Adding and subtracting with the Abacus

Calculators have been around at least since the ancient Greeks… in the form of a nifty invention: the Abacus. Imagine being the person came up with the idea of the Abacus — they must have been pretty chuffed with themselves…

As Coco is now navigating her way through the first year of French education, I thought that an Abacus would be actually a useful tool for her to get used to the idea of adding and subtracting. I had been given an Abacus from Ikea ages ago and it had only ever been used as a toy. It now has a proud place on Coco’s little desk, and it is really interesting how much she is enjoying adding beads together, taking some away and seeing how it all works out.

P.S. Interestingly the children here in France are discouraged to use their fingers to add and substract. I guess it is so that they learn to visualise the numbers. Is it the same in your country?

– Emilie


Comments (3)

Jackie van den Bergh
January 26, 2012

We are in Ireland and in our school mental maths is really encouraged. I took out an abacus to help with some homework and my cheeky five year old said she would rather use her brain. The abacus is used by her twin sister all the time. I think it really depends on the child and on how good they are at visualising the amounts.

January 26, 2012

The French education system is so strict! Kids naturally have a better concept of concrete than abstract things until about age 8-10. They can memorize whatever you want them to, but that does not mean they “understand” math. I find it super frustrating to have such a narrow-visioned, old-fashioned education system. And international comparisons (e.g. PISA by the OECD) are showing that it just doens’t work anymore and France is losing its ground. I found this article interesting on learning to count:

Courtney in London
January 31, 2012

I’m definitely picking this up next time I’m at Ikea! Such a simple, but cool toy.

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