The term we are analyzing comes from the Greek word abax, which literally means “table to count”, although some sources maintain that it comes from the Hebrew word abad, which is translated as dust.
Both etymologies have something in common, since it is believed that in the past the basic mathematical operations were done on a table with accumulated dust on which some type of graphic symbols or counting marks were noted.
Keep in mind that the use of numbers as we know them, the Arabic numerals, appeared in the 10th century and the symbols + and – emerged in the 15th century.
The abacus was invented in China in 190 AD. C
Originally, this mathematical calculation instrument was made of wood. Moving parts are placed in tables with different rods, which move to carry out the different arithmetic operations. With this device it is possible to count numbers and perform addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It could be said that this device was the first calculator used by humans.
Although its use is minority in the educational system , it is still used in countries such as China, Japan or Korea. From the point of view of the didactics of mathematics, it is a useful tool to understand the importance of the position of digits and the meaning of basic operations. In recent years the abacus has become fashionable as an educational toy for children .
Different ways to calculate
In many circumstances of daily life we have the need to calculate. If the operation is simple, we can do it mentally.
If you are a child learning the rudiments of calculus, you are likely to use your fingers.
In the event that the operation is of a certain complexity , there are several alternatives: the use of paper and pencil to perform the typical accounts, the handling of a calculator or the abacus.
In the Inca culture a system of ropes and knots known as quipu was used. With this procedure the Incas carried out all kinds of calculations related to daily life.
The blind men and mathematical calculations
Currently, blind people have the possibility of using electronic devices with voice to perform mathematical operations. However, this technology is relatively recent and blind people have had to resort to other strategies to perform calculations.
In teaching blind abacus it has been the fundamental tool for learning of arithmetic , since through the touch is possible to move the balls of the rods according to rules and perform any operation.