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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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Children's Arithmetic

by the Rev. R. H. Quick
Volume 2, no. 2, 1891/92, pg. 38


In a previous number of this Review (June, 1890), I endeavoured to add to some excellent suggestions previously made by Mrs. Hart-Davis on teaching arithmetic to children. I maintained that Grube's method of making children familiar with all the relations of numbers up to ten was the true method, and that these relations should be got at experimentally with cubes or counters. This foundation should be very carefully laid, and so long as the children are not bored it is hardly possible to advance too slowly. In settling these first ideas we are settling the groundwork of all knowledge of arithmetic.

Have we ever thought of the confusion and obscurity which teachers often introduce into children's minds instead of letting in the light of day? That this obscurity is in many cases directly due to the teacher was brought home to me by a conversation I lately had with a bright little chatterbox not quite eight years old, whom I overtook in the road during school hours, with a bag in one hand and some coppers in the other. Our talk was somewhat as follows:--

He.--Why are you not at school to-day?

She (timidly).--Please, mother wanted me to mind the baby and go of errands.

He.--What standard are you in?

She.--I'm in the first standard. So I was last year, but I didn't go on the day of the examination, so they wouldn't put me up.

He.--How do you get on with your reading?

She (timidity wearing off).--Oh, I get on very well with my reading! I read quite fast. There's my cousin, Annie, she's older than I am, and she can't read as fast as me. (then becoming melancholy) But she can do her sums, and I can't.

He.--What sort of sums do you do?

She.--We do 'dition sums and 'straction sums.

He.--How do you do the addition sums?

She.--We put 'em down and add 'em up like. I can do the 'dition sums, but what I can't do is them distraction sums!

He.--Tell me about them.

She.--You have to put them down some at the top and some at the bottom, and then you have to take away the bottom from the top.

He.--Well, why can't you do that?

She.--Because sometimes you can't take 'em away, and then you have to broow.

He.--What do you borrow?

She.--You borrow what you want, and then you have to pay it back again, and I can't do that.

So here was a poor child trying to see her way through the sophistries and absurdities the teacher had put before her, and driven to despair because she failed to do the impossible. I was among the audience when one of the ablest men of our day, the present Bishop of London, told a meeting how what seemed a very slight difficulty had for a time barred his progress in childhood. Our children have not on an average anything like the force of thought that he had, and many still small difficulties seem to them insurmountable. How important it is, then, that the teacher should watch the action of the child's mind, and try to understand and sympathise with its difficulties!

(to be continued)


Proofread by Brandy Vencel, Feb 2013