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What Is an Abacus? ~ 'Number Plates'
Basically, an abacus is a finger maneuvered calculator. A typical abacus is made up of a shallow frame containing columns holding beads. You can slide the beads side to side on their columns. There are varied models but they generally follow a similar pattern. Abacus comes manufactured in various materials, including wire columns.
How long has it been in existence? ~ 'Prime Numbers'
Various versions of the abacus can be traced back over the centuries, with many countries using them, such as, not surprisingly, the Greeks. Archaeological evidence for the use of the abacus is pinpointed right back to the 5th century BC. The Greek abacus was styled from wood and marble, with tiny counters in wood and metal. In fact, a tablet was located on the Greek island of Salamis in the year 1846 AD which dated back to 300 BC, which makes it the oldest discovered to date!
Who uses abacus? ~ 'Counting Cards'
It is noteworthy that the abacus is very much in use today, such as in Chinatowns in North America, by shopkeepers and schools in Asia. The abacus is also taught to all 6 year olds in Japanese schools. It is an amazing assistance to blind children too. Those with learning difficulties have been found to understand math far better by using this tool as they often experience difficulty calculating numbers in their mind.
Why Use the abacus? ~ 'Perfect Numbers'
Many tutors and parents are anxious to find ways to help children advance their math skills in order to in achieve good careers for their future. For a very long time, such countries as Japan have incorporated the abacus into their educational systems. Asia has used the abacus in their school system. This ancient calculating tool affords extraordinary benefits for encouraging aptitude and nurturing young minds in mathematics. The abacus can achieve even more than accomplished math skills; it can also be used to build confidence along with providing a great sense of achievement. Additionally, it promotes instinctive thinking and enhances problem-solving. Added to this, the abacus stimulates creativity, even improving children's concentration and their mental endurance.
Proof: Educators in Asia confirm that the abacus is a chief reason the children are consistently winning top positions in international math corresponding leagues. It may surprise some to know that this remarkable device is introduced between nursery and the 4th grade! Using the Abacus certainly assist children from becoming dependent on electronic calculating devices. In fact, the abacus is a remarkable substitute for rote memorization of the multiplication tables. It educates children to actually visualize numbers, a technique used by some savants! When children use both of their hands to slide the abacus beads, there is an almost instant communication between their hands and the brain, which stimulates both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This results in promoting rapid and balanced whole brain growth!
The Product under review ~ 'Counting Crows'
This educational product's dimensions are 30cm length x 6cm column widths relating to each other and 20 cm width; weighing in very light at 299g
There are 100 beads on the abacus, ten on each row. The top set of ten beads is left to right, five navy blue, and then five sunshine yellow. Next row, five dusky purple, five off white. Third row has five poppy red and five navy blue beads. Fourth row, five sunshine yellow with five olive green counters. Next comes five off white and five poppy red beads. The sixth row has five navy blue and five sunshine yellow counters. Seventh row incorporates five olive green with five off white beads. Next comes five poppy reds and five navy blue counters. Ninth row has five sunshine yellows and five dusky purple counters. Lastly, comes five off white and five poppy red beads. They are all made with a beautifully smooth wood.
The centers are large enough to slide very easily along the thin wooden columns. The wooden frame, sides shaped as an elongated V, is fairly sturdy but is not suitable as a play toy other than gentle usage in counting movements. I would advise that, due to its fragile nature and purpose, adult supervision must be undertaken.
Personal experience via my grand-son ~ 'Whole Numbers'
This children's abacus is very different from those used in schools in China etc., those have separated columns to denote higher numerical quantities. But I chose this colourful counting frame to encourage my seven year old grand-son feel much more motivated in learning basic math skills. This Abacus helps my grand-son with addition and subtraction.
1) I make sure that my grand-son is seated comfortably at the table next to me; his favourite snack and drink to hand! We have my grand-son's homework next to the abacus in front of him.
2) My grand-son's homework is very basic at this stage. For example, he had a simple addition sum of 5+4=? I explained to my grand-son that he needed first, to slide all of the beads to the right.
3) Starting at any row of his choice, which ended up being the top column, I asked him how many he thought we needed to slide to the left. Looking at the sum, he chose the five, being the first number. Then I asked him what we should do next. He slid four more of the beads next to the five. I asked him to count the total. He was thrilled to be able to write down the answer nine in his book. He got a little carried away, wanting to slide more beads throughout the columns. As I feel that education must always be fun, I allowed him to experiment and enjoy the feel of this wonderful tool. After about three to four minutes, we continued.
4) Next was a subtraction. I explained to my excited grand-son that all he needed to do was simply the opposite! By now, he was growing in confidence in using the abacus. The equation was 6-3=? So he realized that to do opposite than before, the top column beads was to be moved to the left. The beads moved very easily to the left. My grand-son moved six of the ten beads to the right. He thought he had to move another three next to these six; but I explained that in subtractions he had to take away three from the six beads. So, he slid three from the six beads and wrote down the answer three that he found was left. My grand-son was thrilled at how easy he had found these equations using this brilliant fun gadget. We continued on the final eight sums until my grand-son was happy with the results. By the time I got to the sixth sum, I didn't need to tell my grand-son what he needed to do!
