Cuemath's Learning Methodology

Discover Addition and Subtraction using Spike Abacus

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Addition and subtraction are basic concepts that are taught to children from a very young age. These are two concepts that we use throughout our lives, so it  is important to make children understand the underlying concepts from an early age.  In most cases, these concepts are taught using mechanical processes.


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This method ensures that children learn how to perform calculations but they don’t usually understand why the algorithm really works?

Even if they are curious to know, their doubts are probably dismissed when they ask questions in their classes.

In order to explain the why, it is best to make use of learning aids. The spike abacus is one such recommended tool to explore and explain the concepts of addition and subtraction. Let’s learn more about it.

Here’s a simple fact:



The above diagram defines the concept of place value, which is the value of each rod in the abacus. In the ones’ place, the value of each disc is 1. In the tens’ place, the value of each disc is 10. In the hundreds’ place, the value of each disc is 100, and so on.



The abacus above, represents the number 374. In the image, we see that:

  • We have 3 discs in hundreds’ place
  • We have 7 discs in tens’ place
  • We have4 discs in ones’ place

Therefore, the place value of 3 is hundred, the place value of 7 is ten and that of 4 is one. To simplify this in mathematical terms, we can write:

  3 hundreds + 7 tens + 4 ones

= 300 + 70 + 4

= 374

Now let’s look at a few examples to understand how the spike abacus really helps:

1. Addition using abacus:

1As we can see from the image, 12 is represented as 2 disks in the ones’ place and 1 disk in the tens’ place. Similarly 25 is 5 disks in the ones’ place and 2 disks in the tens’ place. We know that addition is a combination of numbers. On combining the two numbers, we get 7 disks in the ones’ place and 3 disks in the tens’ place and this can be read as 37.

2. Subtraction using abacus:

Let’s consider subtracting 12 from 25 in a similar way as shown in the image. In this case we take away the second number from the first, which is the basic definition of subtraction. So we take away 2 discs from 5 and are left with 3 discs. Then we take away 1 disc from 2 to get 1 disc. This number is 13.

The spike abacus is a part of Cuemath’s Mathbox along with many other learning aids used for learning various concepts. Cuemath suggests the use of such learning aids for the following reasons:

  • Students get hands-on experience in calculation

The spike abacus is an adjustable manipulative that students can experiment with. Once they learn to calculate with this, the process of adding and subtracting becomes much more simpler

  • It promotes the understanding of the why behind the what

With the spike abacus, children don’t just learn what ones, tens and hundreds are but also visually experience what they are. The concepts of carry over in addition and replacement in subtraction become clearer when students see the discs being moved from one rod to the other.

  • It is more attractive and interesting to work with

What makes the abacus popular among Cuemath students is the fact that it is friendly and fun to work with. Unlike textbooks, the spike abacus is more welcoming and easy to understand.

Expose your children to the why behind a process at a young age so that they understand the basics from the beginning. It becomes difficult to unlearn a process that has already been ingrained in them since their childhood.

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Aishwarya Sinha Ray

Aishwarya is a math expert and works with the Curriculum team at Cuemath. She believes in bringing out the "why" of every simple mathematical concept that we have learnt. Her articles focus on basic math and she makes them interesting by including simple puzzles and fun facts. Follow her articles to understand how passionate she is about making math interesting for us.