Math & Beyond

Complete Guide: How to add two numbers using Abacus?


Table of Contents 

15 October  2020

Reading Time: 7 Minutes


Have you ever wondered how people managed without an important device like Calculators centuries ago?

What if I tell you that they had a calculator all along! 

Yes, it was the abacus that was heavily used for complex calculations before the invention of electronic calculators.

Abacus is a useful learning piece of equipment for the visually impaired, as well as for anyone who wants to learn the origins of a modern calculator. 

Just by moving the beads from left to right, you can add up to a billion or more.

Abacus is a tool that can be used to calculate — Add, Subtract, Multiply & divide, apart from being able to do other arithmetic functions and Brain activation.

In this article, you will learn how Abacus is used for simple addition.

Also read:

The history of Abacus

Around 2700 B.C., the Sumerians fictionalized their tool for calculation. It was an oversized block of wood or clay with columns derived out.

These columns corresponded to the order of size in their numeration system (which was base 60) - like we tend to write sums with units, tens, many columns, etc.

It is often one of the primary versions of what we tend to currently decide the abacus. Later, the Sumerians abandoned the objects and easily played on the board. It means they might "rub out" as they calculated.   
In the fifth century B.C., similar devices were developed by the Zapotecs of Central America and The Greeks.

The first Greek abacus was a table with a raised edge, crammed with sand. The columns were created by merely running your finger through the receptacle.

It's thought that the word abacus comes from the Greek word abax,  which means tray/table/tablet that originated from the Semitic word "ABQ" that interprets as dust/sand.  
The Roman abacus was at first made of a little, flat piece of wood or bone and coated with wax.

Marks made taking the pointed finish of an iron instrument. And the other finish which has been useful for rubbing out. It was in the impact of the primary transportable calculator!  

The Romans created a lot of refined models of the grooved abacus. The wax replaced grooves cut straight into the wood, counters or beads were set in them.  

The Roman abacus was similar to the traditional Chinese abacus. The Roman abacus has been introduced to China for a while.  

History of Abacus: Chinese Abacus, Japanese Abacus, Russian Abacus

The soroban (tally tray) is an associate degree abacus developed in Japan. It's derived from the traditional Chinese suanpan, foreign to Japan within the ordinal century.

Just like the suanpan, the soroban continues to be used these days, despite the proliferation of sensible and reasonable pocket electronic calculators. 

The proper aspect of the soroban represents the quantity 1234567890, every column indicating one digit, with the lower beads representing one and also the higher beads fives.  

Counting on abacus

The Abacus consists of an associate degree odd range of columns or rods, each having beads. Download the PDF below to read about counting on Abacus.

📥  Abacus Counting


One separate bead having a value of 5, known as go-dama ("five-bead"), and 4 beads each having a value of 1, known as ichi-dama ("one-bead").

Every set of beads of every rod divided by a bar called a reckoning bar.

The quantity and size of beads in every rod create a standard-sized 13-rod soroban, a lot of less than a standard-sized suanpan of comparable communicative power.  

Counting on abacus 1

Fig: Image of an abacus

The number of rods in soroban is often odd and even fewer than 9. Basic models sometimes have 13 rods.

The number of rods on sensible or commonplace models usually will increase to 21, 23, 27, or perhaps 31, therefore permitting calculation of a lot of digits or representations of many different numbers at constant time.

Each rod represents a digit, and a larger number of rods allows the illustration of a lot of digits throughout operations.  
The beads and rods are the product of the spread of various materials. Most soroban created in Japan is the product of wood and has wood, metal, rattan, or bamboo rods for the beads to slide-on.

The beads themselves are sometimes bi-conal (shaped sort of a double-cone). They're unremarkably products of wood, thought of as some soroban, particularly those created outside Japan, are often marble, stone, or perhaps plastic.

The price of a soroban is proportionate with the materials employed in its construction.   

