It all adds up for maths whizz Hayley Plaatjies

Hayley Plaatjies with the Abacus Maths trophies and medals she won over the years.

Thirteen-year-old Hayley Plaatjies is gearing up for her second international abacus competition taking place in Thailand next month.

The Kenridge Primary School pupil is one of 64 students and the only from Cape Town who will represent South Africa at the annual Abacus and Mental Arithmetic International Championship hosted by the Global Association of Japanese Soroban and Mental Arithmetic (GAJSMA) in Thailand on Sunday October 1.

At the competition, each student will have six minutes to write an exam using their abacus to do the calculations and two minutes for a second exam to do calculations without an abacus.

Hayley will compete with students from 15 countries including Japan, America, Canada, Australia, and Iran.

Hayley has been doing abacus maths since she was 5, and she was 7 when she first competed and won a medal.

Her family moved to Gauteng when she was 3 and Hailey was first introduced to the abacus at creche.

The Plaatjies family relocated back to Cape Town at the start of the year, with Hayley now having to take lessons by Skype.

Her mother, Crystal, said they had not been able to find a teacher in the area yet, especially given the advanced level Hayley competes at.

Ms Plaatjies said abacus maths was quite popular in Johannesburg.

Hayley now has a weekly-one hour Skype session with her tutor, Quinnette Brits, in Roodepoort.

“Because she is not physically here, it’s difficult for her to see when Hayley makes a mistake or moves the beads wrong,” she said.

To make sure that Hayley is on par with her teammates, the family will head back to Johannesburg a week before the competition, for her to practise with the others and have time with her tutor.

Over time, with much commitment, discipline and dedication, this skill has taught Hayley to calculate sums that most adults need a calculator to work out, for example 25 x 81 and 546 ÷ 6.

By mentally visualising the Japanese abacus, she can give an answer in just a few seconds.

Hayley can calculate and solve about 40 sums in just six minutes without the use of a calculator with a 99.90% level of accuracy.

While, nervous about the competition, Hayley said she could not wait to explore Thailand.

She took part in the international competition in Singapore last year where she came fifth.

Ms Plaatjies and her husband, Heindricght, are extremely proud of their daughter and will be supporting her in Thailand.