5) The various collection of colours on the abacus means that, similar to scholar's, each bead is assigned a particular value. My grand-son was able to then move on and precipitate future homework assignments. He found it relatively easy to grasp as there's no need to keep anything in mind instead keeping his fingers on the beads and placing the beads in their calculated locations. I found that within weeks of starting, my grand-son was able to manage larger equations.
6) After reading an article regarding mental agility and the use of an abacus, I decided to try this with my grand-son. The idea is that the child covers their eyes, as my grand-son did with his palms, enabling him to visualize the abacus; he soon managed to mentally calculate simple equations. He loved doing this, telling me he could 'see' the colours of the beads and moved them in his mind to get the answer. It does take a good while to teach this practice with larger equations, but my grand-son was so thrilled that he could actually come up with correct answers over and over. He has become so confident in his new abilities, knowing that he doesn't need to write his workings out. The article I obtained the idea from noted that these young students' memory and concentration improved immensely; which has a knock on effect on other subjects! I found that as opposed to writing equations down, my grand-son is far happier and alert performing his math on the abacus, both physically and mentally. I allow my grand-son to choose the methods; he alternates between the two, having great fun.
7) For larger equations, I taught my grand-son that is simply changing the format of how we look at the columns of beads, we can go up to very high numerical quantities: although I phrased this simply for him to understand! For instance, the first row I explained would be the ones column, then the second row would be the tens column and so on. I gave my grand-son a higher sum, 10+20=3=? As he knew the first row represented single units of one, he moved three beads to the left. He then focused on the second row. Moving first one bead, representing 10 to the left, he looked at the equation again. Seeing the 20, he moved a further 2 beads next to the one bead. I asked him to count the beads he moved on the second column, knowing each bead represented 10; he enthusiastically exclaimed '30'! Then I asked him to add to this number, the beads he'd moved on the first row, reminding him that they represented single units. He came to the correct answer of 33. My grand-son was so happy because this was a 'huge' sum he managed to do!
My five year old grand-daughter has now firmly told me that she wants to use the abacus for her homework too! I count it (excuse the pun) a privilege to teach my grand-children new methods that are fun in learning. Most days my daughter goes through their homework assignments with the grand-tots, but Fridays is often Nanny's turn: D
Where available ~ 'Lump Sums'
As an Amazon fan, I ordered mine from the site, for the excellent price of £4.99. But this abacus is available through other on-line and also high street outlets. Additionally, this brand also comes in a smaller frame, a great way to get pre-school tots into playfully learning simple number counting!
Would I recommend? ~ 'Bite size'
Most certainly! Even from the age of four years a child will be able to carry out math on the Abacus. The simplicity of the tool and its colourful fun design contributes to children feeling it is just like a toy, which gives it an entertaining quality while performing calculations. It is such an easy device to learn, making calculations effortless for the child to comprehend. Educators believe that this remarkable tool can acuminate the mind, help concentration and support learning in other subjects than mathematics too.
As many of you know, I teach my son at home. I tend to focus more on learning than testing, so I am happy enough for him to use an aid as long as needed to help him with his maths. I have found this very useful as if he is not sure of answer, he can just figure it out using this. Because my son is young, and home taught, he never has "wrong" answers, we just keep trying until he figures it out.
The abacus is described as large. I do not really think it is very large, but I suppose that is a matter of opinion. The actual measurements are about 11" x 8". It does look a bit flimsy as well and I have been careful to see that it is put away on a shelf after use, not tossed into a toy box, but that said we have had it for one year and it is still in perfect shape.
Besides being used by my 5 year old as a primitive calculator, my two year old will also play with this, just sliding the beads about.
This abacus has sixty beads on in groups of ten ( with colour division for sets of five). The frame is untreated wood, as are the rods the beads slide on, which are very thin and loosely slotted into narrow holes in the frame. There is a heavier support bar to the back. The beads are brightly coloured, and the paint seems to have saturated well into the wood. It does not appear that the paint could be chipped off without actually chipping the wood and ours are in perfect condition.
The abacus is useful for teaching counting, addition and subtraction, and skip counting, particularly by 2's, 5's and 10's. I particularly like the fact that the beads on this abacus change colour for each set of five as I do think it really helps in learning to count by fives, which of course they need to learn before being able to tell time. I have also used it for even and odd, and may use it at a later date for basic multiplication.
While I do like this abacus, and so do my children, I can not give it a full five stars due to it not being very strong. I do think the ELC abacus looks much better made, but then it costs £5 more as well. At £7.58 including postage from Amazon, this is a nice cheaper alternative as long as you are careful with it. As such I am giving it 4 stars.
On a side note, the first abaci were used by the Sumerians approximately 2700 -2300 b.c. Since then various forms of abaci have been used all over the world, including Egypt, Iran, Rome and even the Mayan culture in the Americas. The Chinese use of the abacus is likely the best known, and their abacus is made of beads on a frame, but how it works is beyond me. The modern school abacus, like this one, is most closely related to the Russian abacus.