The abacus is a square- shaped instrument that is made of wood and consists of ten different wires or strings that are placed in parallel . Each of these strings has ten balls that are mobile . It is an instrument that helps people to perform simple calculations and calculations. It was an instrument widely used in ancient times, and it was used to teach students simple mathematical operations , such as multiplying , dividing , adding and subtracting. Some historians believe that the abacus was the first instrument that was created to perform calculations . Invention and technological innovation have relegated the use of the abacus and caused it to lose popularity in schools and homes, where it was previously used to educate children.


What is the abacus?

The abacus is an instrument made of wood that has a series of strings or wires placed in parallel and each string has ten beads or balls that are mobile. It is an instrument that helps us to perform simple mathematical operations and a little algebra .

  • Etymology
  • What is the abacus for
  • Characteristics of the abacus
  • How is it used
  • History


The word abacus is a word that exists in several languages , and has different etymological origins that to date are still highly debated. Abacus comes from Latin and is made up of the terms ” abacus ” and their respective plural, ” abaci “. We can mention that, for example, the term in the Greek language was used as “ἄβαξ” or abax and there was also a second Greek word that, applied to the term, “ ἄβακoς ” or abakos, meant flat surface or table. In addition to these meanings there was another possible origin and it was the Phoenician word of Hebrew origin אבק which in its modern meaning meant ” dust”, And if we want to go even deeper, the word was also used in the Hebrew language, and it was used to refer to grains, mainly food grains. Perhaps the most important terminology was the one used in the Latin language, which was written ” calculation “, and it was this term that was used to make calculations with the abacus , they were the first to perform calculations in the history of mankind. There are many ways to say the word abacus, for example, in Chinese it is pronounced Suan Pan, in Japanese Soroban, in Korean Tschu Pan, in Hebrew Jeshboniá and in Russian Schoty, to name a few examples.


What is the abacus for

Some scientific studies suggest that the abacus causes a series of positive neural effects, increasing cognitive capacity since the right hemisphere is activated with its use , responsible for mathematical calculation tasks , helping in the same way with memory and natural intelligence. . More recently, it has been shown that the use of the abacus produces a series of changes in the gray matter and in the brain substance, helping to preserve integration and accelerate learning through training. It also helps us to solve arithmetic problems through calculation and memory, as long as the operations are done with simple numbers. At present, this ancient instrument is used as a type of educational toy to teach mathematics in a simple way to children, since it works like a multiplication table.

Characteristics of the abacus

  • It is made of wood or plastic .
  • It has a series of strings or wires where the balls are placed for counting.
  • Represent the units, tens, hundreds, units of thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and so on.
  • It has been considered the forerunner of the modern digital calculator .

How is it used

It is a very simple instrument to use. By means of balls that can be slid along a series of wires or ropes that are fixed to a frame, usually made of wood, although it can also be made of plastic. These balls are responsible for representing units , tens , hundreds , etc., and it is used to perform basic mathematical activities such as addition, subtraction, division and multiplication, and although it seems incredible, it can be used to find the square root of a number and the cube root. It is also a useful instrument for teaching children to count.


The abacus is a very old calculation instrument , which has managed to be adapted by a large number of cultures. Its origin is unknown , but it is known that in ancient times they used materials to count, in accordance with what has been discovered historically.
Probably its beginning was in flat stones with stones that could be moved to count. Some historians consider that the origin of the abacus is Chinese because it is the place where this instrument is most notable. It is also believed that the checkers used the abacus in sand and rocks to perform arithmetic calculations.. Many cultures have used the abacus over time and its use has been commented on by different writers in Greece . Some evidence of the abacus has been found in archaeological excavations , in one of them an amphora was found that had drawings in which a figure that represented a counter to perform mathematical calculations appeared , and the second was a counting board that represented the currency of The time.

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