An abacus has beads that slide on rods.

It can be used to count, add, subtract, multiply and more.

Just like our decimal number system!

Example: 413

Slide 3 beads UP on the right-most column
1 bead UP on the 2nd-from-right column
4 beads UP on the 3rd-from-right column


The most common abacus is split into two basic rows:

the top row is worth 5 of the bottom row

There are two beads in the top row, and five beads in the bottom one.


7 can be made by using one bead on the top row, and 2 beads from the bottom row, because 5 + 2 = 7

Have a play with this one (click on the beads or enter a number):


The abacus has been around for thousands of years, and is still used in some parts of the world. Sometimes blind people will use an abacus, because they can feel the numbers easily.

Expert abacus users can sometimes do calculations faster than on a calculator, and can even use them to find the square root of whole numbers.