Finger computing and abacus with roman children

Finger Computing and roman abacus

finger computing roman childrenThe finger computing system was much more common with the roman than today, when we almost secretly use the fingers to do calculations. In ancient times they of course they also already reckoned in their heads and a computing board as a replacement for today’s calculators.

In the arithmetic students were introduced by means of finger reckoning. A particularly famous gesture was the “strain” of the fingers for computation in greedy and usurers. In chronological and astronomical calculations it was also very common among the scholars to use the finger computing. Horace testified that even a poet counted off with their fingers to rake syllables. Ten fingers for calculations did not set the limit.

The English monk Bede (7th / 8th century) narrated that the system used the fingers of both hands to express certain figures in the arithmetic: “Are you saying ten, you put the nail of the index finger (left hand) on the middle of the thumb, do you want to say 20, you push the tip of the thumb between the central elements of the index and middle finger. Want to say 30, you are joining the nails of index and middle finger in a warm embrace … ”

So that the Romans didn’t have it too difficult with adding, subtracting or multiplying numbers, they did not only use computational tools such as the hands, but also for example the abacus.

The abacus

Abacus-der-Römer-RechenschieberIs a computing board, which is made of wood or metal. It has two rows of grooves or gaps in which there are balls. The small beads on the top row had the value five. And the balls in the row below were worth one each. To specify the value of a number, the balls were pushed into the center.

The number system of the Romans did not prevail, because they were not able to unify it for characters and computational methods. In their writing they used different fonts and characters for more than a thousand numbers. Even in the Renaissance discrepancies still existed.

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