My mentor used to joke me about being Chinese and not knowing my abacus. When posed with a Math question and I stutter before giving out the final answer, my mentor would say, “you didn’t bring your abacus again.” I would then just bring out my mobile phone or open the calculator application on the computer. That way I won’t be struggling with mental Math and get the numbers mixed up. Later, I would practice computing mentally, also computing in advance the possible amount of bills they are going to give me and the change I have to give them.


I asked my parents if they know how to use the abacus but they said they don’t, probably just simple addition, my late grandfather was the one using it. I asked again if the abacus we had is still there, sadly it was already thrown away. I didn’t even got the chance to take a picture of it. Right now, I remembered to find a tutorial on the internet and I found a really helpful site. This one teaches in detail the basic information in learning abacus to the complex methods and techniques of using it. I haven’t gone through the whole tutorial yet, but I did learn how the addition and subtraction works using the beads on the abacus. Ours is made of wood. I remember playing with it when we visited the store when we were children, pretending that we can count using it (or just playing with it).


Abacus is called Suan Pan (算盘) in Chinese invented during the 11th century. It’s really a great way of computing that doesn’t need batteries. This differed from the ones that originated during the Middle Ages in that this is a framed-bead abacus. But the origin of abacus itself could be traced back to the time of the Babylonians. According to the site, abacus (Latin word) means sand tray. In Arabic, it is ‘abq’ = dust or fine sand; and in Greek it is called abak or abakon meaning table or tablet. Soroban for the Japanese and Schoty for the German.



I’m not very good in Math or I’m probably one of those who look at a Math problem, haven’t even tried solving yet and already seeing it as complicated. I have practiced mental Math and I think I does help the brain, as in adding incrementally, subtracting numbers, familiarizing myself with certain output when given the a set of numbers to subtract. It helps when giving the right changes to prevent overcharging or short-changing myself in the process once I remit the final profit. My mentor commended that I was improving in handling numbers, remarking that I had trained my abacus well (even when I hadn’t). Indeed, practice, practice, practice and I’m eventually learning to overcome the fear of numbers. 🙂


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