The Chinese abacus and counting boards developed to fulfill such a need. An early form of the Chinese abacus was developed circa 3000 B.C.E.
The Chinese abacus we're familiar with appeared in China around 1200 A.D. This first Chinese abacus had 2 beads on the upper deck of the rod and 5 on the lower deck, which is why it's also known as the 2/5ths abacus. It is also known as the suanpan. Very efficient Chinese abacus techniques have developed over time to perform high level mathematic functions like multiplication, division, square roots, and cubed roots.
Chinese abacus arithmetic was taught in schools all the way up until late 1990s. Even today, parents often send their children to private tutors to learn the art of Chinese abacus arithmetic. Learning arithmetic this way is thought to reinforce more accurate mental arithmetic and as an act of cultural preservation
These Chinese abacus come in different sizes, shapes, and colors and range in function from the small and inexpensive to the more luxurious decorative pieces. Learn the ancient art of suanpan arithmetic or add a unique decorating piece to your home or office with these Chinese abacus.
Construction of the Chinese Abacus
The Chinese abacus
is a flat oblong calculating instrument with counting beads. The beads can slide up and down along the rods. A crosswire bar, divides the Chinese abacus into two parts: the upper part that contains 2 rows of the 5 value counting beads and the lower containing 5 rows of the 1 value counting beads.
Bear in mind that every single bead above the crosswire bar has the value of five and that the beads below bar have the value of one. The columns towards the left always have higher values than those towards the right. Each column has two 5 value counting beads above the bar and five 1 value beads below it, making the value of fifteen altogether. On the crosswire bar are several dots calibrated on every forth column and they are to be used to indicate the unit point numbers or a decimal point.
The values of counting beads are determined by their positions. They obtain values when they slides towards the crosswire bar and lose them when slides away from the bar.
Basic Rule of Operation with the Chinese Abacus
1. How to place numbers on the Chinese abacus
Numbers one to nine shall be placed on abacus
2. How to set the units of numbers
Since there are several dots in every fourth place on the bar, you may pick up either of these dots as a datum point according to the length of numbers. Once you set the datum point, further columns to the left from the datum point mean larger numbers and further to the right smaller.
3. How to Use a Chinese Abacus
a) Clearing off all the counting beads
Before starting, hold the abacus at its left end of frame with your left thumb and index finger and slightly tilt it towards yourself. This makes all the counting beads stray downward. Then with your right forefinger; clear off the 5 value counting beads all upward by sliding your finger along the crosswise ber as if you were splitting a row of beads and the bar apart.
b) The use of fingers
For operation use only one (index) or two fingers (index and thumb) of your right hand. Lightly fold the other three fingers (middle, ring, and small) in a manner of making loose fist.
Thumb is used only when you slide up either one value counting bead. (Or you may use your index finger.) For all the rest of your manipulation use your right index finger, i, e., when you slide down a 1 value bead, when you slide down a 5 value bead, and when you slide up a 5 value bead.
c) Fundamental operation
Using the center of your abacus, set numbers one to nine from left to right and then subtract them. The repetition of this operation is the most essential manipulation as a basic exercise.