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Monday, March 25, 2013

Math Craft: Make Your Own Abacus

Make Your Own Abacus @

Years ago, I made a homemade abacus just like this with my oldest son.  It was another way to illustrate place value and to do simple addition and subtraction without using fingers.  This is a simple math craft to add a little interest on an afternoon when everyone’s sick of math books---it’s fun to learn to count on an abacus, and even more fun when you get to customize it.  Everybody in our homeschool got in on the act this time, even the 3-year-old!

With a little pre-prep, you can even turn this into a math history lesson.

First let me give you a few links that you can use to teach your kids:

WikiHow has a simple step by step how-to on using an abacus.

Abacus:  Mystery of the Bead has a history of the abacus and a more detailed explanation of how to use it for computation.

And if you’d like to try a different kind of abacus, here are instructions for using the AL Abacus that Right Start Math uses.

Now let’s make an abacus!

You will need:

  • 6 wooden popsicle sticks
  • 2-3 bamboo skewers cut into 6  3-1/2” long pieces (you’ll want to cut off the pointy ends)
  • 30 plastic pony beads (not the tiny ones, make sure they fit and slide smoothly on your bamboo skewers)
  • glue (We used a high-temp hot glue gun.   You could use tacky glue, but you’ll want to clamp it with some clothespins while it dries.)

bamboo skewermaterials for making your own abacus @Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

How to assemble your abacus:

  1. Lay down 1 popsicle stick and apply glue on it’s top face, along its whole length.step 1 for making your own abacus @Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
  2. Lay the ends of the bamboo skewer sticks in the glue as shown.step 2 for making your own abacus @Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
  3. Apply glue all along one face of a 2nd popsicle stick.step 3 for making your own abacus @Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
  4. Place it glue side down over the ends of the bamboo sticks (you are sandwiching the ends between the 2 popsicle sticks).step 4 for making your own abacus @Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
  5. Squeeze the popsicle sticks firmly together with your fingers and allow to set.  If you are using tacky glue, clip with clothespins to hold in place.
  6. Thread 4 beads onto each stick.step 6 for making your own abacus @Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
  7. Lay down another popsicle stick and apply glue along it’s whole length.
  8. Place the partially assembled abacus on top of the glued stick, leaving about a half inch or so gap between the beads and the stick (see photo).step 8 for making your own abacus @Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
  9. Glue another popsicle stick and sandwich the skewers like you did before.step 9 for making your own abacus @Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
  10. Press firmly (if using tacky glue, clip with clothespins to hold).
  11. Thread one bead on the end of each skewer.
  12. Lay down another popsicle stick and apply glue along its whole length.
  13. Place the bare ends of the skewers in the glue.step 13 for making your own abacus @Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
  14. Glue the last popsicle stick and place it glue side down over the ends, sandwiching them between the two popsicle sticks.  step 14 for making your own abacus @Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
  15. Press firmly and now you can use it!  (If using tacky glue, clamp with clothespins.  You will want to allow it to dry for a few hours.)

Variations:  You can make a larger abacus using the larger “tongue depressor” style craft sticks and larger wooden beads.  Use whatever color combination you like (the one in the step-by-step photos was made with glow in the dark beads!).

While you will probably want an adult to actually handle the hot glue gun, kids can thread the beads and place the sticks in place.

If you enjoyed this homeschool craft, you might also like:

The Incredible Journey pop-up craft and notebooking pages

Duct tape short sword or dagger

Free crafts to add to your study of Japan

Linking to:

HC26parents as teachers



  1. How neat!! What a great idea!

  2. Really awesome Math and craft project that kids can actually use! I love it. Hope to see you at Mom's Library Link up!

  3. Thank you, Janine, I'll check it out. ;0)

  4. This is really great. I hope you'll add this to my month long link-up - Look What We Did. I love how this makes a small abacus that you can use when you are doing math on the road. -Savannah

  5. Thank you, Savannah! I'll come check it out. ;)

  6. I want to make one of these for me. OK, maybe I'll wait until my son is old enough to do this with me. But I'll pin it for later.

  7. It's ok, you can make one for yourself. ;)

  8. This is so cool. Great math activity to do!

  9. Great idea to entice learning! I've featured you this week on Mom's Library. Feel free to grab my button!


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