An abacus is nothing more than a primitive calculator. After it became outdated, it could be found in every doctor’s office. Abaci came in just about any form from practical and boring to bright and colorful. They told you how to add several things together when you were a child and were still trying to get math right. Instead of counting on your hands, you could count on these beads that could handle more than your fingers ever could anyway.

## Always carefully examine the following factors before you use an abacus.

Have you been without power for the past 30 days straight, and are zombies eating your brains?

Are you definitely back in time and not going through some sort of illness that just makes you think that you are?

Unfortunately, unless the answers to both these questions are yes, then you probably shouldn’t have any interest in using an abacus.

If you’re planning to go back in time to the days where technology did *not* rule the land, we want you to be prepared for your trip. We’ll tell you how to use an abacus so waiting at the doctor’s office will be a blast!

## Ones, Tens, Hundreds, Thousands

Just remember that the beads at the top represent five times more than the beads on the bottom. That’s confusing because you probably don’t even know to assign the values to begin with!

Basically if what’s at the bottom counts as one, then you can start arranging the beads based on the equations. Take the equation 1 + 4. You would move one bead on the very bottom row from the right to the left and four beads from the row just above it from the right to the left. Then on the third row from the bottom, you can count up how many beads there are on the bottom and top and then move five beads from that row to the right. Are you bored to tears right now? Not surprising, you’re reading about an ancient “technology.”

## Wait, Is There More?

There is, if you really want to know. There are more complex equations you can do on an abacus if you really believe in yourself. The days of preschool have probably come and gone for you, but if you can designate values in such a way that follow a pattern, you can apply the same basic philosophies from the 1 + 4 equation to … other equations of addition or subtraction.

## More Than That?

No, not really. We think you should have a better understanding of how abaci can function in the real world. The answer, of course, is that they don’t. That’s what the calculator on your phone is for.