Assignment: Exploring the Abacus

The Abacus

A wood -framed Suanpan with a horizontal beam separating it into two rectangular areas. There are 13 rows of metal posts that span the height of the Suanpan. In the upper rectangle there are two beads on each post, and in the lower rectangle there are 5 beads on each post.

The abacus, also called a counting frame, is a calculating tool that was in use in Europe, China and Russia, centuries before the adoption of the written Hindu–Arabic numeral system and is still used by merchants, traders and clerks in some parts of Eastern Europe, Russia, China and Africa. The exact origin of the abacus is still unknown. Today, abaci are often constructed as a bamboo frame with beads sliding on wires, but originally they were beans or stones moved in grooves in sand or on tablets of wood, stone, or metal.

In this assignment you will choose a specific type of Abacus to research.


  • Choose a specific type of abacus to research. There are many kinds, Wikipedia has a good list to start your research from.
  • Write either a report as if you were going to publish it to Wikipedia or some other similar informational site or create an instructional video that includes the following things about the abacus of your choice:
    • In what part of the world is/ was the abacus used?
    • Is it still used, if not when did it fall out of use?
    • What mathematical operations are/ were performed on it?
    • Have the materials used to make them changed?
    • Has the geographical location of their use changed or spread?
    • Describe how to use the abacus to count, add, subtract, and any other mathematical operations that it is/ was used for.

Please include the following in your submission:

  • Appropriate references to the source(s) of your research.
  • At least one image of the abacus.



Download the assignment from one of the links below (.docx or .rtf):

Exploring the Abacus: Word Document

Exploring the Abacus: Rich Text Format