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Abacus West

Abacus West offers 2 innovative math enrichment programs: (i) the core Abacus West program is for children aged 5 to 12, and (ii) AW Discover Math is for children aged 3 and 4.

The core Abacus West program teaches children the fundamentals of mathematics while improving their focus and concentration skills.  We introduce students to tactile learning while they manipulate the beads of a Japanese abacus (Soroban) with their hands to perform math calculations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). Students are taught how to visualize a “mental abacus”, enabling them to perform math calculations in their minds (Anzan) without the assistance of a physical abacus. Students benefit from enhanced visualization skills, increased focus & concentration, a higher level of self-confidence, and reinforcement of core math abilities. Abacus math programs also increase the child’s brain development.  (Click here for academic research.)  Similar abacus programs are very popular in many parts of Asia, notably Japan, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore and India. Over the past several years, abacus programs have also been introduced into the Western World, with a growing number of students across Europe and North America. 

AW Discover Math is a math enrichment program designed for young learners to build a solid math foundation in a fun and interactive environment.  AW Discover Math incorporates songs and rhymes, hands-on tactile learning, and movement activities to teach 3 and 4 year-olds a variety of experiences to develop their number sense, algebraic thinking, geometric sense, graphing & data organizing, measurement, and fine motor skills.  Our curriculum has been designed based on the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics power standards.  AW Discover Math is a parent-and-child program so each student is accompanied by a parent or guardian in the classroom.

Abacus West is based in Sammamish, Washington, a suburb of Seattle.  We have 3 classrooms in the Seattle area: (i) Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford, (ii) Old Redmond Schoolhouse, (iii) The Plateau Club in Sammamish.

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Our People

 Vinaya Kulkarni is the Founder & Head Teacher of Abacus West.

Ms. Kulkarni first became aware of abacus math programs through her father who had observed the significant positive impact on young children in his community who had received abacus math training. After conducting more research on abacus math, Ms. Kulkarni was convinced that this program would be highly beneficial to her own young children. Since there were no suitable abacus math programs available in her area, Ms. Kulkarni learned abacus math through independent study combined with mentorship from experts in the field. She researched materials and teaching practices from around the world and built this program.

 Ms. Kulkarni is a former strategic management consultant. She has an MBA from McMaster University, and a Bachelor of Science from The University of Western Ontario. Ms. Kulkarni is an active volunteer with the Lake Washington School District, and is VP of Enhancements for GEAC (the PTSA equivalent for Quest, the program for highly capable students.)  Ms. Kulkarni loves teaching abacus math, and finds it rewarding to see her students' confidence and results improve.  She lives in Sammamish, Washington with her husband and 2 children.

Ms. Kulkarni teaches at the Redmond and Sammamish location. She can be contacted by emailing vinaya@abacuswest.com

