The Historical Challenge

  • Nerida Ellerton
  • M.A. Ken Clements


Between 1607 and 1840 school mathematics in North America was very different from school mathematics today. Throughout that period, the cyphering tradition dictated the mathematics curriculum and the ways mathematics was taught and learned. Early North American teachers did not stand at the front of the room and teach, and most students, even those studying mathematics, did not own a mathematics textbook. Written examinations of any kind were not used. Most teachers of any branch of mathematics did not have formal qualifications in mathematics. Those studying mathematics copied, into their own cyphering books, rules, cases and examples from existing handwritten cyphering books. Definitions of key terms (e.g., “cyphering book”) are given.


North America School Mathematics Mathematical Activity Evening School Mathematics Textbook 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Illinois State UniversityNormalUSA
  2. 2.Department of MathematicsIllinois State UniversityNormalUSA

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