DIY Abacus

After teaching Munchkin the basics of multi digit addition and subtraction this week, I spotted a gorgeous beginner’s abacus at the store and knew instantly that it would be perfect for way to solidify the concept of place value in my little visual/tactile learner’s head.

It was however out of my price range at the time, and far too big to take on the go this busy week. To solve those problems, I made several mini ones with things around the house!

Here are the step by step instructions on how to go about making your very own abacus.

*note that instructions are for a 4 row abacus for working with numbers no greater than 9999. For additional place value rows, add additional skewers with 10 beads apiece*


6 popsicle (craft) sticks
2 long wooden skewers
10 beads for each row
Hot glue gun

Use the marker to mark off where each skewer needs to be on a craft stick in order to be evenly spaced out. Avoid putting the top and bottom ones too close to the ends. Lay a second stick alongside it and mark off the spots so they are aligned.

Cut your skewers down to size. You’ll want them to be just slightly longer than your craft sticks. I found it easiest to use the scissors to put a divot in the wood, then snap them to size with my fingers.

Put a bead of hot glue onto each dot on ONE craft stick. Gently place one end of your skewer pieces into the glue, ensuring it doesn’t poke out past the edge of the craft stick. Make sure your skewers lay straight by squaring the bottom of your craft sticks to the table and matching up the ends of your skewers to the marks on the (still not glued) stick.

Put another bead of glue on top of the ends you just glued down, then sandwich them in between the frame by laying another craft stick on top. Hold for 10-20 seconds. Turn it on its side, and add a line of glue down each of the two popsicle stick edges. Place another stick on the side to cover the glued ends of the skewers.

Gently slide 10 pony beads onto each skewer. We prefer to use a slightly darker bead for the first one, as a visual reminder that it cannot be used in mathematical equations, but its not necessary.

Repeat steps 3 & 4 on the other end of the skewers, being careful not to let the last row of beads slide down to touch the glue before it dries.

That’s all there is to it!

Happy computing!

I’ll be posting an instructional how-to video this afternoon with explanations on how to use it for representing numbers and solving multi-digit addition and subtraction problems.


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