How to Make an Abacus

Things You'll Need

  • Sturdy corrugated cardboard, flattened
  • 60 pony beads (30 should be one color and the other 30 a different color)
  • 6 10-inch long bamboo skewers
  • Tacky glue
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pen or marker

How to Make an Abacus. An abacus is like a calculator except you use beads, not a number pad, to do your arithmetic. It has been used for centuries and is still popular in countries like Japan, Africa and China. Teaching your child how to make an abacus will not only be a fun craft time but a history lesson as well.

Cut two 8-by-10 inch sections out of the cardboard.

Take one of the 8-by-10 inch sections of cardboard and cut out 6 equally sized pieces. Glue 3 pieces directly on top of each other, then onto the top side of the remaining piece of 8-by-10 inch cardboard. These should be flush with the 8-inch side of the cardboard, not the longer 10-inch side. Do the same thing with the other 3 pieces of cardboard by gluing them, one on top of the other, onto the other side of the 8-by-10 inch piece of cardboard. Make sure all of the corrugated ridges are going in the same direction.

Put one of the bamboo skewers through a corrugated ridge at the bottom of the base you just made. Add 5 beads of one color and 5 beads of another color to the skewer. Push the other end of the skewer into the top of the base.

Repeat Step 3 for the remaining 5 skewers. Put some tape on the ends of the skewers if they seem to be slipping out.

Use a pen or marker to label each of the skewers with numeric values such as 1's, 10's, 100's, 1,000's, 10,000's and 100,000's.


  • Parents will need to use the scissors to cut the cardboard to protect the child from injury.

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