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Last updated date: 12th Jul 2024
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Define Abacus

We cannot imagine counting without numbers, but there was a time when written numbers did not exist. Earlier counting devices that were used for counting are the human hands and their fingers that are capable of counting only up to ten. Toes were also used to count when they had to count more than ten. A larger quantity was counted, with the help of natural items like pebbles, seashells and twigs. Merchants who used to trade goods needed a way to keep count of the goods they bought and sold. 

Before the invention of Computers, calculators, or even arithmetic using paper and pencil, the Abacus was mostly used for counting numbers. Before the invention of the Abacus, the only methods people used were their fingers and toes for mathematical calculations. In this article, we will discuss the Abacus meaning their application and Abacus for kids.

What is Abacus?

It is an instrument that is used to calculate or count by using sliding counters and a rod. It was indeed the world's first calculator. It was first used in Europe, China, and Russia.

The old version of the Abacus was a shallow tray that consisted of sand where numbers could be erased easily when needed. The modern Abacus can be made up of wood or plastic. It is like a rectangular box consisting of nine vertical rods strung with beads.

What is the Meaning of Abacus?

Abacus Meaning- Abundant Beads Addition Calculation Utility System.

The Abacus is constructed of various types of hardwoods and comes in various sizes. The frame consists of a series of vertical rods on which several wooden beads are allowed to slide freely. A horizontal beam is used to separate the frame into two sections i.e the upper deck and the lower deck. Each rod consists of beads, which we can move up and down, with the help of the index and the thumb finger.

THE Salamis Tablet

Today we find the oldest surviving counting board to be the Salamis Tablet. This was originally thought to be a gaming board. It was used in 300 BC by the Babylonians and was discovered in the year 1849 on the island of Salamis. 

The Salamis Tablet is made from a white marble that measures 149 cm in length, 75 cm in width, and 4.5 cm in thickness. On this 5 groups of markings are made. At the centre of the Tablet, there are a set of five horizontal parallel lines that are divided equally with the help of a perpendicular vertical line. This is capped with a semicircle right at the intersection of the horizontal line and the vertical line at the bottom.  Below these lines. One would notice a wide space that has a horizontal crack dividing it. Right below this crack, we come across another set of eleven parallel lines which are again divided into two sections by a line that is perpendicular to them but has a semi-circle at the top of the intersection. The third, sixth and ninth lines are marked with a cross where they go and intersect with the vertical line. 

Along the left, right and bottom edges of the Tablets, three sets of Greek symbols are arranged. 

Types of Abacus

  1. The Roman Abacus

Ancient Romans utilized stones as counters up and down on a smooth table to do calculations. It was developed to help bankers and money changers, businessmen and engineers. This Abacus is made from a metal plate. Additionally Romans invented other types of Abacus such as the dust Abacus, the line Abacus, the grooved Abacus. 

  1. Japanese Soroban Abacus

Deriving inspiration from Chinese Suanpan, Soroban came into existence in the 14th century.  The beads in the Japanese Soroban are made from wood and bamboo rods to slide up and down. This Abacus is still in use, however, it is overshadowed by the use of electronic calculators. 

  1. Russian Abacus

The main difference that one witness between the Chinese Abacus and the Russian Abacus is the position of its rods. These rods are placed horizontally in the case of the Russian Abacus and beads are slid from the right to left. A typical Russian Abacus would measure 28 cm wide and 46 cm in height. 

It is to be kept in mind that the Abacus is to be kept on the desk in such a manner that the direction of the right hand should coincide with the wire of the Abacus. 

  1. Binary Abacus

In recent times it is witnessed that the use of the Abacus is not just limited to performing arithmetic operations. It is also used to explain how Computers would manipulate numbers. A binary Abacus is used to perform one such function. It teaches us the conversion of decimals into binary. A series of the beads are placed in three separate rows, where each bead is associated with counters as ‘on’ and ‘off’ or ‘1’ and ‘0’.

  1. Cranmer Abacus

This Abacus was made by Tim Cranmer. This is known to be the modification of the current Abacus to support the learners that have vision disabilities. The learners can manipulate the beads that would in effect help them in the in-depth understanding of the numbers. This Abacus can be used to calculate various numbers involving arithmetic processes like addition, subtraction, division or multiplication. It can also be used to calculate square roots and cube roots. 

