DUBAI // About 2,300 children from 30 countries – including 900 youngsters from the emirates – took part in a mental arithmetic challenge on Friday at Hamdan Sports Complex in Dubai.
The UCMAS International and 13th National Abacus and Mental Arithmetic Competition was the first time the competition was held in the Middle East, demanding all sorts of mental gymnastics from children as young as four.
Universal concept of mental arithmetic system (UCMAS) is based on the traditional abacus method of calculation and is recognised as a means of improving the motor skills of children, enhancing their concentration, observation, and speed of thinking.
Children aged between 4 and 16 had to solve 200 sums in 8 minutes. The youngest children used an abacus tool to do this while older one did the hard work in their heads.
Jordanian Solaf Abdulnabi won the listening competition, where a sum was read out loud and participants had 3 seconds to write down their answer on a chalkboard.
“I feel so happy. I didn’t realise that I had won until the judges pulled me out of the testing area and told me that I was the only one who solved the last sum,” said 16-year-old Solaf.
This year, she won the national competition in Jordan and the win on Friday was the perfect end to her participation in these competitions.
“Next year will be my last year in high school. I need to achieve good grades to enrol in university, which means I have to focus on studying and nothing else,” said Solaf, as she draped the Jordanian flag around her shoulders.
Her mother, Hanadi Hadad, said her daughter had worked hard to win twice this year.
She said her daughter has a great photographic memory. “She also has a capacity to memorise a lot of things, which helped in her school performance. She has a great ability to focus and concentrate, which leads to great results in whatever she is trying to achieve,” said the mother of four.
The listening competition went so far the participants needed to carry 50 sums of four-digit numbers, while the written exam consisted of 200 questions that demanded division, subtraction, multiplication and addition in eight minutes.
After a 17-hour flight from Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean, 10-year-old twins Kayla and Katelne Sookdeosingh looked forward to visiting Burj Khalifa on Saturday after the competition was over for them.
“We both got eliminated after we reached the two digits level at 22 number sums. It was a bit difficult to hear the numbers which made us get wrong answers,” said Kayla.
Indian Abbas Slatewala said his 9-year-old son Aryan solves sums faster mentally than by using a calculator.
“Its amazing to see children this young solve long and complex math sums faster than a calculator, said the father of two.
“We were participating in a national competition in Delhi, where the organisers told us to compete against our children using the calculator. We did not stand a chance against their mental capabilities,” said the 38-year-old.
UCMAS UAE media consultant and UCMA Qatar director Sheikh Mohammed Abu Idris said the event was the first of its kind in the Middle East.
“Its the first time international competition was held in an Arab country, and Dubai was the perfect place to hold this amount of families and children from across the world.”
There were about 900 participants from across the emirates.