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The Chisanbop system. When a finger is touching the table, it contributes its corresponding number to a total.

Chisanbop or chisenbop (from Korean chi (ji) finger + sanpŏp (sanbeop) calculation [1] 지산법/指算法), sometimes called Fingermath,[2] is an abacus-like finger counting method used to perform basic mathematical operations. According to The Complete Book of Chisanbop[3] by Hang Young Pai, chisanbop was created in the 1940s in Korea by Sung Jin Pai and revised by his son Hang Young Pai, who brought the system to the United States in 1977.

With the chisanbop method it is possible to display all numbers from 0 to 99 on two hands, and to perform the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of numbers.[4] The system has been described as being easier to use than a physical abacus for students with visual impairments.[5]

Basic concepts[edit]

36 represented in chisanbop, where four fingers and a thumb are touching the table and the rest of the digits are raised. The three fingers on the left hand sum to 30, the right thumb adds 5, and the right index finger adds 1.

Each finger (but not the thumb) of the right hand has a value of one. Holding both hands above the table, press the index finger of the right hand onto the table to indicate "one". Press the index and middle fingers for "two", the three leftmost fingers for "three", and all four fingers of the right hand to indicate "four".

The thumb of the right hand indicates the value "five". For "six", press the right thumb and index finger onto the table. Thumb plus one finger indicates "five plus one", and 5+1=6.

The left hand represents the tens digit. It works like the right hand, but each value is multiplied by ten. Each finger on the left hand represents "ten", and the left thumb represents "fifty". In this way, all values between zero and ninety-nine can be indicated on two hands. [6]

Adoption in the United States[edit]

A school in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, ran a pilot program with students in 1979. It was found that although they could add large numbers quickly, they could not add them in their heads. The program was dropped. Grace Burton of the University of North Carolina said, "It doesn't teach the basic number facts, only to count faster. Adding and subtracting quickly are only a small part of mathematics."[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ chisanbop. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved June 29, 2007, from website:
  2. ^ Lieberthal, Edwin M (1979). The Complete Book of Fingermath: Simple, Accurate,Scientific. London : Souvenir Press. ISBN 0285624385.
  3. ^ Pai, Hang Young (1981). The Complete Book of Chisanbop: Original Finger Calculation Method Created by Sung Jin Pai and Hang Young Pai. Van Nostrand Reinhold. ISBN 0-442-27568-4.
  4. ^ Casebeer, William D. (2001). Natural Ethical Facts: Evolution, Connectionism and Moral Cognition. University of California, San Diego. Retrieved 7 November 2019.
  5. ^ "Education of the Visually Handicapped". 11–12. Association for Education of the Visually Handicapped. 1979. Retrieved 7 November 2019. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ Pai, Hang Young (1981). The Complete book of Chisanbop, 1981 (pages from 2 to 19) (PDF). Van Nostrand Reinhold. ISBN 0-442-27568-4.
  7. ^ "What about Chisanbop -- who's using it?". Christian Science Monitor. 1982-05-17.

Further reading[edit]

  • Lieberthal, Edwin M. (1979). The Complete Book of Fingermath. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-037680-8.

External links[edit]