The Teaching of Arithmetic I: The Story of an experiment

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Mar
30

In 1929 a school superintendent in New Hampshire, named L.P. Benezet, conducted an experiment in which he removed all maths teaching from primary school until year 7 with spectacular results. It started from a letter he wrote to another superintendent in reply to his statement that he could not see what could possbly be removed from the curriculum:

In the first place, it seems to me that we waste much time in the elementary schools, wrestling with stuff that ought to be omitted or postponed until the children are in need of studying it. If I had my way, I would omit arithmetic from the first six grades. I would allow the children to practise making change with imitation money, if you wish, but outside of making change, where does an eleven-year-old child ever have to use arithmetic?

I feel that it is all nonsense to take eight years to get children thru the ordinary arithmetic assignment of the elementary schools. What possible needs has a ten-year-old child for a knowledge of long division? The whole subject of arithmetic could be postponed until the seventh year of school, and it could be mastered in two years' study by any normal child.