IESBVI students are counting on their math skills to advance them to a national contest in Louisville, Ky.
Twelve students served by Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (IESBVI) will compete in the first Iowa Regional Abacus Bee. The Abacus Bee is a national program of the American Printing House (APH). APH opened spots for six schools to compete during this inaugural event. Regional competitions will be held for Iowa and state schools for the blind in Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington. IESBVI’s event is Saturday, Nov. 18 from 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at Heartland Area Education Agency, 6500 Corporate Dr., in Johnston.
“An abacus is a great calculation tool for students who are blind,” said Sara Larkin, math consultant at IESBVI and this year’s bee coordinator for Iowa. “It is comparable to paper and pencil for students who can see and allows students to keep track of their numbers while doing computation. It is not considered a calculator because it requires the student to perform the operations and manipulate the beads.”
According to APH, it can be difficult to motivate students who are blind or visually impaired to practice their math skills, and the event provides a positive and encouraging reason for them to get excited about using the abacus.
“This is a great way to share this excitement together and celebrate student success,” said Larkin.
Competitors are divided into six levels, based on the outcomes of a placement test weeks earlier. Winners of each level will be invited to compete at the national Abacus Bee, scheduled for March at APH in Louisville.
Students compete in four to six rounds, depending on their skill level. Each round lasts about half an hour and questions during the rounds are provided to the students in braille or large print. To solve the math problems students, may use an abacus or mental math. Figuring with a pencil and paper however, isn’t allowed, which ensures accessibility and fairness for all. Students record answers to the problems by brailling or writing them and only these answers will be scored.
While their students compete, in a separate area, parents will engage in kite building, coding activities and will also learn about the abacus. When not competing, students will participate in a constellation experience and other assorted space-themed activities. During the Space Race round, parents and others are permitted to watch in person, and the math problems will be provided orally.
Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded to first, second and third place finishers in each category.