All entries for Friday 04 November 2005

November 04, 2005

Arithmetical Poetry

One of the first teacher guides for teaching arithmetic was The Tutor's Guide by Charles Vyse, circa 1775. Although I have not (yet) seen a copy myself I have found the following extracts from it. Apparently Vyse felt that an effective way to teach arithmetic is to present worded problems via the medium of smutty and tongue-in-cheek verse.



When first the marriage-knot was tied
Between my wife and me,
My age to her’s we found agreed
As three times three to three;
But when ten years, and half ten years,
We man and wife had been,
Her age came up as near to mine
As eight is to sixteen.
Now, tell me, I pray,
What were our ages on the wedding day?
[Not original.]


Once as I walked upon the banks of the Rye
I, in the Meads, three beauteous nymphs did spy,
Saying “Well met, we’ve business to impart
Which we cannot decide without your Art:
Our Grannum’s dead, and left a Legacy,
Which is to be divided amongst three:
In Pounds it is two hundred twenty-nine,
Also a good mark, being sterling coin.”
Then spake the eldest of the lovely three,
“I’ll tell you how it must divided be;
Likewise our names I unto you will tell,
Mine is Moll, the others Anne and Nell.
As oft as I five and five-ninths do take,
Anne takes four and three-sevenths her Part to make:
As oft Anne four and one-ninth does tell,
Three and two-three must be took up by Nell.


A castle wall there was, whose height was found
To be an hundred feet from th’ Top to th’ ground:
Against the wall a ladder stood upright,
Of the same length the castle was in height.
A waggish youth did the ladder slide;
(The bottom of it) ten feet from the side;
Now I would know how far the top did fall,
By pulling out the ladder from the wall.

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