November 27th, 200511:13 pm @


Yesterday, I was sitting with my 5 year old niece and was helping her do her homework. Then she took out an “abacus” and started doing the mathematics problems. I was amazed at the speed with which she solved difficult mathematical problems. I always knew what an abacus was but never tried to use it till yesterday. So I learnt how to use abacus :-).

First of all, the origin of the word. Its a Latin word with its origins in the Greek words abax or abakon (meaning ‘table’ or ‘tablet’). Which possibly originated from abak meaning sand. It is believed that our ancestors used to make a makeshift arrangement for calculating by using sand. Abacus is, thus, the first calculating device. The early humans didnt have the notion of numbers and used abacus for the means of calculation, instead hands and fingers were used for calculations. But the traders needed calculating devices for calculating large numbers till the numbers were invented. Abacus is one of the most widely used calculating device.

Abacus, unlike the modern day calculators, dont perform the calculations by themselves. They are just a calculating aid for keeping the track of sums, carrys etc and the actual calculation is done in the head by the person operating the abacus.

The abacus has gone through many forms and adaptations. There are three different versions of abacus in use currently. They are the chinese suan pan, the japanese soroban, and the russian schoty. The one my niece had was the japanese one and this is what I learned to use. Abacus are still used a lot in Japan and China. You move into a store and see the shopkeepers still uses abacus for calculating the bill amount.

Most of the people are skeptical about the effectiveness of an instrument that looks so simple and primitive. But believe me, once you use it…u will find thats its very accurate and very easy to use. And the best part is they are very fast too. And with a little bit of mastery in using abacus, one can actually calculate wihtout using an abacus…this is called using an abacus visually. It is much more simpler and much more effective way of calculations. After getting the feel of the abacus….i will prefer using abacus in place of electronic calculators.

for those who are interested in learning how to use an abacus…
Abacus tutorial

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