# How We Teach Arithmetic And So Much More Using The Abacus

For many the use of an abacus to teach children, or adults, arithmetic is not well known or understood. Since the abacus originated in Asia thousands of years ago, the abacus and its use are common knowledge in that part of the world. This doesn’t mean that all Asians are skilled abacus users. It simply means the abacus and its usefulness are fairly well understood. Although the abacus is returning as a popular teaching method for early math, still many people have no experience with the abacus and therefore do not understand its value. So we are going to unravel the abacus as a teaching tool so everyone can understand why it is so valuable in teaching numbers, counting, arithmetic, and mental calculation to both children and adults. If you are familiar with the abacus, you may be interested in this short series of videos showing you how to train on www.rightlobemath.com.

The abacus has stood the test of time. The abacus continues to be used around the world both as a calculating tool but more recently as a teaching tool. Many elementary school teachers use various manipulatives such as connecting blocks, counting squares, place value arrays, etc… to teach mathematical concepts. Each of these manipulatives are great teaching tools but are limited and can not grow with the students’ math knowledge. The abacus however is extremely versatile in the many ways it can be used to teach math including number representation and recognition, counting, complements, place value, all arithmetic operations, and mental calculation. This one tool can be used for years as a child’s math skills develop and advance. The abacus is the greatest math manipulative ever invented.

The first thing we teach on the abacus is number representation, recognition, and counting. Just like using any other objects to represent numbers and learning to count, the abacus in its simplest form can be thought of as a counting device. The only limitation on how large a number that can be counted is the number of rods. Each rod represents a single digit of a base 10 number. So each rod can represent all 10 digits from 0 to 9. Students very quickly learn to represent and recognize all 10 single digit numbers on a single rod. As students form each single digit number with the beads they learn the counting sequence from 0 to 9. Next the students learn to use the next adjacent rod on the left to keep track of each counting cycle. In this process, students are learning the fundamental property of numbers and the concept of place value as they reuse the same single digits over and over as designed in our numbering system. Grasping our number system concept of reuse and place value launches students understanding of counting and becomes their math basis for understanding all of the arithmetic operations.