Jan Charleson is a Teacher with Abacus West.
Ms. Charleson is a former financial industry consultant and Certified Management Accountant.  With two children in the Lake Washington school system, Ms. Charleson has been actively volunteering with math in the classroom and teaching art as a volunteer art docent for 8 years.  She works as a part-time Art Instructor for Museo Art Academy, and recently worked with a team developing DiscoverART!, an Internet-accessible art curriculum for elementary schools.  Ms. Charleson is passionate about children, teaching, and the learning process.  She enjoys math and is enthusiastic about teaching elementary school children a new approach to math computation.  Ms. Charleson lives in Sammamish, Washington with her husband and 2 children.
Ms. Charleson teaches at the Sammamish location.
Anjali Babel is a Teacher with Abacus West.
Ms. Babel has a Ph.D. in Psychology from Mohanlal Sukhadia University in Udaipur, India.  In addition to her experience as a clinical psychologist, she has also taught extensively in a variety of capacities with students ranging from Elementary to Post-Graduate levels.  She has a strong passion for education.  Ms. Babel's children are in the Lake Washington School District, and she is a frequent volunteer in their school.  She lives in Sammamish, Washington with her husband and two sons.
Ms. Babel teaches at the Redmond and Sammamish locations.
Amber Hargraves is a Teacher with Abacus West.
Ms. Hargraves is an Elementary school teacher.  She graduated with honors from Washington State University with a degree in Elementary Education, and received her teaching certificate for grades K-8.  Ms. Hargraves has a keen interest in mathematics.  She has experience with teaching math in Elementary school classrooms, and has taken several college level courses on how to effectively teach math to Elementary students.  Ms. Hargraves is currently a substitute teacher in the Lake Washington School District, and works at a local preschool twice a week.  She is passionate about children, teaching and excited to be working at Abacus West.  Ms. Hargraves lives in Issaquah, Washington with her best friend and Boston Terrier!
Ms. Hargraves teaches at the Sammamish location.
Jodi Gaertner is a Teacher with Abacus West.
Ms. Gaertner has been active in education as a teacher, parent, and advocate.  While teaching second and third grades, Ms. Gaertner organized a family math night and held workshops for her students' parents to help them support their students' learning at home.  She took a break from teaching to spend more time with her family, but returned to school for a Master degree and certification in special education.  She resides with her husband and three sons in Kirkland.  Ms. Gaertner is an active volunteer for her older sons' school as well as on the board of the LWSD Gifted Education Advisory Council and Woodinville Family Preschool.
Ms. Gaertner teaches at the Redmond location.
Lindsey Yocum is a Teacher with Abacus West.
Ms. Yocum is a teacher in the Lake Washington School District.  She has taught 5th and 6th grade in the Quest program for highly capable students.  She enjoys preparing students for the future by challenging them with intriguing projects.  Ms. Yocum's love for math stems from her undergraduate studies where she received her B.A. in Business Management and minor in Economics.  Ms. Yocum lives in Redmond with her husband, son, and rambunctious yellow lab.
Ms. Yocum teaches at the Redmond location.
 Shilpa Jeyathilak is a Teacher with Abacus West.
 Ms. Jeyathilak has a Bachelors Degree in Commerce from the University of Nagpur in India, and a Professional Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of Sunderland in the UK.  In additional to her international teaching experience in Dubai and Singapore as an Early Childhood Education Teacher, she has also volunteered extensively in a variety of capacities within the schools.  She has a strong passion for abacus math.  Ms. Jeyathilak's son was an international champion in abacus math at an early age, and has benefited significantly from his abacus math training.  Ms. Jeyathilak lives in Sammamish, Washington with her husband and two sons.
Ms. Jeyathilak teaches at the Redmond and Sammamish locations.
Michelle Pearson is a Teacher with Abacus West.
Ms. Pearson has a Bachelor's Degree in English from Syracuse University and a Certificate in Editing from the University of Washington.  She is a fan of math games such as Sudoku, and she was first introduced to the Soroban after hearing that her friend's mother used this kind of abacus to balance her checkbook. Ms. Pearson also has a passion for ancient tools and methods that are still useful today. She is the mother of two young boys attending Seattle Public Schools where she volunteers in the classroom and teaches string games to elementary-aged children. She lives with her family in Seattle and enjoys getting out in the mountains for skiing, riding bikes, and swimming.
Ms. Pearson teaches at the Seattle location.
Shalini Koduri is a Marketing Manager with Abacus West.
Ms. Koduri has a wealth of experience working in Operations, Customer Service, and Media for leading Seattle-based companies.  She has also volunteered extensively with a number of organizations.  For the past 7 years she has volunteered through the Lake Washington School District in the areas of math and reading, working with students to improve their skills.  Ms. Koduri has devoted time as a volunteer producer at KCBS, a local community radio station.  Ms. Koduri holds a B.A. in International Studies from the University of Washington.  In addition, she completed one year of foreign studies at Aoyama Gakuin University in Toyko, Japan.  Ms. Koduri is passionate about connecting people and ideas.  She lives in Sammamish with her husband and two kids.
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  • “I have done lots of hard math before, but this class makes me stretch my brain in a very different way. It’s really cool!” 6th Grader
  • “I have never seen my daughter so excited about math. She does her homework right away and has taken her abacus to school to show her friends and teachers.” Parent of 5th Grader
  • "My son loves do his abacus homework. He is doing math questions very fast. He says he can move the beads in his head, it’s really amazing." Parent of 2nd Grader
  • “I am confident that her abacus math program along with the work we do on math facts in class will help her progress.” Elementary School teacher in LWSD
  • “I wish this class was 5 hours a day and regular school was 1 hour!” 4th Grader
  • “Her first results for state testing came back and she increased her math from a 47 to a 71!! I am positive the abacus class helped with this improvement.” Parent of 6th Grader
  • “I really love to go to my abacus class. My homework is fun. “ 1st Grader
  • “Thank-you for offering such a valuable program for our children” Parent of a 1st Grader


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Good Shepherd Center
4649 Sunnyside Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103

Old Redmond School House
16600 NE 80th Street, 
Redmond, WA 98052


The Plateau Club
 25625 E. Plateau Drive
Sammamish, WA 98074

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Please click here to see the most recent issue of The Abacist, the newsletter for Abacus West.

You can also read prior issues of The Abacist by clicking one of the links below:

