Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

(See the end of this page for subscribing via email, RSS, browsing articles by subject, blog archive, APH resources, writing for Fred's Head, and disclaimers.)


Thursday, August 05, 2010

History of the Abacus and Related Products from APH

Welcome to The Abacus, a site dedicated to the Art of Counting with Beads. This site is full of information that I didn't know-for instance, there is a specific way to use the abacus and only certain fingers should be used to count.

In the Introduction, which I found to be worth the read, you learn about the Basics of using an Abacus and how they are constructed. There is a java applet where you can see how an Abacus works, and you can learn how the Abacus is still used today. Note that screen reader users will have a hard time with this section.

The History section is exactly what it says-it's the history of the Abacus from it's earliest recorded origins to present day. There is a great timeline too!

The Interactive Abacus Tour requires you to have Java, and teaches you how to add and subtract on and Abacus. I thought this was really neat for people who use screen magnification programs, but is unfortunate that screen readers will have some difficulty. It comes with a built in tutor, and you can chose the style of Abacus you want to learn on.

The Calculations Section gives you the option of Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication/Division, Square Roots, and Cube Roots.

The Lee Abacus section lets you browse the manual for the Abacus in two ways. Check it out.

The Abacus as Art - this section is dedicated to the art of Michael Mode who builds exotic abaci (abacus plural) some of these are really cool. My wife's favorite is the Abracadabracus model.

Now that's just enough to get you started with this site, there is a lot more for you to discover like the "Abacus: the Mystery of the Bead", and all the interesting articles on the Abacus. Count on having a good time. Click this link to visit The Abacus home page:

The Abacus for the Blind

The abacus packet provides extensive links to resources on the abacus and can be accessed through the Web Link below.

This packet prepared by Janice Brown is available on the website of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Handicapped:

Cranmer Abacus

Cranmer Abacus

13-rod abacus. Frame measures 6 1/8 x 3 1/4 inches. White beads have a diameter of 3/8 inch. Dark felt backing prevents beads from slipping. An optional metal coupler is available for linking two abacuses together. Recommended ages: 5 years and older.

Cranmer Abacus:
Catalog Number: 1-03150-00
Click this link to purchase a Cranmer Abacus. Coupler for Cranmer Abacus:
Catalog Number: 1-03160-00
Click this link to connect two together with the Cranmer Abacus Coupler.

Beginner's Abacus

Beginner's Abacus

A counting frame for reinforcing beginning mathematical concepts such as one-to-one correspondence, counting, place value, addition and subtraction. Introduces basic abacus terms such as "set" and "clear." Consists of a black rectangular frame with 2 rods. Rods have 9 large white beads that slide against a dark felt backing. Frame measures 2 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 1. Print guidebook included. Braille guidebook available separately. Recommended ages: 5 to 7 years.

Beginner's Abacus (includes print guidebook):
Catalog Number: 1-03180-00

Print Edition Guidebook Only (included with abacus):
Catalog Number: 7-03180-00

Braille Edition(must be purchased separately):
Catalog Number: 5-03180-00
Click this link to purchase the Beginner's Abacus.

Large Abacus

Large Abacus

Young students and those without fine motor skills can benefit from this large 13-rod abacus. Frame measures 8 1/4 x 4 1/2 inches and the bead diameter is 1/2 inch. White beads slide against a dark felt backing. Recommended ages: 5 years and older.

Large Abacus:
Catalog Number: 1-03170-00

Click this link to purchase a Large Abacus.

Abacus Basic Competency: A Counting Method

Abacus Basic Competency: A Counting Method

An instruction manual to teach children and adults abacus skills in the four basic math operations through instruction and exercises. This abacus instructional system uses the Counting Method instead of the traditional indirect method. Advantages include:

  • Simple method comparable to the way young sighted children count and add by counting things one at a time, as in counting on fingers or time lines.
  • Minimum number of rules must be learned in order to arrive at an answer to a mathematical problem.
  • Speed in using the abacus is not lessened with this method. Accuracy is increased, frustration is eliminated.
Large Print Edition:
Catalog Number: 7-00219-00

Braille Edition:
Catalog Number: 5-00219-00
Click this link to purchase Abacus Basic Competency: A Counting Method.

