Last week we picked up some new math cards from the dollar store. This particular set featured Scooby Doo though we also have Tinkerbell and some un-licensed cartoon kid sets. When we got home Thing 3 brought out the cards and the abacus and we got to work figuring out addition and subtraction. As she was was finishing up Thing 2 asked if she could try.
So I got busy explaining the abacus and the math symbols then we went to work. She picked it up in no time and has since begun randomly making up and solving her own equations. A win considering she's never had any interest in math unless it was how to equally divide something into three.
We have two ways of working with the cards and abacus. The first is simply to manipulate the beads and we add or subtract. Perfect for when a girl wants to work on her own. I've read some instructions suggesting that you count the first number in beads then leave a finger space before counting the second but I prefer to use two rows. It helps that this abacus has two rows of each color.
For multiple participants we each choose a color to work with and stack the cards in-between. Everyone draws a card and works out the solution. Whomever has the highest number left wins the round and collects all of the cards. When there are no more cards we count up our stacks and the most cards wins!
I picked up the abacus at IKEA for $10 and the cards for $1-$3 depending where I found them.