How to dull and chloroform a child’s reasoning abilities

by | Delayed Formal Education, Math | 2 comments

When Less Is More: The Case for Teaching Less Math in School
In an experiment, children who were taught less learned more.
by Peter Gray Ph.D.

“In 1929, the superintendent of schools in Ithaca, New York, sent out a challenge to his colleagues in other cities. “What,” he asked, “can we drop from the elementary school curriculum?” He complained that over the years new subjects were continuously being added and nothing was being subtracted, with the result that the school day was packed with too many subjects and there was little time to reflect seriously on anything. This was back in the days when people believed that children shouldn’t have to spend all of their time at school work — that they needed some time to play, to do chores at home, and to be with their families — so there was reason back then to believe that whenever something new is added to the curriculum something else should be dropped.

One of the recipients of this challenge was L. P. Benezet, superintendent of schools in Manchester, New Hampshire, who responded with this outrageous proposal: We should drop arithmetic! Benezet went on to argue that the time spent on arithmetic in the early grades was wasted effort, or worse. In fact, he wrote: “For some years I had noted that the effect of the early introduction of arithmetic had been to dull and almost chloroform the child’s reasoning facilities [sic? faculties].” All that drill, he claimed, had divorced the whole realm of numbers and arithmetic, in the children’s minds, from common sense, with the result that they could do the calculations as taught to them, but didn’t understand what they were doing and couldn’t apply the calculations to real life problems. He believed that if arithmetic were not taught until later on — preferably not until seventh grade — the kids would learn it with far less effort and greater understanding….”

Read the rest of the article here.


  1. Stephanie

    This is a fascinating article that supports all the things y’all already said in Teaching the Trivium and other places. But I wanted to note that in the article he has a link to a blog where the “math mama writes” about all kinds of math ideas, including a page that lists math games. Then if you peruse that page, you’ll find a link to a more comprehensive math games page, which links to yet another blog about math games! So if you are ready to jump the math ship in elementary school and instead wait to start til later, but wonder what might be some good ways to learn math concepts in the interim, I highly recommend searching those 3 links.

  2. Carol

    Thanks Stephanie for the tip.

    That idea about delay the math brings peace for me. Set me free from schoolarship with my kids.


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