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Sand table: Wikis


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Sand table is a somewhat generic name for using constrained sand for modeling or educational purposes. The original version of a sand table seems to be the abax used by early Greek students.



An abax was a table covered with sand commonly used by students, particularly in Greece, to perform studies such as writing, geometry, and calculations.[1]

An abax was the predecessor to the abacus. Objects, such as stones, were added for counting and then columns for place valued arithmetic. The demarcation between an abax and an abacus seems to be poorly defined in history[2], moreover, modern definitions of the word "abacus" universally describe it as a frame with rods and beads[3] and, in general, do not include the definition of "sand table".

The sand table may well have been the predecessor to some board games. ("The word abax, or abacus, is used both for the reckoning-board with its counters and the play-board with its pieces, ...")[4]

Abax is from the old Greek for "Sand Table".[5]


An Arabic word for sand (or dust) is ghubar (or gubar), and Western numerals (the decimal digits 0–9) are derived from the style of digits written on ghubar tables in North-West Africa and Iberia, also described as the 'West Arabic' or 'gubar' style[6].

Military use

Sand tables have been used for military planning and wargaming for many years as a field expedient, small-scale map, for planning and training for military actions.


A Sand table is prominently featured in the Xbox and PlayStation 2 video game, Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, in the Chinese Commanders Tent.


A Sand table is a device useful for teaching in the early grades and for special needs children.[7][8]

See also


  1. ^ Smith 1958:177-178
  2. ^ Ifrah 2000:125-126 and others
  3. ^ See American Heritage definition of "abacus" in External Links below
  4. ^ Taylor 1879:28
  5. ^ American Heritage:abacus
  6. ^ O'Connor, J. J., and E. F. Robertson, The Arabic numeral system
  7. ^ Raines et al. 1992:101
  8. ^ Wagner 1999:80


  • Ifrah, Georges (2000). The Universal History of Numbers: from prehistory to the invention of the computer. New York et al.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. pp. 633 pages. doi:513.221-dc21. ISBN 0-471-37568-3.  
  • Raines, Shirley; Robert J. Canady (1992). Story Stretchers for the Primary Grades: Activities to Expand Children's Favorite Books. Mt. Rainier, Md.: Gryphon House. p. 101. ISBN 0876591578.  
  • Taylor, E. B., LL.D (1879), "The History of Games", Fortnightly Review republished in The Eclectic Magazine, New York, W. H. Bidwell, ed., pp. 21–30
  • Wagner, Sheila (1999). Inclusive Programming for Elementary Students With Autism. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons, Inc.. ISBN 1885477546.  

External links



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