We were at the thrift store and my kids were running around just touching and looking at everything.  They came running back to me carrying something that tinkled loudly.  Their eyes were opened wide and they looked excited.


My oldest asked breathlessly if I knew what this cool thing was.  I almost wished I could say no to keep the mystery going and to let them feel they had found a true mysterious treasure just a little longer. But my son had seen in my eyes recognition so I would not be fooling him.

In their possession they had a really great old fashioned abacus.  When I told them what it was, they asked a ton of questions. We decided to stop for a bit and do some research.  What did we ever do without smart phones, right?

We found quite a bit of info abacus, including that it is also known as a counting frame.  This Asian counting tool is made of a frame that has beads on a wire that can slide easily. Originally an abacus consisted of beans or rocks on slats of sand but nowadays it is structured from bamboo, wood or plastic.  Though it was utilized in many places in the world, by looking at pictures of different abaci that what my kids had found was modeled after the Chinese abacus.  In Chinese it’s called a suanpan which translates to ‘counting tray’.

Though most abaci are used for basic math, there are techniques that enable the user or abacist to perform multiplication, division, square root and cube root operations.

To learn how to use an abacus to teach math, click on this site.

Homeschool Activities by SmartTutor.com

Article by Nuria Almeida

Photo By blaahhi


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