A device with beads or washers that slide along wires and are used to represent numbers and carry out basic arithmetic operations.

Depending on the region and the era, the abacus was called a soroban (Japan), a suan pan (China) or a S’choty (Russia), among others, and occurred in many different configurations. It is also sometimes called a score counter.


Historical Note

This word most likely comes from the Hebrew term abhaq which means dust or sand. In ancient times, just like today, we wrote in the sand to explain something, to draw, or to calculate. The word was taken up by the Greeks (abax – board or tablet) and later by the Romans (abacus). In 1202, Fibonacci published his famous Liber abaci or the The Book of Calculation, dedicated to algebraic methods and the study of problems featuring Hindu-Arabic numerals, which were new at the time.
Abacuses were used by many different peoples who were geographically distant from each other, including the Greeks, Egyptians, Indians, Chinese, and Mexicans. It is therefore very likely that the abacus was invented in various parts of the world by different peoples.

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