BASICS OF ABACUS

Mathematics is the subject most of us love to hate. Calculations and playing with numbers are part and parcel of our everyday lives.

It is said “Go down deep enough into anything and you will find Mathematics”.

Abacus learning makes math calculation process easy and interesting. Introduction of abacus at the apt age is important as it would then only help the child to master it. So, today let’s dig in a bit deeper to know more about it.

“ABACUS” is a Latin word derived from the Greek word ABAX which means a calculating table. It’s a simple device which originated in Babylon about 5000 years ago. It is still widely popular in Japan, China, the Middle East and Russia.

Abacus is used to perform all the basic arithmetic calculations like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It can also be used to extract the square root and the cubic root. It consists of a rectangular frame, with multiple rods. Each rod consists of beads which are moved up and down with the help of fingers. 

Two of the most commonly used abacus are the Chinese and the Japanese. The Chinese abacus also known as ‘saunpan’ consist of 5 beads below and 2 beads above the reckoning bar. It can be used to count upto 16 different numbers from 0 to 15. On the other hand, the Japanese abacus, also known as the “soroban” consist of 4 beads below and 1 bead above the reckoning bar. Each rod can represent 10 different numbers from 0 to 9.

A horizontal crossbar perpendicular to the rods separates the abacus into two unequal parts. The beads above the crossbar are known as heaven beads or upper beads, and those below the crossbar are called earth beads or lower beads. Counting on abacus is done by moving the beads up and down the rods. The beads are moved with the help of the thumb and the index finger. Moving the bead towards the reckoning rod is used for addition and moving away for subtraction. Lower beads are moved up by the thumb finger and for all others bead movement the index finger is used. Before using the abacus make sure that all the beads are in the neutral position representing zero. This can be done by placing the thumb and the index finger on the horizontal crossbar lightly and moving it across from left to right. This has to be done every time before starting a new calculation.

abacus master

The numerical value of each bead depends on its location in the abacus. Each heaven bead has a value of five times that of an earth bead below it. Each rod represents columns of written numbers. Beads on the vertical rod farthest to the right have their values multiplied by one. On this rod, each earth bead is one and each heaven bead is five. Beads on the second rod from the right, however, have their value multiplied by 10. On this rod, each earth bead represents 10 and each heaven bead stands for 50. Beads on the third rod from the right have their value multiplied by 100, so that each earth bead represents 100 and each heaven bead stands for 500, and so on.

To operate, an abacus is placed flat and all beads are pushed towards the outer edges, away from the crossbar. Beads are then slid upward or downward to represent a number. The number 8, for example, is represented by moving one heaven bead (worth 5) downward toward the crossbar and three earth beads (worth one each) upward toward the crossbar. The number 34 is represented by moving three earth beads on the second rod (worth 10 each) and four earth beads on the first rod (worth 1 each) upward. Addition, subtraction, and even lengthy multiplication and division problems can be solved with an abacus. Advanced users can even find the square root of any number.

The best age to introduce abacus learning is from 5 years until the age of 15 years. This period is said to be the brain developing stage, which makes it easier for the child to master abacus.

With regular practice, the fingers movement can be perfected such that even without the physical rod, the child is able to do the calculations. This is known as the mental calculation. Instead of the real abacus tool, the child makes an image of the abacus in his mind and just by moving his fingers imaginarily, can perform the calculation. This exercises the brain to such an extent that complex calculations of multiplication and division can also be done easily. The abacus learning process involves the co-ordination among all our sensory organs like the ear, eyes, fingers and brain. This on the other hand helps in drastically improving the memory power, concentration, grasping power, reading, listening and the executing power.

Abacus is usually taught level-wise. As students move to the next higher level the difficulty level also increases accordingly with the increase in the no. of digits and no. of rows. Practice is the most important thing for perfecting abacus calculation. With regular practice only, the students can improve the speed for doing mental calculations.

Abacus is considered to be one of the fastest ways of calculating and learning math. Faster than a calculator, not only does abacus gift young learners the opportunity to shine in the language of math from a really young age, but it also provides a solid foundation for learning the language of math in primary and high school. Besides enhancing the overall comprehension of math – other important benefits of learning abacus calculation include the following:

  • Boosts better and faster calculation skills.
  • Increases endurance for stress and pressure.
  • Improves problem-solving abilities.
  • Sharpens concentration and observance.
  • Develops confidence and self-esteem.
  • Heightens stronger mental visualization skills.
  • Increases memory power and sharpens overall mental formation.

Abacus is usually taught level-wise. As students move to the next higher level the difficulty level also increases accordingly with the increase in the no. of digits and no. of rows in a particular problem. Practice is the most important thing in perfecting abacus calculation. With regular practice only, the students can improve the speed for doing mental calculations.

We can conclude that, abacus learning will improve the child’s overall personality and this trait would be reflected throughout their academic performances and beyond.