Header image of a close-up of a soroban

How to read a number on the soroban

0. Let's learn with an example

What is the number displayed on the little soroban below ?

1. Rods

First, we notice there are 4 vertical rods. So the number has 4 digits.

2. Activated beads

Let's look at the first rod from the left

We have greyed out unactivated beads to ease the reading of activated beads. Activated beads are the ones that have been moved toward the beam, separating the soroban by its half.

Only activated beads are taken into account.

3. First rod and earth beads

Each bead below the beam (called earth beads) count for one.

So we have 3 (earth activated) beads here and the first digit is three (3).

4. Heaven bead

Here, we have a top (also called heaven) bead that is activated. Activated heaven beads count for five (5).

5. Second rod

One activated heaven bead plus one activated earth bead is 5 plus 1 which gives 6.

6. Third rod

We have no activated bead, so the digit is zero (0).

7. Fourth rod

We have one heaven bead and three earth activated beads; 5+3 = 8. So the last digit is 8.

And finally, the number is 3608.