Different Types of Abacus You Should Know About 

types of Abacus

Did you know abacus can enhance cognitive thinking in children? It also reduces the chances of dementia in older people.

Besides cognitive thinking, using an abacus also has several other benefits. Anyway, it’s not the benefits that parents are worried about; most of them are confused about which abacus to use.

I get it. Considering the different types of abacus in the market, it’s understandable. Stay here with me till the end to clear your confusion about abaci.

Different Types of Abacus [In Chronological Order]

1. Dust Abacus

The dust abacus is a tabletop or flat/plane surface covered with dust or sand to conduct basic mathematical operations.

Considering it’s one of the primary forms of counting frames, the dust abacus is probably the first type of abacus. As a matter of fact, the word “abacus” comes from a Latin word which means a sandboard.

The Roots of Abacus go as back as in 27th BCE.

Want to know more? Read the History of Abacus to find out.

2. The Sumerian/Mesopotamian Abacus

It’s a tabletop with various columns based on sexagesimal–the Mesopotamian number system.

This manual calculator was first used during 2700-2300 BCE.

3. Pebble Abacus

It’s the Egyptian version of the abacus. It consisted of a flat surface on which pebbles were moved from right to left to do addition and subtraction.

The written record of the pebble abacus used by Egyptians is in Herodotus’ Histories.

4. Counter Abacus

types of abacus - counter abacus
Darius Vase. Picture Credits: The Mathematical Tourist

The abacus was nothing but a crude idea of operating mathematical calculations before it reached Greece through Babylon around 300 BCE.

The Greek abacus is called the Counter abacus

The Counter/Greek abacus resembled a flat wooden or marble tabletop with smaller units of wood/marbles/pebbles on it to do the math. As you can guess, this calculator got its name from the smaller units on it called counters.

5. The Salamis Tablet

salamis tablet
Image Credits: Wikipedia

It’s the name of the abacus found on the Island of Salamis, Greece. It’s a white marble slate with 150 × 75 × 4.5 cm dimensions, consisting of horizontal and vertical lines.

6. The Roman Abacus

roman abacus

The Roman hand abacus is a metallic, rectangular, flat frame with movable beads attached to it. The vertical lines on its surface represented ones, fives, tens, etc. It followed the roman number system.

7. The Chinese Abacus | Primitive Suanpan

chinese abacus

The Chinese were the first to provide a concrete shape and frame for an abacus. Around the 2nd century BC, they created a wooden frame with more than seven vertical rods intersected by a single horizontal rod. Hence, dividing the frame into two decks–upper & lower.

Each rod of this Chinese abacus had two beads on the upper deck and five beads on the lower deck. The modern-day suanpan has a few alterations.

Go to the “types of abacus in Modern day” section below to learn more.

Find out about the Parts of an Abacus

Read What is Abacus to find out.

8. The Japanese Abacus | Soroban

The Chinese abacus (or suanpan) traveled through Taiwan and Korea and finally reached Japan. Later, the suanpan was modified to a new abacus, called soroban or the Japanese counting frame.

9. The Russian Abacus | Schoty

Russian Abacus

Schoty is the Russian version of the abacus with 12 horizontal rows. Like the above calculators, it is also rectangular in shape with a wooden or metallic frame. It comes with 10 beads on each of the rods, except the third last row.

The seventh row or the third last row of the Russian abacus has only four beads.

Common Types of Abacus in Modern Day Market

Most of the above types of abacus were primitive and didn’t have a proper structure. For instance, the Counter abacus used in Greece was a kind of tabletop.

Therefore, only a few models of abacus survived from the ancient era. Read ahead to find out the common types of the abacus.

1. Danish Abacus

The modern-day abacus with 10 horizontal strings/rods and 10 beads on each string is called a Danish abacus.

Please note that the beads on the strings are mostly of different colors on each row.

modern type of abacus

However, some Danish abacus also comes with only two-colored beads. For example, in the below picture, the 10 beads are divided into two colors–5 white beads and 5 red beads.

Read: How to Use Danish Abacus?

Who Should Use it

Visually-impaired learners and school children from grades 3 to 10 should use it.

Also, anybody who’s starting with the abacus for the first time should begin learning with the Danish abacus. It’s easy to use and makes you ready for challenging abacuses.

Wondering how to do Math on an Abacus?

Read How to do Basic Math Operation on Abacus to find out.

2. Rekenrek


Rekenrek is a similar model to the Danish abacus. The only (major) difference is the number of strings.

Unlike the Danish abacus, a rekenrek has only two horizontal strings. Both the strings have ten beads.

Who Should Use it

Toddlers, kindergarteners, and school children from grades 0 to 3 should use it.

It’s best for learning numbers and getting familiar with the concept of counting frames.

Read: Rekenrek vs Danish Abacus

3. Modern Suanpan/ Soroban

Suanpan is the counting frame that is credited for surviving the concept of the abacus and carrying its legacy even in modern times.


Usually, it has more than 7 vertical rods and only 1 horizontal rod intersecting it and dividing it into two decks. Unlike the ancient suanpan, the modern suanpan or soroban has one bead on each rod on the upper deck and 4 beads on each rod on the lower deck.

Who Should Use it

Adults and school children from grades 3 to 10 and above should learn using a soroban.

People who want to learn mental math should learn using soroban.

It’s best for learning mental math and complex mathematical operations like multiplication, division, and extracting square root and cube roots. Also, students and young adults who are planning for a mathematics-centered career should learn using soroban. It helps to practice solving math in less time.

The Perfect Age to learn using an Abacus is 3 years-old.

Want to know why? Read the What is the Right Age for Abacus to find out.


Which is the best type of abacus?

The best types of abacus are the Danish abacus, rekenrek, suanpan, and soroban. Although the answer depends on your preference, the Danish abacus is best for school children and beginners. The soroban is the best for mental math students or young adults appearing for competitive exams.

What is the new form of the abacus?

The new form of the abacus is a rectangular counting frame made with wood or plastic. The old forms of abacus were either based on sand, pebbles, or flat, tabletop-like surfaces.

Who is the father of the abacus?

There is no father of the abacus, as nobody invented the abacus. This manual calculator evolved over time from ancient Egypt to China to all over the world to become what it is. Some people claim Tim Crammer as the father of the abacus because he invented the abacus for visually-impaired people.

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Dear readers, I understand if you’re overwhelmed with the various types of the abacus. But, hey, this is what makes this counting frame a timeless one.

In the 2nd BCE or present day, we all relied on this calculator in some way or another. I hope the above information helps you get a clear idea about the abacus.

Read: What is the Best Age to Learn Abacus

With this, adios for now! Until next time!

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