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Counting for country folk

Ted Wragg's assault on "realistic maths" (TES, February 18) had me reaching for my copy of Rural Arithmetic Book Two by EJ Stowe, published by Longmans in 1951.

This book for children of 12 to 14 years sets out to deal with the "usual rules" of arithmetic "in a way attractive to country children." Whether they saw it that way I cannot tell but, superficially at any rate, the content looks far more relevant to the rural scene than Ted's legendary hole-diggers and bath-fillers. Three examples will have to suffice.

In the chapter on poultry-keeping, the young reader is asked "What length of feeding-trough should be allowed for 100 fowls if you reckon to give six inhes of feeding space to each two birds?"

Chapter 4 (shepherding) poses the question: "A lowland shepherd uses hurdles, each 2 yards long, to fold his 336 ewes on turnips. If he wants each ewe to get 20lbs of turnips each day, how many tons of turnips will he need?"

And the youthful would-be exponents of manure-spreading (Chapter 11) get their hands dirty with: "If a farmer tells his carter to space the manure heaps 11 yards apart in each direction, how many should he make in a 10-acre field?" Could young Edward Grundy cope with challenges of this sort, I wonder?

Peter Barnes

21 Hanmer Road


Milton Keynes


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