To my fellow homeschoolers,
While Benezet originally sought to build his students’ reasoning powers by delaying formal arithmetic until seventh grade, pressure from “the deeply rooted prejudices of the educated portion of our citizens” forced a compromise. Students began to learn the traditional methods of arithmetic in sixth grade, but still the teachers focused as much as possible on mental math and the development of thinking strategies.
Notice how waiting until the children were developmentally ready made the work more efficient. Benezet’s students studied arithmetic for only 20-30 minutes per day. In a similar modern-day experiment, Daniel Greenberg of Sudbury School discovered the same thing: Students who are ready to learn can master arithmetic quickly!
[20 to 25 minutes a day]
At this grade formal work in arithmetic begins. Strayer-Upton Arithmetic, book III, is used as a basis.
[Note: Essentials of Arithmetic by George Wentworth and David Eugene Smith is available free and would probably work as a substitute.]
The processes of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are taught.
Care is taken to avoid purely mechanical drill. Children are made to understand the reason for the processes which they use. This is especially true in the case of subtraction.
Problems involving long numbers which would confuse them are avoided. Accuracy is insisted upon from the outset at the expense of speed or the covering of ground, and where possible the processes are mental rather than written.
Before starting on a problem in any one of these four fundamental processes, the children are asked to estimate or guess about what the answer will be and they check their final result by this preliminary figure. The teacher is careful not to let the teaching of arithmetic degenerate into mechanical manipulation without thought.
Fractions and mixed numbers are taught in this grade. Again care is taken not to confuse the thought of the children by giving them problems which are too involved and complicated.
Multiplication tables and tables of denominate numbers, hitherto learned, are reviewed.
— L. P. Benezet
The Teaching of Arithmetic II: The Story of an experiment
Continue reading Build Mathematical Skills by Delaying Arithmetic, Part 4