How To Use An Abacus To Teach Maths?

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If you have struggled to teach your kids basic mathematics, you know exactly how difficult the situation is. Kids have a short attention span, which makes it tough to teach them subjects like Mathematics. And, if you are facing similar problems with your children, why don’t you consider getting them to use an abacus.

The abacus maybe an antiquated calculator, but even today it is quite popular among many parents, students, and teachers alike. An abacus can help your kid understand all the concepts of Math and also hone his mental Math skills. So here, MomJunction has put some information together on how to use an abacus for kids, and how it helps. Read our post and learn more below.

What Is An Abacus?

The abacus, also sometimes known as a counting frame, is a calculating tool that was predominantly used in Asia and Africa. The earlier versions were made using stones or beans that moved in grooves on sand or tablets of wood, metal or stone. The modern abacus is mostly constructed in the form of a bamboo frame and has beads that have to be slid on wires.

Benefits Of Teaching The Abacus Method To Your Kid:

Here are a few ways in which learning the abacus will help your kid:

  • It boosts your kid’s development, especially between the ages of 6 and 16.
  • Helps improve concentration and enhances creative abilities.
  • Improves the ability to calculate mentally.
  • Improves grip over basic mathematic concepts such as addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication.

[ Read: Number Activities For Kids ]

How To Make An Abacus For Kids At Home:

You Will Need:

  • 10 pipe cleaners.
  • Beads in 10 different colors.
  • Hot glue gun
  • 2 dowel rods

How To:

  1. Ask your kid to separate the beads as per color group.
  1. Lay the dowel rods in a vertical position and place the pipe cleaners on them in a horizontal position.
  1. Now ask your kid to twist the pipe cleaners on one end of one dowel rod and glue them in place.
  1. Add the beads one color group per pipe cleaner and glue the ends in place.

How To Use An Abacus For Kids: Simple Methods

All you need to teach your kid about the abacus is how to use an abacus itself. You can choose one which has two different colored beads in each row or go for a simple one in which all the beads are of the same color. Remember that before your kid learns to do more complex things on the abacus, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication or more, you will first have to teach the concept of the abacus and how to use it. Here are two simple methods with which you can help your kid to learn to use the abacus:

1. Method 1: The Match My Move Method:

  1. Make a start position on the abacus by putting all the beads on the same row. Make sure that all the beads on each row are on the same side.
  1. Start at the top row and move some of the beads to the other side of the abacus frame. Make sure that your kid is looking at your move as you move the beads.
  1. Now ask your kid to follow what you did and do the same with the beads on the row below. Your kid will have to move the exact number of beads in the direction that you moved your beads in the row above.
  1. Now make your move again in the next row and ask your kid to follow it carefully.
  1. Your kid will again have to follow your move and match it in the row below.
  1. To ensure that your kid does not get bored and stays on his A-game, you can change the number of beads you move at each step and also change the direction.
  1. Make sure that you make your moves slowly, so that your kid can follow the same.
  1. If your kid is quite young, you can also slowly count out the number of beads, such as one, two, three, four and so on, so that it becomes easier for your kid to follow.
  1. Go for different bead moving patterns such as one bead, two beads, three beads, four beads and so on with each row that you work on.

[ Read: Math Games And Puzzles For Kids ]

2. Method 2: The Counting Game Method:

  1. Start at the first row and move a certain number of beads to one side. Make sure that you do it in such a way that there is a clear partition between the two sides of the beads.
  1. Now ask your kid to count exactly how many beads you moved on one side and moved the same. Now ask your kid to count exactly how many beads are left behind.
  1. Finally, ask your kid to count both the sides of beads on the row and find out how many beads there are in all.

Both the counting game methods will help to teach your kid about basic concepts in numbers. Your kid will slowly be able to learn how to use the abacus, without getting overwhelmed with a new learning device. It will also be a great way to ease your kid into the concepts of addition and subtraction.

Counting And Basics With Abacus:

Here are a few tips you can share with your kid about the basics of counting with an abacus:

1. Make The Placements Correct:

  • Each column in the top row of an abacus will have either one or two beads and the one at the bottom will have four beads.
  • When your kid begins using the abacus, make sure that all the beads in the top column are placed upwards and the ones in the column below are placed downwards.
  • The beads in the top column represent the number five while each bead in the column below has a value of one.

2. Assign Place Values To Each Column:

  • Each column of the beads denotes a place value.
  • The column on the farthest right side is the ones place, the one next to it is the seconds place, the next third and so on.

3. Start The Counting:

  • To start counting, your kid will first have to push one of the beads to the upwards position.
  • To represent the number one, your kid will have to push only one bead from the row below in the farthest column on the right to an up position. To represent the number two, your kid will have to do the same thing but with two beads, and so on.

4. How To Make The Beads Read Five:

  • The bottom row has only four beads, so to move from the number four to five, your kid will have to make use of the bead above. Your kid will have to push one bead from the top row to a downward position and push all the four beads from the below column to a downward position as well.
  • In this position, the abacus beads will read as the numeric five.

[ Read: Best Educational Toys For Kids ]

5. How To Make The Beads Read Six:

  • In a similar way, to count the number six, your kid will have to push one bead from the bottom row in an upward position.
  • At the same time, the bead in the top row will have to be in a downward position to represent the number five.
  • Together, with one and five, it will read as the numeric six.

Addition And Subtraction With An Abacus:

Here is how you can teach the concept of addition and subtraction to your kid with the help of an abacus:


1. Start With The First Number:

  • If your kid wants to add, for instance, 1234 and 5678, here is how you can teach the method.
  • Ask your kid to push four beads in the ones place to an upwards position, three beads in the tens place to an upwards position, two beads in the hundreds place to an upwards position, one bead in the thousands place in an upward position and so on. If your kid is getting confused, refer to the place concept explained above.

2. Start Addition From The Left Side:

  • The abacus uses the concept of moving from the left to the right side.
  • It means that the first number that you will add will be the one and the five from the thousands place. Your kid will move a single bead from the row above in the column above to a downwards position to add the five.
  • Now your kid can leave the bead at the bottom upwards to make a total of six.
  • In a similar way, your kid will have to move the bead at the top in the hundreds place in a downwards position. At the same time, your kid will have to move three more beads from the bottom part in an upwards position to create an eight in the hundreds place.

[ Read: Math Activities For Kids ]


1. Example Of Subtracting 867 From 932:

  • To begin with, help your kid enter the number 932 in the abacus.
  • To get to that number, help your kid put the upper beads in an upward position. All the four lower beads in the hundreds column will also be in an upwards position.
  • The three lower beads in the tens column will be in an upwards position.
  • The two lower beads in the ones column will be in an upwards position.
  • Once your kid gets the above bead positions correct, you can help to start the subtraction each column wise beginning from the left side.
  • During the first few trials, it may seem a little hard or different for your kid to understand the basics and concepts of using the abacus. However, with a little patience and practice, your kid will soon be able to master the art of practicing numbers with the help of the same.

Moms, have your kids tried using the abacus? If yes, do share some tips to help other moms teach their kids too.

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