A small frame with wires stretched across it. Each wire contains
ten movable balls, which can be shifted backwards or forwards, so as
to vary ad libitum the number in two or
more blocks. It is used to teach children addition and
subtraction. The ancient Greeks and Romans employed it for
calculations, and so do the Chinese. The word is derived from the
Phoen. abak (dust); the Orientals used
tables covered with dust for ciphering and diagrams. In Turkish
schools this method is still used for teaching writing. The
multiplication table invented by
Pythagoras is called
Abacus Pythagoricus. (Latin,
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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