What is an Abacus?
Abacus is a Latin word which has its origins from the Greek words abax or abakon which means table or a tablet. From the shape of an abacus we can easily derive why it is called in such a way. Abacus was used by almost all the olden civilizations for their calculations ranging from market to experiments.
You would agree with me that counting without numbers would be difficult. In the olden days they have used their hands and pebbles for counting and for larger numbers they have nominated twigs and bigger pebbles. In those days the calculations were made simple with the help of counting boards and abacus.
Even after the civilizations had progressed to numerals, decimals and the invention of zero; abacus followed them through their technology and inventions. The ease and fastness of calculation with abacus made it a very popular piece of mathematics. The concept of abacus was passed on to many generations and it had changed many forms from places to places. The Chinese had developed a newer version of abacus known as suan pan while the Japanese had converted it to another form known as soroban.
How to Start?
Learning to use an abacus is relatively simple to start. If you get used to the layout of abacus and various methods to represent the numbers on the board, then you can consider yourself to be half way through. With this knowledge you will be able to demonstrate various operations of number system; understand the commutative, associative and distributive properties of the mechanics of abacus and would be able to comprehend the place of value of whole numbers using abacus.
It is easy to start with a typical abacus like the Chinese abacus. It has various columns of beads and a crossbar separates the beads. Each column has 2 beads above the crossbar and five below it. The upper beads represent five units while the lower ones equal one unit.
Representing digits are much easier in this format. The first column from the right shows the unit column, second is the ten’s column, third for hundred’s and so on. It is needless to say that the one’s column represents digits from 1 to 9 and the ten’s column represents 10 to 90. The difference is in the hundred’s column. Each lower bead equals 1 hundred and the upper unit represents five hundred. This means if you want to place a number 1734 on abacus, raise one of the lower beads of the thousand’s column then one upper bead and two lower beads of the hundred’s column three lower beads of ten’s column and four lower beads of the unit column.
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