. . . A typical
schoolroom would be a fairly small, one-room log structure. Towns
generally did have a school, and in some rural areas, there might be a
small country school serving children of a broad range of ages and
learning levels. A subscription school was one where parents paid the
teacher to enroll their child.
. . . Children
of all ages would attend the pioneer country school. Parents would
have to pay the teacher, or wizard, as he was sometimes
. . . Children
were especially needed at home during planting and harvest time, so many
attended school during the winter. The majority of children had a
limited formal education if any. Few attended school for more than a few
. . . The only
book to read in Abraham's first school would be the Bible.
. . . The chief
way of learning was to memorize and repeat.
. . .
Arithmetic would be done on slate boards with chalk
. . . The
students would take turns reading out-loud so that the school-master
could listen. Everyone would continue to read out-loud,
all-at-once. The volume of the voices could be heard for some
distance from the log building.
. . . When
recess would come, the students could decide whether they go outside or
. . . Writing
would be taught-- then called penmanship.
. . . Not many
of the teachers, or wizards, would be much more than beyond basic
. . . Abraham
attended school dressed in a raccoon cap, buckskin clothes, and pants so
short that several inches of his calves were exposed.
. . . Abraham's
sister, Sarah, was two years older than him, and had dark hair and gray
eyes. She went to school also.
. . . Abraham
Lincoln's schooling -- a few months when he was ten and another month or
two when he was fourteen -- was no better and no worse than the
schooling of most backwoods boys in Indiana in that period.
. . . The
schools he attended -- Andrew Crawford's, then Azel Dorsey's and William
Sweeney's -- were 'blab schools,' where the children studied
. . . Abe
learned 'manners,' simple arithmetic, and how to read and write, from
Pike's Arithmetic and Dilworth's Spelling Book,
and by studying and memorizing the speeches of famous men he mastered a
kind of oratory.
. . . Abraham
Lincoln, after the age of twelve, used "Pike's Arithmetic,"
which was the short name for Nicholas Pike's New and Complete
System of Arithmetic. While studying the book, Abraham learned
simple addition, compound subtraction, multiplication, division,
fractions, coins, weights and measures.
. . . One of
the things Pike taught in his book was the "Rule of Three," which stated
that if three numbers were known, the fourth could be computed by
looking at the proportion between the first and second. According to the
rule, the proportion between the third and fourth numbers would be the
. . .
Dilworth's Schoolmaster's Assistant
had a small section at the back of the book called "A
Short Collection of Pleasant and Diverting Questions". Here we
find nine "brain teasers" such as the classic problem of the farmer who
has to get a fox, a goose and some corn across the river in a small
boat. You may want to consider challenging your visitors with the same
"brain teasers" that perplexed students six generations ago.
Here's the story:
Before proceeding to another
subject we shall examine briefly the "
Short Collection of Pleasant
and Diverting Questions" in Dilworth.
We shall meet there with a
company of familiar friends. Who has not
heard of the farmer, who,
having a fox, a goose, and a peck of corn,
and wishing to cross a
river, but being able to carry but one at a time,
was confounded as
to how he should carry them across so that the fox
should not devour
the goose, nor the goose the corn? Who has not heard
perplexing problem of how three jealous husbands with their
may cross a river in a boat holding only two, so that none of the
three wives shall be found in company of one or two men, unless her
be present f Many of us, no doubt, have also been asked to
the nine digits in a quadrangular form in such a way that any
in a line may make just 15? When these pleasing
first proposed to us, they came like the morning
breeze, with exhilarating
freshness. Wo little suspected that these
creatures of fancy were in reality of
considerable antiquity; that they
were found in an arithmetic used
in this country one hundred years ago.
Still greater is our surprise
when we learn that at the time they were
published in Dilworth's
School-master's Assistant some of these questions
for amusement had
already seen as many as one thousand birthdays.
. . .
Ciphering Book for class: Often there was no textbook at all,
either for the teacher or for the students, and much of the instruction
relied on the "ciphering book" approach. The master would dictate a
"rule" which would be written down by the student in his ciphering book,
(i.e. a set of folded papers sewed together into a "book"). A "sum"
(i.e. math problem) would then be written into the ciphering book by the
master and the student would solve the sum using the rule. A number of
writers reported using birch bark instead of paper for their preliminary
work. The learning was mostly rote memorization with little effort made
to understand the logic and reasoning behind the process. A lot of class
time was spent just waiting for the master to "set the sum" or to check
the work, and this time was often used by the student to elaborately
decorate his ciphering book. Many of these have come down to us as
treasured family heirlooms. A teacher who did not possess an arithmetic
book of his own (and there were many who didn't) would use as a teaching
text the ciphering book that he had created as a student.
See the picture from a ciphering book below
. . . Here are a couple of problems from Pike's Arithmetic
Some examples from "Useful
and Diverting Exercises" in Pike's Arithmetick
A man dying left his wife
in expectation that a child would be afterwards added to the
surviving family; and making his will, ordered, that, if the
child were a son 2% of his estate should belong to him, and the
remainder to his mother; but if it were a daughter, he appointed
the mother 2%, and the child the remainder. But it happened,
that the addition was both a son and a daughter, by which the
widow lost in equity, $2400 more than if there had been only a
girl. What would have been her dowry had she had only a
When first the marriage
knot was tied
Between my wife and me,
My age with hers did
As nineteen does with eight and three;
ten and half ten years,
We man and wife had been,
came up so near to mine,
As two times three to nine.
was our ages at marriage?
Answer: 57 and
. . . Most of
Abraham's later learning would be done by reading and private
HERE FOR A
SPECIFIC DEMONSTRATION PLAN