Updated on January 2, 2007.
The Original
Popsicle Stick Abacus

by Edward Barinque
When I first began teaching, I became facinated with the abacus as a manipulative tool for teaching calculations and place value.  Because abacuses or abaci were either not readily available or too expensive to purchase for 30 students, I created a prototype for an abacus which is simple to make and inexpensive.  I've had students as young as 2nd grade make and learn to use their own abacus.

This page contains the instructions needed to make your own popsicle stick abacus.  It's a lot of fun and can be very educational.

1.  Cut each skewer into 4" rods.

2. Place the tips of the rods onto one popsicle stick, centered and equidistant from each other.  Trace the tips with a pencil.

3. Remove the rods and draw lines of glue over the pencil marks.  Carefully place the rod tips onto the glue.  (
A popsicle stick placed under the rods helps to prop up the rods so the tips maintain contact with the first popsicle stick while the glue is drying.).

4. After the rod tips dry, thread two pony beads onto each rod.  These will be your "Heaven" beads.

5. Place the second popsicle stick (for the center bar) under the rods about 3/4" down from the first popsicle stick.  Mark the rod placement by tracing with a pencil.  Draw lines of glue onto the pencil marks and glue the rods onto this stick.  Be careful not to let the beads stick to the glue.

6. Thread five pony beads onto each rod for the "Earth" beads.  Place a third popsicle stick under the rod tips and glue the tips to the stick. 
(One time I had my class use beads representing our school colors.  The "Heaven" beads were one color and the "Earth" beads were another color.  They loved it.)

7. Line up and glue a popsicle stick over each of the three sticks you glued the rods to earlier.

8. Another layer of three popsicle sticks will raise the abacus to prevent the beads from rubbing on the table surface.  You're now looking at the back of the abacus.  Flip the abacus over and enjoy!
Materials Needed
Step 6.  All the beads are threaded and the rods are glued to the first three popsicle sticks.
Step 8.  The extra sticks are needed to raise the abacus and prevent the beads from rubbing on a table surface.  Note:  This is the back of the abacus.
A Brief Introduction to the Abacus
Click here to try an online abacus
and other math manipulatives
Abacus Applet (interactive)
[email protected]
Original abacus products
from Learner Kokua, Inc.
'Ewa Beach, Hawai'i
2003 BARINQUE Communique
Easy Abacus The Original Abac-Kit
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