Hello readers! Back to you, the intriguing and interesting topics from the history of the abacus. Every month, we have been bringing to you educational blogs on types of abacus and their evolution. In this article, we shall indeed discuss a lesser-known invention – the Russian abacus. This is one of the very rarely spoken about types of abacus, invented centuries ago.
It is fascinating how one invention influences the other and gives rise to a whole different phase in history. Rods, beads, and frames put together have created various types of an abacus. Also, these devices are very simple to use, yet very versatile.
The Russian abacus, otherwise called the Schoty abacus, is not as well-known as the Japanese or the Chinese abacus. The Russian abacus has a simple design and a much specific purpose. It was majorly used for Rouble calculations relating to the Russian currency. The Russian abacus or the Schoty abacus is pronounced as Shaw-tee. Introduced mainly for currency calculations, the Russian abacus was an integral part of counting and businesses in the Soviet Union, centuries back.
Now, let’s dive deep and learn more about the Shaw-tee abacus.
Table of Contents
- The Schoty Abacus Design
- Color Coding in the Schoty Abacus
- Setting Zero in the Schoty Abacus
- How to Use a Russian Schoty Abacus?
- Learning Place Values in Schoty Abacus
- Reveres Place Values
- How to Calculate Using the Schoty Abacus
- Simple Addition Using Schoty Abacus
- Is Schoty Abacus Is Still Popular Today?
The Schoty Abacus Design
The Russian abacus was invented in the 17th century. It was made of wood or metal. The Japanese and Chinese abacus influenced the design of this abacus. It has 11 rows of wooden beads/pebbles sliding on them. In Russian, the Schoty abacus is called as, счёты – meaning counting.
The Russian abacus or the Schoty abacus has a simple design with a wooden frame with a single slanted deck. The vertical rods have beads of different colors on them. The design consists of only rows and no columns. There are no partitions in the design, and there is only one deck for all the beads in the abacus. The Schoty abacus has eleven rows with ten beads on each wire. In the contrast, the 8th row alone has 4 beads on it. The method of operation is also different from that of a regular abacus with upper and lower decks.
The concept of the design is themed identical to the human hand. Each row has ten beads, representing the ten fingers. The main purpose of the Schoty abacus back in those days was business calculations and currency rounding.
This device was used for calculating Half (1/2), Quarter (1/4), Three-fourth (3/4) of the currency as well. Sounds amazing, right? Read on to find out the usage and the versatility of this creative invention.
Color Coding in the Schoty Abacus
In comparison with the traditional abacus, there is a larger number of beads on every row. Hence, the color-coding.
- The fifth bead in each row is usually in a different color from the other beads.
- The Sixth bead was also provided in a different color for easy identification. However, the sixth bead is usually the same color as that of the fifth bead.
- Except for the Quarter row, this color code was followed all over the device.
- The two beads in the center of the row are highlighted in different colors to mention 1/2 and 3/4.
- The first beads of the thousand rows are also highlighted for easier identification.
Setting Zero in the Schoty Abacus
While the other nationalities came up with an abacus that has two decks, the Russian abacus had a rather simpler design with only one deck. The design was a bit confusing due to the larger number of beads on most of the rows. But, the calculations were easier because of the single-deck pattern of the abacus. For easier identification, the 5th and 6th beads usually have a different color than the rest of the beads in a row. First, slide all the beads to the right to Set-Zero. After that, move the beads from right to left for the calculation.
That indeed gave it a classy look! Go ahead and take a look at it for yourself. Can you believe that the ancient Russians came up with such a creative and sophisticated device? Such a stunning design it has, in the history of all types of an abacus.
How to Use a Russian Schoty Abacus?
The Russian abacus has a straightforward design. Firstly, one has to set zero. This position is also called the ‘Resting position’. So, one has to move the beads from right to left to add or subtract any numbers.
The lower three rows are specifically used for counting Kopeks, whereas the other rows are used for Roubles. (Kopek is a currency counting unit in Eastern Europe. The rouble is the currency of Russia). Russian shopkeepers used this abacus for trade purposes
The bottom-most row represents ones.
The next row above represents tens.
The third row from the bottom represents hundreds, and so on.
