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Importance of Abacus for Mathematical Development

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Importance of Abacus for Mathematical Development

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Since the dawn of human beings on this earth human beings have encountered with too many situations in which they have to calculate and manipulate to survive in this world. Although those situations have got complex with the lapse of time and led to many new inventions for the convenience of calculations. This development process has many stages. It relates back to the prehistoric time and the first stage of development involves the construction of abacus.

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Abacus is a device used for the purpose of calculation. It is a simple device with a frame and a rod horizontally attached to the frame and beads placed on the parallel rods. The horizontal rod divides the frame into two parts. This device can be used for the arithmetical calculations and is time saving.


The history of abacus is as old as the counting problem itself. The traces of abacus have been found to the 2400B.C.Many civilizations developed their own versions of abacus. Firstly the calculations were done on the sun dried wooden frame with the help of sand sprayed over the frame, some stick or finger was used to write on the sand and after finishing the calculation that sand was thrown off or probably reset with the help of hand.

After some time a device with the wooden frame and beads attached to its rods was invented and this form of abacus can also be seen today. It is still used in some Asian countries and in some Latin American countries. Even today some clerks and small businessmen in those countries prefer to use abacus and do calculations quickly than their counterparts using electronic calculators.

It also helps to teach young children perform their arithmetic calculations especially multiplication as this causes a lot of problem to young children and abacus makes it easy to perform.

Abacus is also used to teach blind children to perform arithmetical calculations while other students learn the same things on paper. Some errors can encounter while calculating on abacus if one is not well trained but this can also happen with paper functions.

Throughout history man has developed too many types of abaci. Many civilizations have contributed to this world’s asset and hence made their mark in the development of mathematics. Babylonians used abacus as early as 2400B.C. Chinese used abacus. Mayan Civilization also used abacus, their abacus is also thought to be the first device with counters that were strung on parallel rods. It is the Aztec Abacus and known as the Nepohualtzitzin in the 10th century.

During the 11th century the Chinese abacus or suan pan was invented The suanpan is generally regarded as the earliest abacus with beads on rods. The Mandarin term suan pan means calculating plate. A suan pan has two heads above a middle divider called a beam and five beads below.

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The suan pan spread over to Japan through Korea and Japanese named it Soroban. It looked a lot like its Chinese counterpart. Soroban was introduced in the 15th century. In the 17th century Russians also introduced their own version of abacus and called it schoty. The schoty has ten beads per rod and no reckoning bar.  Throughout the history such developments have been made in the design and the working of abaci adding a lot to the mathematical arena. It laid the foundation of mathematical development.

Next Page: Abacus Development

Next: Modern Applications of the Abacus

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