In July of 1999, Pan Pacific Abacus and Mental Arithmetic Association (PAMA) held its first international abacus and mental arithmetic at the Chientan Youth Activity Center in Taipei, Taiwan. In the evening following the competition, the best abacus and mental arithmetic minds of Taiwan and from around the world shared dinner at the Grand Hotel and together discuss their visions for education. Everyone was eager and happy to meet colleagues from other nations that rarely have the chance to get together. I can still recall images of that day like yesterday.
After 19 years, at the Grand Hotel once again, we will found the second international abacus and mental arithmetic organization – Summit Abacus and Mental Arithmetic Association (SAMA). SAMA and PAMA will be affiliated organizations, just like sisters.
19 years is but an instance in the universe. For human-beings, it is a significant amount of a lifetime that covers the accumulation of professional knowledge. 19 years is enough time for an infant to grow up and enough time for abacus and mental arithmetic to expand to many other countries outside of East Asia. Abacus – an ancient calculator that has been around for hundreds of years – has been reborn after nearly becoming obsolete by new technology. It has been given new life and come back with new features.
In the early days of internet, abacus and mental arithmetic were facing severe challenges. Traditional face-to-face instruction became more professional and more transparent with the addition of computers. At the same time, traditional feats like abacus lost many of its utilities. But it stood the test of time and its practical uses and educational values were introduced to different parts of the world via the internet.
In the early days of PAMA, its members were from Chinese communities in countries that include Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, United States, Canada, Thailand. Eventually, PAMA welcomed members from other Asian countries like Indonesia, India, Vietnam and Korea and from countries in other continents, including South Africa, Australia, Middle East and Russian Federation. This reflects the progression of abacus and mental arithmetic, moving from East to West and spanning over all five continents.
With more and more countries wishing to join PAMA, we are delighted and worried at the same time. We worried that we might not be able to do this tradition justice and not able to offer the complete knowledge and expertise to countries that are new to abacus and mental arithmetic. To offer services to more countries that need professional support and international platform, we decided to found SAMA today to welcome members that seek these needs. We hope to provide the correct methodology and knowledge to more students around the world, giving them the real essence and benefits of mental arithmetic education.
Education is a discipline that takes years to manage and one that has long-lasting impact. Together here, we will celebrate the birth of a new abacus and mental arithmetic organization. We welcome all the guests and at the same time, we hope to maintain our professionalism, explore new territories and pave the way for new generations of students.