Usage and representation of numbers

The soroban uses a positional notation, where each of the rods will represent one digit from zero to nine by moving beads towards the reckoning bar.

They are in the "on" position, i.e., they assume price. For the "five beads," this implies it's stirred downwardly, whereas "one bead" is stirred upwards. 

The parts of soroban and representation of numbers

Addition on Abacus

Let's see step by step representation of addition on the abacus. 

Input your initial range. Say you've to feature 1234 and 5678. Enter 1234 on the abacus by pushing up four beads in the one's place 3 in beads tens place, 2 in the hundreds place 1 in the thousands place.  

Addition on Abacus  

Start adding from the left.

The first numbers you will add are the one and five from the thousands place, during this case moving the one bead from the highest row of that column right down to add the five, and feat the lower bead up for a complete of half dozen.

Likewise, to feature half a dozen within the hundreds place, move the upper beads within a hundred column put and one bead from the lowest row up to urge a complete of eight.  

 addition using Abacus

Complete an exchange. Since adding two numbers in the tens column can lead to ten, you will carry over a 1 to the hundred places, creating a nine in this column.

Next, place all the beads down within the tens place, leaving it zero.  

Addition using Abacus  

In the one's column, you will be an equivalent 8 and 4 equal twelve. Thus, you will carry the one over to the tens place, creating it one. You will have 2 in the one's column.  

Example 3 : Addition using Abacus

Count your beads to urge the solution.

You will have.  6 in the thousand's column.  9 in a hundred column, a 1 in the tens, and a two b in the ones: one,234 + 5,678 = 6,912.   


To use an abacus for addition, 1st orient it by pushing one or two beads to the top of every row and four beads to rock bottom of every row, which can set it back to zero.

Once you have done it, assign a column an area price.

As an example, the furthest column on the right ought to be one's place, like 1-9, and also the second farthest column on the correct ought to be the tens place, like 10-99.

If you are operating with decimals, check that to create the furthest column in the tenths place.

Once you begin adding, push up the selected beads in every column to represent your 1st variety.

As an example, if you are adding 1234, and 5678, push up four beads within the ones column, three within the tens column, a pair of within the lots of columns, and one within the thousands place to represent 1234.

Then merely lower the beads, beginning from the thousands place, add to the second variety, 5678. Below is a pictorial representation of addition on the abacus.  

Addition of three digit numbers using abacus

Related Blogs

Abacus Blogs
Abacus Anatomy & Construction Abacus History
Abacus Level I Abacus Level II
Abacus Counting Abacus Techniques
Abacus Addition Abacus Subtraction
Abacus Multiplication Abacus Division
Negative Numbers in Abacus Abacus Basics


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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is an Abacus?

An Abacus is a manual aid for calculating which consists of beads that can be moved up and down on a series of sticks or strings within a usually wooden frame. The Abacus itself doesn't calculate; it's merely a device for helping a human being calculate by remembering what has been counted.

Where was the Abacus invented?

The type of Abacus most commonly used today was invented in China around the 2nd century B.C. However, Abacus-like devices are first attested from ancient Mesopotamia around 2700 B.C.!

Where was Abacus first used?

The Abacus (plural abaci or abacuses), also called a counting frame, is a calculating tool used in the ancient Near East, Europe, China, and Russia, centuries before the adoption of the written Arabic numeral system. The exact origin of the Abacus is still unknown.

What are the advantages of learning how to use an Abacus?

Mathematical skills lay a secure foundation for higher classes. 
Abacus education improves the skills of

  • Visualization (photographic memory)
  • Concentration 
  • Listening Skills
  • Memory, Speed
  • Accuracy
  • Creativity
  • Self Confidence
  • Self-Reliance resulting in Whole Brain Development

Is it good for children to use an abacus?

Yes, an abacus is an excellent tool for teaching children basic math. The different senses involved in using an abacus, like sight and touch, can also reinforce the lessons 

-Written by Priti Jain, Cuemath Teacher

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