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Topic: How I use the abacus in teacher-ed
Replies: 1   Last Post: Jun 23, 1995 9:57 AM

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Karen Dee Michalowicz

Posts: 215
Registered: 12/4/04
How I use the abacus in teacher-ed
Posted: Jun 23, 1995 7:08 AM
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Dear Colleagues,

I have been gone for a week on a math tour of England with six
students. This is a project I do every year. I always come
home so refreshed.

I came home to 179 messages in my mail box from the NCTM-l. I
enjoyed reading every piece of mail. Even though I disagree with some of
the comments, I still enjoy knowing what you all think.

Anyway, I enjoyed the thread on Chinese mathematics. I believe
we can learn much about mathematics by looking at her history.
(Off, bandwagon.)

On Sunday I will begin teaching a week course for our SSI
program in Virginia. I will begin with a lesson on how to add
and subract using the
abacus. I have a classroom set that I made using hobby beads,
dowl rods and corner molding. I do this because I want the
teachers to understand how important place value is to a
student's education. To be able to use the abacus efficiently,
the user must have a good sense of place value; he/she must
be able to group and regroup, to be able to decompose numbers.
For example, the user must understand that and 11 is 3+8 or 5+6
or 20-9 or 12-1.

I don't tell my teachers why I am doing the activity. I tell
them it is important to learn about ancient technology, which
incidently was used in Europe through the 17 century and called
"bead rekoning." Bead rekoning was used even though the
Hindu-Arabic numbers were in use also. Children and adults
love to learn to use the abacus.

When I begin to do complex problems that require complex
regrouping, many teachers find it very difficult. This is when
I bring out my real reason for teaching the abacus to them. I
want them to understand that if they find regrouping difficult,
their students must have similar difficulties. My point is how
important numbersense is.

Now, this requires research, however, I suggest those cultures
who begin their math training using an abacus or similar ten
frame may have an edge on those societies that don't.

Thanks to Annie who is doing a super job keeping all of us on
track. I appreciate this opportunity to make comments about
mathematics education. And, most of all I appreciate this
opportunity to learn from such a great group of educators.
Also, I notice that many who post in this group are NCSM


Karen Dee

Math History Lives!

Karen Dee Michalowicz VQUEST Math Lead Teacher/Trainer
Upper School Mathematics Chair Virginia Quality Education
The Langley School in Sciences and Technology
1411 Balls Hill Rd, McLean, VA
22012 USA
703-356-1920(w) E-Mail:
Fax: (703) 790-9712 --or--

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