Abacus is a man-made calculating device invented around 5000 years ago. According to Historians, it was the Chinese people who invented Abacus around 500BC. As time passed, the design of an Abacus kit has widely varied in terms of style, size and material but the design of Abacus kits remains to be in a combination of rods and pebbles.

Abacus Computer

It is used to show how numbers, letters, and signs can be stored in a binary system on a Computer, or using an ASCII number. The device consists of a series of beads on parallel wires that are arranged in three separate rows. The beads in the Abacus represent a switch on the Computer in either an "on" or "off" position.

At what age, should we get an Abacus for kids?

Students have learned numbers by the age of 5-6. So, they can be introduced to Abacus training, after that they can start practising addition and subtraction.

Who Used the First Abacus to Count?

Mesopotamia or Sumerian civilization used the first Abacus to count. It is the belief that Old Babylonian scholars have used this Abacus to perform as addition or subtraction of numbers. 

Use of Abacus

  1. It is used to perform addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. 

  2. It can also be used to extract square roots and cubic roots of a number. 

  3. The beads are manipulated with the help of the index finger or the thumb of one hand.

  4. It removes fear about mathematics from the minds of students as it makes calculations easier.

  5. It springs and harnesses the natural potential of the child.

  6. It helps the child develop the basic and important skills of listening, speed, concentration, accuracy, imagination, creativity, innovation, photographic ability etc.

  7. It also helps the students who suffer from dyslexia. Abacus improves their numerical skills where children learn through the sense of touching. 

  8. Research has proved that the left hemisphere of the brain, also known as the digital brain, provides analytical information and also controls reading, writing and calculation; and the right hemisphere is also known as the analogue brain that controls the three-dimensional senses, creativity, artistic senses. The research established the fact that the continuous practice of the Abacus can help develop the right side of the brain that is usually believed to be unused, thereby contributing to the development of the whole brain. 

  9. It helps the individual improve their overall academic skills, teaching them how to face and tackle the challenges. It also boosts the confidence of the student and improves their problem-solving skills. 

  10. It develops the spatial ability of the candidate that finds its use in the fields of architecture, engineering, science and so on.

Chinese Abacus

The Abacus is called “suanpan” in China. The divider is used to separate the left and right strings of beads. It has a total of seven beads, out of which two beads on the rods on one side and 5 beads on the rods on the other side of the divider. Chinese Abacuses are designed to be used for hexadecimal computation. Chinese also use their Abacuses for decimal computations. It can be used for doing division, multiplication and for taking square roots and cube roots as well if the user knows the techniques.

Did You Know?

  • Even today we use Abacus in certain parts of the world as a primary calculation or as a backup to modern counting devices. It is still used commonly in Japan, China, the Middle East, and Russia. It is a counting frame. It is used as a calculating tool

  • The plural form of Abacus is Abaci

FAQs on Abacus

1. What is Abacus?

Abacus, is an instrument that is used to perform calculations by sliding counters along with rods or grooves.

2. How do we use an Abacus?

The standard abacus is used to perform basic mathematical application addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. It can also be used to calculate square-roots and cubic roots of numbers. We have to manipulate beads either using the index finger or the thumb of one hand.

3. How many parts are there in Abacus?

Abacus is divided into the upper and the lower part by a horizontal bar known as the Beam.

4. Is Abacus easy to learn?

Although most children find maths dealing with numbers difficult, it is to be remembered that enough practice can help one master any skill. It is advised that the students are introduced to Abacus at a very young age, to provide them with enough exposure so that they do not find mathematics as difficult as they earlier did. Learning Abacus is fun, as it helps the students explore their creative abilities while also putting them to practical use. All of this makes the learning of the Abacus easy and fun for the candidates. 

5. What is the ideal age for learning Abacus?

Abacus can be learnt at any age, but it is always preferred that the children are introduced to the Abacus at a very young age. It is however to be kept in mind that the student should be well learnt with numbers upto 100 before they start learning Abacus. The introduction to the Abacus at a very young age will help the students immensely in understanding the basics of numbers, which will in effect play a very major role in their higher education. It also develops the creative and imaginative abilities of the students.