The Abacus

History and Use

ABACUS stands for: Abundant Beads, Addition and Calculation Utility System

The Abacus is an ancient way of learning math and doing calculations. The Greek abacus was a table of wood or marble with small counters made of wood or metal to slide along rods for mathematical calculations. There was a tablet found on the Greek island of Salamis in 1846 that dates back to 300 BC, making it the oldest counting board discovered so far.

It is said that the abacus was invented in China, around 1300BC. It was made popular during the Ming dynasty, and has been popular calculating device ever since. In the ancient world it served as a manual calculator for merchants. Since written numbers had not been invented yet the abacus was the solution. It allowed people to count large numbers and add and subtract large numbers that they could not do in their heads.

How did the abacus work?

The sliding beads represented numbers, it has rows or columns of beads that represent the digits of your number. There are places for ones, tens, hundreds, thousands and so on until 9,999,999,999.

Lee’s abacus seems to be the favorite

The best age for a child to learn to use the abacus is between the ages of 4 and 7. It is the age at which a child can start learning new concepts with the most ease. The abacus is a excellent tool to help children remember number factors for a longer period of time. It helped children to do faster calculations and even boost their confidence. Children learned how to use the abacus and were able to solve sums faster. It increased their confidence and sharpened their skills.

The Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Simple abacus are all used depending on where you are learning to use it and everybody has their favorites.

A combination of the Chinese Suanpan and the Japanese Sorobon structure measuring 33cm by 20cm for example, was an invention that was considered the most efficient form of abacus and was used to calculate complex processes including extraction of the square roots.

One of the best for first and second graders is the simple school abacus (100 bead abacus that has 10 wires and 10 beads on each wire shown above.

I have found the web page “” very helpful in explaining how to teach your child to use the abacus as well as “”

Happy Learning

Deborah Wilson October 2020    #leavenolearningabacusbehind

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