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The History of the Abacus and How to Use it

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By Samantha Carey

 What is an Abacus?


  • An Abacus is a tablet with beads. You use the beads to count and solve simple math problems (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions and square roots).
  • The early  abacuses were mainly used for counting- later on was used for basic math


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The Legend of the





The legend says that a man named Li Sou

invented the abacus in 500 BC. He worked

for the Yellow Emperor.


He made the first abacus out of mud and strings of pearls. He then gave the abacus as a gift to the Emperor.  



The invention of the abacus is accredited to the Chinese.

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What happened in 500 BC?


In 500 BC, many nations were conquering land. Many rulers of nations were overthrown.


In China, the Zhou Kingdom was divided into states. They then created sophistigated tax systems. 



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The Parts of an Abacus

An abacus is made of  wood. It is divided into two parts separated by a beam.


The Chinese abacus has 2 beads in the upper deck (heaven beads) and 5 beads in the lower deck (earth beads). 


The Japanese abacus hashas 1 bead in the upper deck (heaven beads) and 4 beads in the lower deck (earth beads).

How To Use A Japanese Abacus

  • This is the most commanly used abacus.
  • This is what the abacus has evolved to. 


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  • The Chinese abacus basically has the same set up (ones, tens, hundreds place....)


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Japanese Abacus Examples



 japanese abacus 2



japanese abacus 2