Arithmetic Card for Use with a Numeral Frame

National Museum of American History

About the work

In the nineteenth century, Americans began to teach groups of young children in classrooms. Some institutions were designed especially for these children, and were called infant schools. To create a vivid impression on young minds, teachers used a numeral frame or abacus in combination with a chart like this one.

This cardboard chart was part of a larger series. It has printing on both sides. It is labeled on one side: ARITHMETIC CARD II. This side shows a group of common objects on the left, and one of these objects on the right. It was designed to teach adding 1 to 6, 7, 8, and 9. Teachers were told to perform the same operation using balls on an abacus. The other side of this chart is entitled: ARITHMETIC CARD VI. It has groups of vertical lines on the left and two slanting lines on the right, and was meant to teach subtraction of 2. It also was to be used with an abacus.

A mark on the chart reads: INFANT SCHOOL CARDS, PUBLISHED BY MUNROE & FRANCIS, BOSTON. For another chart in the series, see CL.389116.04.

Infant schools were popular in Boston around 1830, and the abacus was introduced into the Boston schools at about that time. Munroe & Francis was in business from the last decades of the 1700s until 1860 or so. In October 1831, The New England Magazine announced that Munroe and Francis had just published “Complete Sets of Lessons on Cards for Infant Schools, consisting of 100 Lessons of every variety, on 50 Boards.” It seems likely that these cards were part of that set.


“Works Published,” The New England Magazine, 1 (1831), p. 368.

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