Counting with Beads


What does the number one thousand nine hundred eighty-four (1984) mean? Can you explain what the A.D. stands for in A.D. 1984?

Counting with Beads

The letters A.D. are the abbreviation for the latin term anno Domini (in the year of our Lord), and are placed before a date to indicate the number of years after the birth of Jesus Christ; B.C. is the abbreviation for the English term before Christ, and it is placed after a date to indicate the number of years before the Savior’s birth. An abacus, or reckoning board, can be used to help you understand how many years it has been since Jesus lived upon the earth.

To make this four-row abacus, you will need: wire, Styrofoam or wood for a durable base, and 40 beads or pieces of macaroni. Assemble as illustrated on page 9. (A regular A.D. abacus has thirteen rows of ten beads on wires within a wooden frame. A bar separates the two top beads in each row for use with large numbers.)

The row at the right stands for ones; the row to its left stands for tens; the next row to the left stands for hundreds; and the row farthest to the left stands for thousands. To use this abacus, start at the top of the ONES row and push up a bead for each item you are counting. When all the beads in the ONES row are counted, slide them back down and push up the top bead in the TENS row.

To see just how many years it has been since the Savior’s birth, begin by pushing up four beads in the right-hand column. Do you know someone who is four years old? What were some important things that happened four years ago?

Now push up eight beads in the TENS row. Since each bead represents ten years, eight beads stand for eighty years. Do you know someone who is eighty years old? a grandmother? a grandfather? Have them tell you what it was like to live eighty years ago.

Push up nine beads in the HUNDREDS row to stand for nine hundred years. Nine hundred years ago was long before the time of the Pilgrims or even Christopher Columbus. It was a time when the Vikings were sailing the seas. In the Bible we read that Methuselah lived 969 years.

Now push up one bead in the THOUSANDS row to stand for one thousand years. Methuselah lived almost enough years to be counted in the THOUSANDS row.

Look at the beads you have pushed up, and read what they represent: One thousand nine hundred eighy-four, the number of years since Jesus was born.

Using your abacus, count the number of years from the Savior’s birth until your birth date. (If you were born in 1975, you will count beads representing one thousand nine hundred seventy-five.) Have fun with your abacus!

Counting with Beads

Illustrated by Scott Greer