Beads, Brainpower and Beyond: Exploring the Abacus Experience.
We don’t think the abacus’s many benefits need to be reiterated. In today’s competitive world, parents are well-versed in alternative ways to enhance their child’s learning experience and foster overall brain development. If you’re keen to introduce your child to this traditional yet innovative method of learning, here’s an all-you-need-to-know guide to the abacus math learning program. We have also answered some of your burning questions about the abacus, so keep reading on!

The Abacus: What, When, and How!


What: The Concept

The abacus consists of a frame with rods, each containing movable beads. Each rod represents a different place value such as units, tens, hundreds, and so on. As you are probably aware, to perform calculations on the abacus, users have to move the beads as per the intended operation. For example: To add numbers, the beads in the respective value column are moved upwards and the total number of beads in each column is counted for the final result. Similarly, other arithmetic operations are carried out on the abacus.
Varvara, A UCMAS Student, performing calculations with an abacus

When: Throwback to the Beginning

There are different theories on the origin of the abacus, archeological evidence traces the usage of the abacus to civilizations over 5000, years ago. Ancient Mesopotamian civilizations like the Sumerians and the Babylonians and ancient Egyptian civilizations were known to use the abacus. This abacus has undergone significant evolution over the years. Dive into the rich history of the abacus in our blog.

How: Benefits of the Abacus

The abacus gives your children freedom from the calculator. Once they learn abacus math, they no longer need pen and paper or other digital methods to calculate. While using the abacus for calculation, children engage different senses to manipulate the beads and perform the arithmetic operation. This facilitates cognitive development. As they proceed with the usage of the abacus, they are also encouraged to slowly stop using the physical abacus and use their mental strength to perform calculations. This is great for their brain development, it also teaches them valuable skills like simplifying or breaking down problems, and spatial reasoning, and encourages mental math abilities. You will watch their confidence soar as they tackle the once fearsome math with ease.

Did you know there are different types of Abacus?

There are around nine types of abacus that are spoken about, some of them are ancient and not in use. What sets these abacuses apart is their design, style, material used, and bead configuration. Let’s take a look at four abacus types used in the modern day.
Soroban, The Japanese Abacus
The Soroban abacus is one of the most widely used types of abacus. Originating from Japan, this abacus has one bead above the horizontal bar and four beads below in each column. The Soroban is popular due to its compact size, and easy-to-use design. It is widely used in schools and educational settings to teach arithmetic concepts and improve mental math skills.
Suanpan, The Chinese Abacus
The Suanpan abacus from China has similar functions to the Soroban but differs in design. It has two beads above the horizontal bar and five beads below in each column. This design allows users to perform calculations involving larger numbers efficiently and is favored in Chinese culture for its versatility and speed.
Schoty, The Russian Abacus
The Russian abacus, Schoty boasts a distinctive design with not four or five, but ten beads on each wire. Initially, this design was considered complicated due to the large number of beads on each wire. However, it was soon realized that this abacus facilitated easier calculations and was used not only for basic arithmetic operations but also for advanced calculations in accounting and finance.
Cranmer Abacus
The Cranmer abacus is a modified version of the Soroban abacus but has a very unique characteristic. Developed by Tim Cranmer, this abacus is commonly used for the visually impaired. Similar to the Soroban, it has one bead above the horizontal bar and four beads below it in each column. The beads are comparatively larger and have markings for tactile recognition. The Cranmer abacus empowers visually impaired individuals to learn and practice math and problem-solving, fostering independence and confidence.

Have you ever Heard of the Mental Abacus?

As the name suggests, the mental abacus exists solely in the mind. After regular practice with the physical abacus, students are encouraged to visualize the abacus and mentally manipulate the beads to perform mathematical calculations. Mental abacus practitioners swiftly perform any calculations without the use of physical aids, relying only on visualization and calculation techniques honed through practice and training. Using the mental abacus has a range of benefits and unleashes the power of the human mind.
A UCMAS student, transitioning to mental arithmetic
Curious about the other types of abacus? Here are a few of the original abacuses in chronological order. Dust abacus, Sumerian abacus, Pebble or the Egyptian abacus, Salamis Tablet, The Roman abacus, Chinese abacus, Japanese abacus, and The Russian abacus.

Is The Abacus Still Relevant?

The abacus is widely used in today’s digital world and is a tried and trusted method to learn math concepts and is used in schools and other specialized abacus classes. Students develop a solid foundation of basic arithmetic concepts through hands-on learning with the abacus. Here are some of the other benefits of learning the abacus.
Brain Development
The abacus is renowned for its ability to stimulate brain development, especially in young children. Engaging multiple senses and calculating by visualization helps enhance cognitive skills like concentration, memory, and spatial awareness.
Speed and Accuracy
The abacus facilitates rapid and precise calculations and is significantly used in fields like engineering, accounting, and finance.
Therapeutic Purposes
The abacus is sometimes used as a tool to improve fine motor skills in rehabilitation programs. Abacus math training is also known to significantly improve the cognitive functions of Alzheimer’s patients.
Recreational Activities
Abacus competitions and clubs are a big hype, where abacus math enthusiasts gather to demonstrate remarkable abilities using abacus math techniques.
Cultural Heritage
The abacus holds a special place in the culture of countries like China, Japan, and Russia. It is often used in cultural ceremonies rituals, and traditional practices.

FAQs about Abacus Math

It’s advisable to start early! Children as young as 4-5 years can start learning abacus math. That being said, you are never too old to start learning. Individuals of any age can benefit from learning abacus math.
Some kids or individuals may find abacus math challenging at first. The learning approach plays an important role. At UCMAS abacus classes, we start from the basics and gradually progress to more advanced techniques of mental math.
Absolutely! Many schools incorporate the abacus to reinforce mathematical concepts. Additionally, after-school math programs are quite popular among the masses.
Some individuals may learn basic abacus techniques through books and online resources. However, formal instruction in the form of abacus classes accompanied by a qualified instructor is recommended for mastering advanced skills and techniques.

Proficiency in abacus math is dependent on various factors like dedication, practice frequency, and individual learning styles. The time taken differs from individual to individual. Introduce your child to the wonders of abacus mental math with UCMAS. Join our network of over 3 Million happy students. Your child’s journey toward math domination starts here.