Learning Place Values in Schoty Abacus
- The row above the 4 beaded rows (or the quarter row)corresponds to Ones. Every bead moved towards the left on that row corresponds to units of ones.
- The second row above the 4 beaded rows corresponds to tens. Every bead moved towards the left on that row corresponds to units of tens, like 10, 20, etc.
- The third row above the 4 beaded rows corresponds to Hundreds. Every bead moved towards the left on that row corresponds to units of hundred, like 100, 200, etc.
- The place values of the beads increase in the same manner, along the length of the device.
- The row with only four beads corresponds to a quarter (1/4). This row also acts as a separator between the rows of beads on the upper and lower end of the Russian abacus. In some modified versions of the Russian abacus, there were only 2 beads in the quarter row, indicating the values 1/4 and 1/2.
Reveres Place Values
Below the quarter row, the place values are mentioned in reverse, for the ease of the user.
- The row below the quarter row corresponds to Hundreds.
- The second row below the quarter row corresponds to Tens.
- Finally, the third row below the quarter row corresponds to Ones
Some older versions of this abacus had only two rows below the quarter row, or sometimes even one. But the widely used design was the one that has 3 rows below the quarter row. Simpler calculations involved only the lower beads. On the other hand, complex calculations involved beads on the upper end.
How to Calculate Using the Schoty Abacus
Counting using the Schoty abacus involves only two steps.
- Finding the right place value
- Moving the respective number of beads from right to the left.
Yes, it is as simple as it sounds. Now, let’s see how to add numbers using this device.
Simple Addition Using Schoty Abacus
Lets calculate 20 + 2.
Now instead of moving 10 beads on the one’s row, we simply move 2 beads on the tens row to the left.
Next, move 2 beads from the One’s row to the left.
Now, as we see, the total is 22.
Let’s discuss another case here.
Let’s add 4+8.
First, move 4 beads to the right in one row.
Next, to add 8, we do not have enough beads left on the one’s row.
So we follow the same method we follow in the traditional abacus that we use these days. Now, we add 10 from the nearby row (tens row) and subtract 2 from the beads on the One’s row.
Here, we add 10.
And finally, subtract 2 off the One’s row.
As we can see, finally there is
- One bead on the Tens row and
- Two beads on the One’s row.
Therefore, the answer is 12.
Simple, right? Now we know why this abacus happened to the shopkeepers’ favorite tool of calculation indeed, back in those days.
Is Schoty Abacus Is Still Popular Today?
The Russian abacus was famous for its versatility in practical usage. Business owners and merchants carried it for easy and quick calculations. The Russian abacus was being used, even after inventing the Mechanical calculator. In the Soviet Union, the Russian abacus was the most used device. Till 1990, this abacus was very famous for being an integral part of the curriculum in Russian schools.
Sadly, the Russian abacus lost its popularity only after the mass supply and usage of the micro-calculators in 1974.
The Russian abacus was brought to France in 1820, by mathematician Jean-Victor Poncelet. Eventually, the abacus fell out of fame due to the rise of decimal notation and algorithmic methods.
However, evidence shows that few shopkeepers still use the Russian abacus as the main mode of their business calculation. As surprising as it sounds, the oldest form of abacus making it to the 20th century is commendable, in all ways! Apart from that, these days, we can only see oiled-up beads and the rods of the abacus (for easier sliding and for the device to look polished) only in heritage museums around the world.
Despite the advent of technology and fast-performing devices, some traditions always tend to stick through or find their way back to the modern world. The Russian abacus is one such fabulous invention that surprisingly, people used for their business calculations.
To start with, how can we not pay attention to speedier counting devices? We need them in our everyday life. They help us in saving time and energy while calculating.
But the question is, do you value your time or brain more? If your answer is ‘Both’, then it is high time you start practicing the abacus.
We at Thej Academy offer online and offline abacus coaching training children and adults to excel in this invaluable course. To begin with, abacus training not only helps you perform better in mathematics but uplifts your academic performance as a whole, by improving your memory power, concentration, and mental visualization skills. Also, we have a wide range of happy clients who are successful abacus masters today. Furthermore, call us for more details and questions regarding our impeccable abacus coaching service. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter to receive valuable write-ups on interesting topics, that will benefit you and your children.