How many of you have used an abacus? Ever tried to solve some simple addition and subtraction problems using one? It is an amazing tool and learning how to use it promotes number sense, increases mental math skills, and reinforces place value.
Up until this year, I had never used an abacus. So, what do we do in this day in age when we don't know how to do something? We consult YouTube! There, I stumbled upon a 6-part video series from GuruParents that teaches adults how to use to the abacus.
Here's the first video with the basics. It is surprising simple once you get the hang of it.
This year, I offered my students extra credit for building their own abacus at home and learning how to use it. I sent home directions for constructing the abacus from the Scholastic resource book MathART.
Students used a shoebox, string, beads or Fruit Loops, and a piece of cardboard to construct their ancient calculator.
My students built the abacus with 2 heavenly beads on top, instead of the one. I prefer this model, however, you can also build one with only 1 heavenly bead on top. Below the 4 bottom beads, you will see labels to identify the place value position. We did not include decimals.
You can see that beads or Fruit Loops worked perfectly. This bottom one looks a bit shabby, but that is just because I waited SO long to take the pictures and there was a bit more wear and tear on it when I finally got around to snapping the photo. Oops!
Out of my 24 students, I had about six make the abacus at home and share it with the class. We all learned how to use the abacus and practiced adding simple numbers with the beads. At first, kids were frustrated, but when they finally started to get it and it made sense, there was a huge sense of accomplishment.
The abacus was so successful, I can't wait to do more with it next year. Anyone else ever ventured into working an abacus with students?