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Topic: [ME] A bit of history - related to the present
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
[ME] A bit of history - related to the present
Posted: Apr 10, 1999 1:37 PM
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[Note: The following was sent to me by Prof. Martha Eggers, a colleague at
McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois. I am sending this on with her


Attached is a copy of notes I found in my great-grandfather's "things"
recently. He taught first and second grades in Marion County, Illinois
(near Salem) and I have his teaching certificate from March, 1869. I found
these notes pretty amazing in light of discussions we have today and
thought you might enjoy them, too. Unfortunately, I don't know the date
they were written nor the circumstances, but I am sure they are in his
handwriting (in pencil!).

Martha Eggers


The teaching of number begins in measurement. Our primary teachers have
found this to be true and base their practice upon it. A child's home
environment is usually such that he has learned to make many measurements
before he has attained school age. He has counted ears of corn, sticks of
wood, fruits, nuts, marbles, eggs, toys, and many other things with which
he has to associate every day. Then why should we not just add to the
knowledge which he already has in arithmetic, since knowledge and skill are
acquired for purposes of measurement. It is the abstract character of so
much of the number work that makes it uninteresting and unprofitable. Mere
figure processes in the early stages of schoolwork are not advisable yet we
may seem to be securing excellent results by forcing the figure process
upon the pupil at a very early age. In the rural districts our time is
usually so taken up with the numerous classes and the very necessary work
of the other grades that we are apt to teach the symbols when really they
have very little meaning to the pupil. Whatever number work is given to
pupils of the first and second years should be taught that it would not do
harm rather than good. When 2 + 2 are placed on the board a child should
be taught to think of the numbers as representing definite objects as 2
marbles and 2 marbles and not abstractly which becomes to them meaningless.
We need not want for the many devices in teaching magnitude for they are
all around us suggesting themselves on almost all occasions. If we are not
supplied with the various devices especially prepared for number work we
may have children bring colored grains of corn, seeds of different kinds,
nuts, sticks or strips of paper of different lengths and many other things
which will assist in teaching measurements and by his helping to furnish
the material he will work with increased interest.

While we may teach number work to children at a very early age and seem to
be getting good results, it is a question whether it is a waste of time and
energy on the part of both teacher and pupil to have regular daily work in
numbers in the first and second school years. It is advised that in the
early years the arithmetical foundation be laid in connection with the work
in drawing, in nature study, in games, and in construction work of all
kinds. A child will incidentally acquire many number facts. By association
a child will know the measure of a pint, a quart, a foot, an hour, a half
hour, a dozen, and a __ dozen. He will know what __ of anything is, as __
of a pie, __ of an a apple, etc., then we might give the first two years to
the branches of study as reading, spelling, language, drawing, etc.
together with the incidental work in numbers which will make the child
better prepared for the formal work in Arithmetic.


Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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