the 15th annual American and Japanese Children's Soroban Competition held March 28 at the Shimin Kaikan Center in Sagamihara City.

The event brought several Department of Defense Education Activity Pacific elementary school and local Japanese elementary school soroban clubs together to compete in oral and written mathematical challenges to determine top performers in several categories, according to a DoDEA media advisory.

Soroban, the Japanese word for abacus, is a counting device made of a tray of beads representing values of one and five. The soroban can be used to add, subtract or multiply sums in the tens of millions.

Five third-grade students and two fifth-grade students from Arnn received awards for high scores. Trevor Lau, a fifth grader, received the overall school champion award.

Lau said he enjoys taking part in soroban competitions, adding that they help him practice and prepare for future competitions. Working with the soroban makes math easier for him, Lau said.

"The hardest part is when you have to learn enough to know [which beads] to put up or down without thinking about it," said Lau.

Loise Inoue, an Arnn third-grader, said she is more consistently and quickly able to determine sums during math class since learning to use the soroban last year. Inoue and her fellow students take part in the club as part of a host-nation cultural class at Arnn.

Arnn Principal Missy Gingrich said the ability to use the soroban strengthens one's mental capacity by working the part of the brain used for math computations. It also helps with concentration and links to other cognitive areas such as music, she added.

The competition ended with all the participants joining in a cultural exchange activity similar to "rock-paper-scissors" called "Jan Ken," a traditional Japanese game.