Make Your Own Abacus!

Abacus Math Activity

In this math craft activity, children will make their very own abacus out of popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, and plastic pony beads! They can use their abacus to practice basic math skills, like counting, adding, and subtracting. Read on to find out more!

The abacus has been used as a calculating tool since ancient times. In fact, every major civilization used some form of abacus until the Hindu-Arabic number system eventually replaced the abacus in Western Europe. Today, the abacus is still used in elementary schools around the world to help children learn the numeral system and basic arithmetic skills. The abacus we demonstrate in this post is a classic counting frame with one hundred beads. 

Here's what you'll need to have on hand to make your own abacus:

  • popsicle sticks
  • multi-colored plastic pony beads
  • pipe cleaners
  • scissors
  • marker
  • hot glue gun
 Make Your Own Abacus

Start by trimming down ten pipe cleaners to about the length of a pencil. Make sure all the pipe cleaners are the same length. 

String a set of ten pony beads onto each of the pipe cleaners. You will have a total of one hundred pony beads on the pipe cleaners. In our example, we used different color beads for each pipe cleaner. 

Next, write the student's name on one of the popsicle sticks. Write the word "abacus" on the other. Together, they will read "[Student's name]'s Abacus."

Math Craft: Abacus

Now it's time to bring in the help of the hot glue gun. (Note: We always recommend that an adult handles the hot glue gun at all times.) Carefully use hot glue to adhere one end of each pipe cleaner to the back of the popsicle stick with the student's name on it, working from the top to the bottom. 

Once you have glued one end of all ten pipe cleaners to the first popsicle stick, you can glue the other end of the pipe cleaners to the second popsicle stick. 

The finished abacus will look like this: 

Math Activity: Abacus

Now your students can use their abacuses to practice basic counting, adding, subtracting, and more! (Oh, and in case you were wondering, the plural form of abacus is both abacuses and abaci!)

How do you use abacuses with your little learners? What kinds of math skills do you practice? What kinds of activities do you do? We want to hear from you! Share your ideas in the comment section below!

If you are looking for more engaging math practice ideas, try out our interactive math lessons on!


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