An abacus calculator is a fun toy that can help children learn how to count, add and subtract numbers and acquire math skills. Counting on an abacus is actually something that was common in medieval times, especially in Asia. Merchants would carry around this early calculator in order to count and add numbers. Abacus counting is still being practiced today in many countries in Asia and Africa and it's not uncommon to see this tool being used in transactions.
An abacus consists in a frame with wires with beads sliding on the wires. Usually each bead represents a number (the number one) and each wire represents the same value (the number ten). Therefore, it can be used to count, usually up to 100. Abacus counting consists in sliding and counting the beads. To add bead is moved in one direction and to subract it is moved in the other. Say if a transaction involves selling twelve potatoes, you'd slide ten beads on a wire and two beads on the other wire. Then if you have to buy three potatoes, you'd move the two beads on the second wire in the opposite direction and one bead on the first wire in the same opposite direction.
We recommend the Melissa & Doug Classic Wooden Abacus(ages 3 and up). We like the way it looks and the fact that it is a high quality abacus made of wood and designed for children. The Melissa & Doug abacus has ten beads and ten wires. Therefore it can be used to count up to 100. Children can slide the beads to either add and subtract numbers. If you are short of ideas, this abacus toy also includes a list of fun activities so that you don't run out of ideas on how to use the abacus and have fun with it. If you are looking a birthday gift idea for a young child, this toy is a great choice.