Archive/Current Events/2010-05-03

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Sugar Digest

1. I was at my mother's house last week when I stumbled across a book that my grandmother had given me as a child: How to use the Chinese Abacus by F. S. Tom, published in Hong Kong in 1956 by Chong Jan Limited. It is a simple, illustrated guide to addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division on a Chinese abacus.

Reinspired, I spent an afternoon writing an Abacus Activity (You can download from Abacus.xo).

The Abacus Activity lets the learner explore different representations of numbers using different mechanical counting systems (originally developed by the ancient Romans and Chinese). I made several different variants available for exploration: a suanpan, the traditional Chinese abacus with two beads on top and five beads below; a soroban, the traditional Japanese abacus with one bead on top and four beads below; the schety, the traditional Russian abacus, with ten beads per column, with the exception of one column with just four beads used for counting in fourths, and the nepohualtzintzin, the traditional Mayan abacus, with three beads on top and four beads below. (The nepohualtzintzin uses base 20.)

I've begun to write instructions on how to use the abacus in the wiki (See Activities/Abacus). Please contribute your favorite abacus experiences.

2. I saw Paul Commons in Miami this week at a meeting at One Laptop per Child. We were trading Sugar stories and he relayed one from the OLPC Corps: they use the Memorize Activity to learn the names of the children they are working with. First they take pictures of the children with Record and then make a deck of cards for Memorize, pairing names with pictures. Very clever.

In the community

3. Laurence Buchmann has posted her wonderful video of last year's SugarCamp Paris.

Help wanted

4. There has been interest expressed in a Sugar program for children to teach their parents to read. Does anyone have any experience with such a program?

Sugar Labs

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