With classical calculations with pen and paper, we always start with ones, then with tens, next with hundreds, etc. Calculation on abacus is performed the opposite direction, starting with the column with the highest value, and slowly approaching to the ones column. That way, we develop more natural understanding of the size of the number.
Abacus consists of a rectangular frame, which is divided with the splitter into the upper and lower fields. There are several vertical poles through the splitter, on which there are beads, one on each pole in the upper field, and four on each pole in the lower field. Calculation on abacus is done by moving the beads, which are considered to be calculated if moved towards the splitter (the bead from the upper field has to be moved down, and the beads from the lower field up). Value of the beads changes in a row on the columns in the right-to-left direction, from the ones column to the tens, hundreds, etc. In the first column, the bead from the upper field has a value of 5, in the second column the value of 50, in the third column the value of 500, etc. The beads from the lower field have the value: in the first column of 1, in the second column of 10, in the third column of 100, etc. With this structure of abacus, as mentioned above, it is possible to show even the complicated numbers in an easy way. For example, number 1 million is shown with just one bead on abacus, the lower bead in the seventh column. In this example, we can see the essence of the value of abacus, which is reflected in the fact that it allows the number to be perceived as a material object, and not exclusively as an abstract concept. That means that any number, no matter how large it is (provided that we have a sufficiently long abacus) can easily be represented through an appropriate beads pattern.
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