Other Abacus Books

The Abacus Made Easy

Abacus Made Easy

A simplified manual for teaching the Cranmer Abacus by Mae E. Davidow.

Braille Edition:
Catalog Number: 5-00220-00

Large Type Edition:
Catalog Number: 4-00100-00
Click this link to purchase Abacus Made Easy.

Abacus Made Easy, Braille Ed., Now Available as Free Download

The Abacus Made Easy in braille (catalog number 5-00220-00)is an addition to our growing list of free-of-charge downloadable manuals. You may print or emboss these manuals as needed. We will continue to package hard copies of these manuals with their products and sell hard copy replacements. We do not keep these manuals in stock, but make them on demand as orders are placed for them; therefore, please allow several weeks for delivery.

Using the Cranmer Abacus for the Blind

Manual for instructing users who are blind or visually impaired in the use of the Cranmer Abacus. Gives instructions on how to add, subtract, multiply, divide, extract roots, compute decimals and fractions, and use abacus as a calendar. Practice exercises are included, written by Fred L. Gissoni.

Braille Edition:
Catalog Number: 6-50100-00

Large Type Edition:
Catalog Number: 4-27110-00
Click this link to purchase Using the Cranmer Abacus for the Blind.

Hands-On Experience with the Cranmer Abacus

Hands-On Experience with the Cranmer Abacus

This DVD and an accompanying booklet are designed to familiarize you with the basic uses of the Cranmer Abacus. The concepts and skills covered include how numbers are represented and how to perform the four basic math functions on the abacus.
Click this link to purchase Hands-On Experience with the Cranmer Abacus.

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
1839 Frankfort Avenue
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 6085
Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085
Toll Free: 800-223-1839
Phone: 502-895-2405
Fax: 502-899-2274
Web site:
APH Shopping Home:

No comments:

Subscribe to receive posts via email

* indicates required

Browse Articles by Subject

Follow us on Twitter


Write for us

Your input and support in the evolution of Fred's Head are invaluable! Contact us about contributing original writing or for suggestions for updating existing articles. Email us at


The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) makes every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data contained in the Fred's Head articles; however, APH makes no warranty, guarantee, or promise, expressed or implied, concerning the content or accuracy of the information provided in Fred's Head. APH does not endorse any technique, product, device, service, organization, or other information presented in Fred's Head, other than products and services directly offered by APH.

The products produced by the American Printing House for the Blind are instructional/teaching materials and are intended to be used by trained professionals, parents, and other adults with children who are blind and visually impaired. These materials are not intended as toys for use by children in unstructured play or in an unsupervised environment.

The information and techniques contained in Fred's Head are provided without legal consideration (free-of-charge) and are not warranted by APH to be safe or effective. All users of this service assume the risk of any injury or damage that may result from the use of the information provided.

Information in Fred's Head is not intended as a substitute for professional advice or treatment. Consult your physician before utilizing information regarding your health that may be presented on this site. Consult other professionals as appropriate for legal, financial, and related advice.

Fred's Head articles may contain links to other websites. APH is not responsible for the content of these sites.

Fred's Head articles created by APH staff are (C) copyright American Printing House for the Blind, Inc. You must request permission from APH to reprint these articles. Email to request permission.

Any submissions to Fred's Head should be free of copyright restrictions and should be the intellectual property of the submitter. By submitting information to Fred's Head, you are granting APH permission to publish this information.

Fair Use Notice: This website may contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright holder(s). This site is operated on the assumption that using this information constitutes 'fair use' of said copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law.

Opinions appearing in Fred's Head records are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Printing House for the Blind.