Paradigm, No. 1 (November, 1989)

British Arithmetic Texts from 1542

John Fauvel

Mathematics Faculty,
Open University,
Milton Keynes MK7 6A

 There is a strong continuity in the content of elementary texts from Record's Ground of Arts (1542-1699) onwards, but Record's liveliness and style were not followed by his successors such as Cocker (1677ff), Dilworth (1740s ff) and Bonnycastle (1780 ff). The question of who texts were written for is crucial to understanding their appeal and special features. Early texts were written for home learners; only in 19th century do writers seem to have begun to design texts for the classroom. We know less about the circumstances in which textbooks were used than we would like. One also wants to ask: What was being taught? Record was concerned to teach qualities such as understanding and judgement, which were discarded by later authors. Arithmetic is an important focus in the social history of numeracy, and conceptions of quantifiability and other mathematizations of the world-picture which textbooks both respond to and help form.


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