Volume 5 Issue 7
February 1999

ABACUS

There is no actual record of who invented the abacus, but its appearance was first seen in a sketch book written during the Yuan Dynasty (14th Century). It is therefore more than 600 years old.

On a Japanese abacus counting is done by pushing beads toward the crossbar. The value of the bead is set by the rod it is on. Beads on the farthest-right rod count 1; on the next 10; on the next 100; and so forth. Above the bar the corresponding values are right to left, 5, 50, 500, 5000.

Make Your Own Chinese Abacus

Have the Cub Scouts make and learn to use an abacus. Here are some simple instructions for making a 5-digit abacus.

Materials (for 1 abacus):

  • 1 cardboard sheet (4-1/2" by 4-1/2" assumes craft sticks are 4-1/2" long; adjust size to match size of craft sticks)
  • 9 craft sticks
  • 5 coffee stirrer straws
  • 35 pony beads (optional: 25 of one color and 10 of another color)
    Notes:
  1. I used a hot glue gun in making my working model. This works well, but comes with the usual warnings on the heat and electrical dangers around children!
  2. After it was all put together, I had to use tweezers to remove the "hot glue spider webs" from around the beads so that they could move freely.
  3. The "straws with beads" are just pony beads on mini coffee stirrer straws (round ones, not flat ones). You can get these at the grocery store. The beads are supposed to slide on the straws so don't glue them! Also, the Chinese abacus has 5 beads below (earth) and 2 beads above (heaven) the middle cross bar. Also, you can make the beads different colors for above and below the bar.


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