In September, Wee Watch Brampton Providers participated in a fun interactive make and take workshop entitled “Big Math for Little People.”   The workshop focused on some fun easy games and activities that Providers and parents can use to help develop simple preschool math concepts. One of the make and take activities was to make an Abacus.

There are many ways to teach numbers and math to kids. Some can be fun and exciting and some can be just plain boring. The abacus is a calculating tool that may be as old as 2700–2300 BC. It has been used for centuries and is still widely used by merchants, traders, and clerks in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere. It also happens to be a great tool to teach numbers and arithmetic to kids. It has colourful beads to make learning exciting and fun while reinforcing concepts through the child’s sense of touch.

The abacus is also great because it can be used to teach simple math—like counting, addition, and subtraction—as well as more complex operations like multiplication and division. It can even be used to work with fractions and to find square and cube roots. Below you will find various techniques to teach math with an abacus.

How to Teach Counting with an Abacus

There are a number of games to play on an abacus that can help develop a child’s numeracy.

  1. Match My Move. Begin in a “starting position,” with the beads on every row all on the same side. Then, on the top row, move any number of beads to the other side of the frame and ask your child to match your “move” on the row below. You can mix this is up with repeating pattern arrangements, in which the 10 beads are arranged in different groupings (e.g. 2 beads, 3 beads, 1 bead, 4 beads) that your child also matches.
  2. Counting Game. From the “starting position”, move a number of beads from one side to the other. Then ask your child to count how many beads you moved, and then how many beads are left.

Both of these games help children enhance their counting skills as well as their ability to grasp the principles of adding and subtracting.

How to make your own Abacus:

What you need:

  • Shoebox
  • 3 Pieces of elastic or string
  • 30 pony beads
  • 2 colours of duct tape.

What to do:

  1. Poke 3 holes in a shoebox evenly on each side of the box.
  2. Decorate the outside of a shoebox with one colour of duct tape.
  3. Put elastic thru one side of the box, securing with a knot on the end, and use another colour of duct tape to cover knot. (Repeat for all three holes)
  4. Count out 3 sets of 10 pony beads.
  5. Thread ten pony beads onto each elastic band and secure the ends on other side of box with a knot and duct tape.