It is an undisputable fact that the abacus had reduced the work load on calculation and laid the foundation of a calculation machine as such. Whether it is the east or west the invention of abacus had a profound effect.
It had greatly eased the mental mathematics. The merchants and tax collectors of yesterday had found this to be a great help to assist in their profession. Mental mathematics could be easy, but when it comes to decimals and complex calculations involving multiplication and division it is advised to take the help of an abacus.
It is a proven fact that the abacus was present in the same time frame in the east as well as the west. Both had many similarities and disparities too. The abacus is an ancient tool invented during Greek and Roman times. Over the period abacus has evolved into different types as it traveled across the world.
However it was in China the abacus was innovated further and used heavily in day-to-day life for calculations. Abacus mental math is a technique derived from this very old technique and fits right into the modern day world. All these years the abacus was present in the east and west and can be used to build confidence, provide a sense of achievement, promote intuitive thinking, enhance problem-solving capability, stimulate creativity and improve concentration and mental endurance.
The Western Thinking
It is believed that the abacus formed its shape in the west, predominantly in the Roman Empire. Later it spread to the east and other parts of the world with the help of merchants traveling around the world. The roman way of abacus was catered for their number systems and their requirements of calculations like tax collection, engineering and astronomy.
But when it moved to the other parts of the world it changed to suit the new inventors. With Abacus math, abacus is used as a tool to learn calculations. Beads are moved up and down and various columns to represent the number.
Other than the roman abacus there were many contenders in the west. The oldest surviving counting board is the Salamis tablet which originally thought to be a gaming board, used by the Babylonians circa 300 B.C., discovered in 1846 on the island of Salamis. It is a slab of white marble measuring 149cm in length, 75cm in width and 4.5cm thick, on which are 5 groups of markings.
In the center of the tablet are a set of 5 parallel lines equally divided by a vertical line, capped with a semi-circle at the intersection of the bottom-most horizontal line and the single vertical line.
Below these lines is a wide space with a horizontal crack dividing it. Below this crack is another group of eleven parallel lines, again divided into two sections by a line perpendicular to them but with the semi-circle at the top of the intersection; the third, sixth and ninth of these lines are marked with a cross where they intersect with the vertical line.
The Eastern Way
It is thought that early Christians brought the abacus to the East, note that both the suan-pan and the Roman hand-abacus have a vertical orientation. Aspects of Roman culture could have been introduced to China as early as 166 A.D, during the Han Dynasty, as Roman emperor Antoninus Pius' embassies to China spread along the Silk Road.
The Chinese abacus was developed about 5000 years ago. It was built out of wood and beads. It could be held and carried around easily. The abacus was so successful in the east that its use spread form China to many other countries. The abacus does not actually do the computing, as today's calculators do. It helps people keep track of numbers as they do the computing. This complete freedom of use of the suanpan spread to Korea, and then to Japan during the latter part of the 15th century.
The Japanese termed the abacus a soroban. Originally the soroban looked very much like its Chinese cousin having two beads above the reckoning bar and five beads below. Around 1850, it was modified to have only one bead above the reckoning bar while maintaining the five beads below.
It was further changed by removing one lower bead in 1930. This one bead above and four beads below arrangement remain as the present day Japanese soroban construction. Unlike in the west the abacus had a huge popularity in the people.
In the west came the calculating machines and the electronic calculators which grabbed the attention of a traditional abacus. This made the construction and wide use of abacus in the west to extinct. On the other hand in the east, in the rural parts of china and Japan they still rely on abacus for calculations.