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Make an Abacus for Math Time

written by: AlyssaAst • edited by: Wendy Finn • updated: 8/2/2012

If you have exhausted all your previous ideas for fifth-grade activities try something new. Keep your students interested in math by allowing each student to make an abacus. The abacus can be used throughout the year to help students with their math and keep them interested in their work.

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    Materials

    In order to make an abacus in class you will need to prepare yourself with a few materials. To be more cost efficient you can pair the students in groups of 2 or 3 and allow them to create one abacus per group. This list of materials is what you will need to make one abacus.

    • Wood glue
    • 8 bamboo skewers, 4-inch size
    • 9 Popsicle sticks
    • Pen or pencil
    • 56 large beads
    • Ruler
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    Making the Abacus

    For the first step to make an abacus, students will need to get 3 Popsicle sticks that are laying parallel to one another. Students will need to use the ruler and a writing utensil to measure eight straight lines across on each stick. The lines need to be evenly spaced through out the Popsicle stick. All lines must match up perfectly on each of the 3 sticks.

    The second step to making the abacus is very important. The students will need to lay one of the 8 skewers on each of the eight lines they drew. The Popsicle sticks should be arranged one at each end of the skewers and the third stick in the middle placed about 1 inch from the Popsicle stick on the left end of the skewers.

    For the third step, the students needs to glue the 8 skewers onto the Popsicle stick on the right end. The students will need to place 5 beads on each of the eight skewers. Next, they will need to glue the middle Popsicle stick onto the 8 skewers. After this is complete, have the students place 2 more beads on the open end of the 8 skewers. Finally, they need to glue the final Popsicle stick to the left end of the abacus.

    After the glue has dried, have the students take the remaining 6 Popsicle sticks and put them in 3 groups of 2. The students need to glue 2 sticks (wide edges) together to form the three groups. After the glue has dried, they need to glue the 3 groups of sticks over the top of the skewers directly above the previous 3 Popsicle sticks already glued to the skewers. This is done to keep the beads sliding freely when the abacus is placed on the desk.

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    Abacus for Math Time

    This is a great activity to do to take a break from the usual math time activities. After the abacuses have dried allow the students to either leave their projects in class or take them home to continue to use while they do their math work.

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    References:

    “The Abacus" Mathline

    “Craft Your Own Abacus" By Amy Brayfield Education.com

    “The Abacus and the History of Counting" Crafts for Learning