Kids Are Nailing Math Challenges Thanks to the Abacus Hand Method — Let's Break It Down

What is the abacus hand method? Some kids use it as an alternative way to do math equations, and it's completely mind-blowing to us!

Callie (Carlos) Cadorniga - Author

Nov. 3 2023, Published 1:36 p.m. ET

The Gist:

  • Kids are learning math using the abacus hand method.
  • This unique technique is based on old abacus calculators.
  • The method involves assigning values to fingers.
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Math isn't everyone's strongest subject. There are plenty of equations, formulas, and rules to keep track of as you progress further along in the subject throughout your academic career. If you don't get a strong grasp of it from early on, it's likely that you'll struggle with it in the future. It's often to the point where adults like me will continue to rely on calculator apps to do the work for me.

Thankfully, there are all sorts of tricks that kids are using these days to help them learn math.

For instance, kids are taking advantage of the abacus hand method. Based on the old-fashioned calculating tools in which mathematicians would slide beads along a simple rail, young learners are now using this technique to absolutely nail their math tests and challenges. Let's break down what this method is and how kids are taking advantage of it.

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What is the abacus hand method and how effective is it?

Whoever told you that adding and subtracting with your fingers was an improper way to do math has probably never heard of the abacus hand method. The technique involves using your hands to keep track of certain amounts so that you can add and subtract on the fly.

Be warned, though. It isn't as simple as having 10 fingers to count by tens.

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The abacus hand method assigns different values for different fingers between your right and left hands. On your right hand, your thumb is valued at 5 while the rest of your fingers are at 1 individually. On your left hand, your thumb is actually valued at 50 and the other fingers represent 10 each. Additionally, closed fists equal 0.

Things get interesting from there because you can start counting higher numbers with just two fingers.

On your right hand, for example, if you hold up your thumb and one other finger, that would represent six. Apply that to your left hand of tens now. A thumb and one other finger would equal 60.

Using this method, you can calculate up to 99 with all ten fingers and use just a few fingers to represent other higher values. From there, addition and subtraction is supposedly a breeze.

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Kids are already using this to nail addition and subtraction with some difficult values. On TikTok, teachers and tutors challenge their students with rapid-fire addition and subtraction challenges to see how well they can calculate using the abacus hand method. Shockingly, they're able to nail these with virtually no lag thanks to the complex yet simple abacus hand method.

If students are able to master this technique, it's safe to say that they'll be adding and subtracting geniuses in no time!

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