An abacus, also referred to as a counting frame, is known as one of the first external aids used for computing arithmetic. A primitive calculator, if you will.
For years our abacus sat on a shelf, unused. To be honest, it intimidated me. One day, my (at the time) 3 year old spotted it and insisted on exploring with it. I obliged, and was amazed to discover just how many simple learning activities can be done with an abacus.
Basic Counting - For toddlers, counting the beads on an abacus is engaging, and a great hands-on way to work on this fundamental early math skill.
Simple Addition & Subtraction - Preschoolers can use an abacus for a variety of addition and subtraction activities. The beads on an abacus provide a great manipulative that helps them to better understand math concepts.
Skip Counting - Counting by 2′s, 5′s, and 10′s is so much more fun with an abacus. Such a great way to introduce multiplication concepts too. Example: 3 groups of 2, is the same as 3 x 2.
Designs & Patterns - Using the abacus beads to make patterns and designs is something that toddlers and preschoolers can both do at their own skill level. My toddler loves to make all kinds of simple patterns (and work on his color identification skills), while my preschooler is more focused and spends time making beautiful designs with the beads. He likes to play a game of “copy me”, where I make a design and then he duplicates it and vice versa. This is wonderful for his fine motor and visual perception skills.
** Update: I’ve had several emails from readers wanting to know which abacus we use, and where we got it. This Classic Wooden Abacus from Melissa and Doug is what we have and love. It’s affordable and durable (It has survived 4 boys!). I highly recommend it to anyone in the market for a great quality abacus.
How have you used an abacus in your home or classroom ? Share with us..