2013: February, March, June, August

2012: March, June, August, September, November

2011: January, February, May, August, November

June, August, October, December

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In the News
Abacus West News
"It has been rewarding to see so many students benefiting from the Abacus West program," said Vinaya Kulkarni, Founder and Head Teacher of Abacus West.  "Our student base has grown significantly in the past several months, and we continue to help students who need math enrichment as well as students who need help building basic math fundamentals.  I am excited about the thinkspace location since this will allow us to offer even more class options for families in the local communities." 
Using an abacus as a teaching tool is extremely popular in other parts of the world, yet seldom used in the United States.  "I found that the countries that it's popular in do very well in math on an international level," said Vinaya Kulkarni.  "It's very tactile learning, they're touching the beads and it's very visual learning that each bead equates to a number.  Kids between ages 5-12 have the ability to visualize.  They can move the beads in their mind, and get correct math answers."
"The thing that impressed me the most has been how effortless it has been for him to pick up concepts," said Lea McKay who has a 6-year-old son in Abacus Math.  "He could only count to 30 when he started Abacus six weeks ago, and now he recognizes place values into the hundreds.  He can do calculations both using the abacus and picturing the beads in his mind ... sometimes faster than me.  The teachers are all amazing.  I was really impressed with how hands-on they were with the children, and how involved and supportive the teachers were with each individual student."
Many Eastside families have Kulkarni to thank for helping their child improve at math.  Since starting her business she had grown her student base, with students coming from Sammamish, as well as Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, Kirkland and Renton.  With that quick growth, Kulkarni decided it was time to expand.  Starting in January, Abacus West will offer classes at Orange Blossom Society in downtown Redmond, in addition to the Plateau Club.
An increasing number of students on the Eastside are turning to the abacus to hone their math skills through a unique after-school program offered by Abacus West.  Starting in January 2011 Abacus West is bringing its classes to Redmond making its program accessible to even more students.  "It has been great to see the enthusiasm for abacus math across the community," said Vinaya Kulkarni.  "Our student base has grown significantly in the past several months, and we continue to help students who need math enrichment as well as students who need help building basic math fundamentals." 
Abacus Masters (National Geographic Magazine, September 2010)
Studies show that abacus mastery helps develop the brain's visuospatial areas.  "It contributes to all aspects of thinking, not just math," says Vinaya Kulkarni, whose Seattle-area Abacus West program incorporates memory games.  It might also add up to more fun with numbers.
The program tends to appeal to visual and tactile learners, and, similar to language or music, is best taught at an early age. Kulkarni provides an intimate, interactive class setting with up to 10 students per teacher. The students work on finger exercises, counting with the beads as fast as they can, as well as doing mental math by visualizing the abacus. At the end of class, the students play “abacus football.” As Kulkarni flashes a card with a problem on it, they quickly answer and pass the ball.
The idea is that using an abacus improves students’ concentration and focus and enables them to perform mental math at a higher level. After learning how to use an abacus, they can then visualize it while figuring out problems in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. “The beauty of the abacus is anybody can learn it,” said Kulkarni.
Other Abacus News
Modern Japan Hopes Ancient Abacus Aids Academics (National Public Radio, December 2010)
When you do all your figuring on a computer or calculator, the process of calculating becomes a "black box."  But with the soroban (abacus), number-crunching takes place right before your eyes.  Yet the abacus revival is also based on the belief that training has other benefits, such as making kids more confident and better able to recall what they've learned.  Partisans say that the act of conjuring up those imaginary beads enhances right-brain development.  Some schools have adopted 10-minute abacus drills first thing in the morning as a mental warm-up for the day.

Abacus set for comeback ?
With the state of numeracy amongst children in the UK and USA constantly coming into question some are suggesting that the abacus and its Japanese counterpart the sorobon could prove useful in western classrooms not only for use in their physical form but also as a mental mathematics tool where children visualise the abacus in their head when making calculations.

Revolutionising Maths Education
“Recent studies have proved that the abacus method of mental calculation is extremely effective in activating the right brain, the analog brain which is responsible for controlling three dimensional sense, creativity, and artistic senses,” says Professor Amaiwa.

Ancient Asian Calculating Tool May Hold Key to Boosting Children's Mental Math Skills
In Asia, many schools have rediscovered the secrets of the abacus, an ancient calculating device that offers remarkable benefits for nurturing young minds and encouraging proficiency in mathematics and mental calculation. With abacus instruction, children can achieve much more than just excellent math skills.

They Can Do Math Faster Than Calculators
The Abacus, which was taken to China and developed as a calculator, is practical and useful in solving mathematical problems and is especially handy in teaching the concept of numbers to young children.

Abacus Mental Math in Asia and the West
What do these Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Indians, etc.) do to make their children so good with Mathematics? Answer is quite simple, practice, practice & practice. But what is it that those students actually practice? The answer is Abacus Mental Math!

Sharing the benefits of abacus mental math
With abacus mental arithmetic, a person’s sight, hearing, touch and imagination can be stimulated. One can improve one’s mathematical skills, concentration, memory, response and reflexes and, ultimately, one’s intelligence, claims Tai. For a child, an abacus is like a toy too. As he touches the abacus beads, the brain is stimulated. A child seldom gets to be involved in such “touch learning.”

Stanford researcher explores whether language is the only way to represent numbers 
The Mental Calculation World Cup is a brutal contest, and one that threatens to fry the neurons of the unprepared. Over the course of a competition, contestants might be asked to add a string of 10 different 10-digit numbers, multiply 18,467,941 by 73,465,135, find the square root of 530,179 and determine which day of the week corresponds to Aug. 12, 1721 – all without writing anything down.

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