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Maths book from Tetney School

by Ruth Gatenby

Long division

Long division

Square root

Square root

In the “old days”, before we got mobile phones, computers, electronic calculators, and even log tables, children were taught how to undertake step-by-step complex arithmetic calculations.

The mathematics book, dated 1874-78, of Stephenson Broadley who attended Tetney village school, is filled with questions and answers, beautifully presented.  Stephenson Broadley, born in 1862, must have been a very capable student.  At that time, very few children in Lincolnshire villages went on to a secondary school, such as the Grammar School in Louth.  Most stayed at the village school until they started work, and the more academically capable pupils undertook complex exercises.

Two examples from the maths book are shown here.  The first is long division.  The method used is similar to the one I was taught as a child, so I can understand the procedure.  The task was to divide 230,769,230,769,230 by 975.

The second example is to find the square root of a large number.  This seems very complicated.  Once the pupils had mastered the method for square roots, they moved on to the even more difficult method for cube roots.  For readers who are not familiar with roots, I will give you simple examples.  The square root of 9 is 3, because 3 x 3 = 9.  The cube root of 27 is 3, because 3 x 3 x 3 = 27.  In the example shown here, the pupils were asked to calculate the square root of 2,479.66.

As well as these purely arithmetic exercises, the pupils had to solve “practical” problems.  One of these is, “If 4 men or 5 women eat 60 loaves in 30 days, how many such loaves would 20 men and 12 women eat in 40 days?”

If you would like to try to calculate the answers, stop reading now, and have a go.  But if you want Stephenson’s answers, they are 236,686,390,532, 49.7962, and 592 loaves.